I remember the day we found out she’d be joining our family: Sarah and I stared, mouths agape with wide, glazed eyes  as she was gently placed on the table, making noise but not noisy, her presence lighting the room, and I swear to this very day that she was smiling.  She was 29 inches with an umbilical cord that seemed to go on forever. She was beautiful. She was…our new flat screen television.

But here I am, now two years later, on the phone with the cable company trying to cut the umbilical cord. Despite spending my early twenties in child welfare and family preservation, here I am, creator of my own red headed step child. Except, if I have my way, the sun will not come out tomorrow. I don’t care that it’s a day away.

You see, it was never a good idea for me to own a television. Purchasing my first at the young age of 11 with money I had saved by mowing lawns, sitting on kids, and other such odd jobs I began my love affair with the flicker of the television screen. I enjoyed the company of Gilligan, Opie, The Duke brothers, Spock, and Kelly Bundy on my 12 inch, black and white. I couldn’t get enough of Gopher, Marsha, Mr. Rork, Mr. T, Wally, The Beav, and a rogue group of robots in disguise. I watched a lot of TV. Most likely more than you might currently be imagining.  Later in life, when marathon reruns of Real World Boston began to interfere with my ability to coexist with normal society, I had a moment of clarity and gave my television away.

It was a short lived breakup because a few years later, upon our return from Central America, my sister in law gave us her battered and barely operational television which started the cycle anew. A 13 year old, 19 inch gateway drug. I’d use it just to watch the Vikings and maybe the occasional episode of House. Just one taste, that’s all I needed. But that’s not how it works, is it? The next thing I know, I awaken from a blackened haze to find myself staring over my potato chip stained belly, across the shrapnel of a what appears to have been a Pizza Box war and into the screen that is broadcasting its 5th hour of Ab Squeezin’ Infomercial at 4 o’clock in the morning. “I could use one of those…” I think. Rock….Bottom.

The irony is that cutting the cable doesn’t stop the flow. With the advent of Hulu and Netflix cutting the cable is more symbolic than anything else. My friend’s TVs will still work. So will all the ones that jabber in the background of just about every dining establishment in town. It will take great will power to avoid the omnipresent television. But, I assure myself that in our house it will no longer be the default. It won’t be a moment of mild boredom or unwelcome solitude that leads me to 3 straight hours of mind numbing television. I can’t make it that easy.

“It interferes with all the other things I want to do.” I note to the Cable Customer Service, definitely registering in the “Other” category for reasons why people disconnect. I hear her take a deep breath to rethink her pitch, and then she lets it out with apparent defeat. There are easier fish for her to fry.

It isn’t that television is inherently bad (though it can be), or the shows suck (though many do), but it’s really about what else I could be doing with the extra time I have been gifted but otherwise waste on a virtual vacation to the Jersey Shore. (By the way,I hear it is a wonderful place this time of year) It’s about my dysfunctional relationship with the box. I imagine myself walking out on to the stage in my boxers, greeted by seven televisions and Jerry Springer moments before the gloves come off on “I’m a polygamist TV addict”. Oddly, instead of reacting to the surprise I find myself eagerly awaiting Jerry’s Final Thought.

The fact gurus tell me that the average American spends over eight hours a day in front of a screen. Eight hours? I could do a lot with eight hours: Save the world, cure polio (or did someone already do that? Bet they didn’t have a television), mow my lawn, or who knows, maybe even read to my child.

But I’ve been here before, and I know the side effects of a full frontal Telectomy: politely nodding while your friend or coworker talks about the week’s TV round up, feigning understanding at the infinite pop culture references or, even worse, dropping the dreaded “I don’t own a television” as the final and decidedly lame period on an otherwise enjoyable conversation. These are the choices we make.

Hanging up with the cable company I feel liberated in a way, we’ll probably retire early with all the money we save. I do the quick math and realize that I’ve saved our family a total of $2.10 in monthly cable fees. Damn the allure of the package deal, glad we aren’t in this for the money.

Advertisements