A Larger Purpose For Our New TV
I was listening to some nitwit from a lonely think tank say there are no real poor people in America anymore, because — despite all the talk of growing poverty, an ever-widening disparity between the haves and have-nots — even poor people have refrigerators and big flat-screen television sets these days.
By the law of reverse transitivity, or simply downward upward mobility, I realize that my wife and I must be part of the prosperous “new poor.”
We just acquired our first HD flat-screen television set, you see, and a monster of one to boot.
I blame God for this entire unexpected turn of events. If He or She hadn’t sent a bolt of lightning into our chimney during a thunderstorm several weeks ago that fried four television sets, the cable, one computer, two telephones, a DVD player and an ancient stereo receiver from the Reagan years — not to mention conking out the central air for a week — we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in, addicted to a drive-in theater in our living room.
For the month it took to hear from the insurance company, we had blissful nonelectronic evenings hearkening back to pioneer days when home folks just sat in their cabins reading books or discussing the hardships of life or worked on their battery-operated company laptops.
“This is kind of nice,” my wife said as we sat by the season’s first crackling fire the other night. “Should we even get another TV?”
“I guess so,” I said, thinking how we pay for 689 cable channels but only watch three. “The dogs like it, especially Ajax.”
Ajax is the household newcomer, 5 months old and nearly 50 pounds, a happy lug who makes himself at home in the most comfortable chair whenever the TV is on. He recently downed an entire peach cobbler cooling on the stove top in the time it took my wife to set the dinning room table for supper. A short time later, after we’d turned in, he threw up an entire peach cobbler at the foot of our bed just so he could have a good laugh when I got up in the darkness to pee, stepped in what felt like the largest cow patty on earth and skidded across the room.
But I digress.
Probably like some other busy upwardly mobile poor people, I really watch only a few things on cable — CNN, CBS and maybe a college football game from time to time. I used to watch the Weather Channel until they quit showing actual weather, and for a while I was kind of hooked on “Swamp People” until I was sure I recognized a missing uncle.
Just to keep things more or less fair and balanced, every now and then, I briefly check in with Fox News to see what cute new Foxblonde they have reading the news, then I switch over to MSNBC to see which angry old lefty is ranting about Fox News. At that point I usually just go to bed.
The reason I watch CBS, I’ll admit, is pure naked nostalgia. As a child of television’s early days, I secretly pine for just three local TV channels, screens that turn to hissing snow after midnight, and episodes of “My Three Sons” and “The Twentieth Century” hosted by Walter Cronkite.
I miss Walter Cronkite something awful. He was a newsman’s newsman, comforting and wise, Mr. Rogers for grown-ups, not surprisingly the first to warn that TV news might soon be taken over by entertainment executives and become a depressing hybrid called “infotainment,” not quite real news, but not half as fun as “Mr. Ed,” who could probably do the job of a dozen Foxblondes, Wolf Blitzer and any number of indignant lefties.
Though I don’t wear dentures or rely yet upon Depends, I still like the “CBS Evening News” broadcast best because its theme is much nicer than the others.
I also like WRAL’s David Crabtree and turn crankier than Andy Rooney if I happen to miss an installment of “60 Minutes,” which I’ve watched since I was knee-high to a Zenith console TV set.
I confess I’ve also considered submitting my name, along with my oldest golf pal’s, to the “Amazing Race,” just so we can go wreak havoc in foreign airports, but the reality is our wives won’t sign the release form, fearing legal consequences I suppose.
Anyway, back to that lightning bolt that changed our lives.
A week or so, equally out of the blue, my wife — the one who sadly won’t sign the permission slip to let me race around the world making a fool of myself — pulled into our driveway with a mammoth flat box in the back of her car. For a moment, I thought it might be the basketball hoop and backboard I always wanted as a kid or maybe a small European nation since they’re pretty cheap nowadays.
It turned out to be a 46-inch HD Samsung “Smart TV.”
“Where did you get this monster?” I asked, a bit disappointed it wasn’t, say, Luxembourg. I’ve always wanted to own a bit of that cute little nation.
“It was on sale,” bubbled my bribe, who takes her nickname as the Queen of Cheap seriously. “I saved a bundle. This TV can show just about anything right off the Internet.”
We took it inside and set it up on a sturdy coffee table. The screen blocked the fireplace. So we moved it across the room and it blocked two windows and half the neighborhood.
Finally, we rearranged the furniture and put it into a corner where it blocked only a large ugly plant.
This TV was so simple to hook up even I probably could have done it with a day or two to read the instruction book. My wife did it in about four minutes. While she programmed the beast, I studied the remote and sadly concluded I’m simply not smart enough to operate a Smart TV. The problem is all these buttons.
Smart TV has buttons for everything, cable channels, live streaming, Internet access a 12-year-old boy or a terrorist would die for. Want to see a Netflix movie? Hit this button. How about Kim Kardashian having a tantrum on the Official Lincoln Bedroom Web Cam? The weather in downtown Seoul? This Smarty’s got it.
Did I mention how big this thing is? I know, I know. Size matters. But this sucker makes life bigger than life itself — or maybe even smaller. The entire nation of Luxembourg, in any case, can now fit nicely in our living room.
Frankly, though, it’s taken more than two weeks for me to adjust to looking at oversized Foxblondes and Andy Rooney’s frightening facial hair. Want to see something really scary? Try watching “Mafia Wives” or Wolf Blitzer in huge high definition.
I feel like God had a larger purpose for bringing an oversized HD television into our house. Among other things, we seldom go out to movies, which upwardly mobile poor people like us can scarcely afford anyway.
Award-winning author Jim Dodson, Sunday essayist with The Pilot and editor of PineStraw and O.Henry magazines, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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