In Which I Dispose of Wolf Blitzer, Scooby Doo and Seinfeld, Which Results in Doghouse Status for Me.
I'll admit that I'm something of a TV addict. Old TV programs, sports, cartoons, and especially the news have always captured my attention. Once upon a time, I laughed at 30 year old Scooby Doo cartoons. I watched re-runs of The Prisoner and Dark Shadows. CNN was my boon companion. I could sit for hours flipping from one news channel to another, feeding my desire to keep up with what's happening in the world. TV rocked my world. In spite of this, I gave my $600 TV set to a complete stranger one night, and have never bought another.
My wife Ann and I had been engaged for years in a battle over our TV viewing. She always claimed (rightfully) that we spent so much time in front of the tube that we didn't interact as a family anymore. At night, after supper, we retired to one of the two TVs -- usually Ann and Mary to the large TV and old movies, me to the small TV and CNN. It so happened one night that as she was leaving for town with my daughter, Ann made a remark about my being glued to the set all the time.
"Do you have to bring that up again?" I was irritated. We'd been round and round with this subject, and never had come to a satisfactory conclusion.
"I hate that thing" she said. 'That thing' was a new TV, courtesy of our oldest daughter, a present that I had gladly welcomed into the family, and spent much time with since. "I wish it had never come into this house." She walked out.
"Be careful what you wish for." I called out after her. "It might come true."
"Yeah, yeah." She slammed the door, and I sat there alone with our miniature weenie dog Daisy while Wolf Blitzer talked on CNN. I stroked Daisy's head thoughtfully. Hmmm. No TV. What if we didn't have a TV? What if I just got rid of it? Threw it away?
Throw away a new TV set? A brand new $600 TV set? What the heck would Ann do? I reached for the remote and shut off the set. Silence. I could hear the creaks and popping of our old house, and the whisper of the central heating system. There was something ghostly about the room without the yammering from the TV. Could we live like this all the time?
I dumped Daisy on the floor and stood up. I'll do it, I thought. I'll get rid of the damn thing right now. I walked over and began disconnecting the tangle of wires that snaked from the TV to the satellite receiver, DVD player and the VCR. I unhooked everything from the set, pulled it out of the console and carefully sat it on the floor. Wires, electrical cords and coaxial cable dangled forlornly in the resulting large, empty space.
I sat on the couch, chin in hand, and thought carefully. Is this the smart thing to do? Ann will be mad, no doubt about that, but she stays mad about the TV anyway. We all watch too much--and besides, what's it doing to my daughter? Think about the commercials she's bombarded with every day. Think about the racy, suggestive program themes she sees every night on even the most family-friendly programs. I stood up. Nope, the TV set goes, and that's it.
I sat back down. Now, what do I do with it? Throw it in the dumpster? A $600 TV? No, that's crazy. I could sell it to a local pawnshop, but the temptation to return and buy it back might be too great.
Aha! I stood up. I'll give it away. I'll give it away to a perfect stranger. Better yet, I'll give it to somebody who looks like they really need it -- somebody poor. What the heck, Christmas is only a couple of weeks away, so why not make somebody really happy? I stooped, grabbed the TV, hefted it to my chest and walked, grunting, to my Nissan truck.
Five minutes later I was out of my driveway and headed downtown. The question was, where would I go to find somebody to give the TV to? I though for a moment while sitting at a red-light, and it came to me. Walmart, of course. Everybody in this town shops at Walmart, and with the typical Friday night crowd there, it would be a cinch to find a suitable recipient.
By the time I pulled into Walmarts' crowded parking lot, it was completely dark. I circled around the lot slowly and looked at the parked cars. Any Cadillac, Hummer, BMW, or any other expensive vehicle was immediately ruled out. I wanted somebody poor, somebody who couldn't afford a nice TV, not someone in a $40,000 Ego-mobile. I saw a couple of broken-down heaps, but as I pulled near noted that they were unoccupied.
After circling the parking lot twice, I had decided to go somewhere else when I spotted it. A dark blue early seventies model LTD, huge, rusting, dented, with a piece of plastic replacing a missing back passenger-side window. It was covered in dirt and grime, and the huge back bumper was wired to the car with strands of rusty barb-wire. I could see the silhouette of somebody slouched over smoking in the front passenger's side. Perfect.
I pulled up next to the rusting hulk, got out and approached. The guy sitting in the car was in his late 40's, wore a dirty baseball hat, a stained chambray shirt pulled over an OD green army-issue t-shirt, and had a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. I tapped on his window. He rolled it down, and looked up, exhaling acrid cigarette smoke at me. "Can I hep you?" he asked in a wheezing, reedy voice.
"Evening" I said pleasantly. "How are you?"
"Right good. Yer-self?" He bloodshot eyes trailed over me warily. Standing there in my office clothes, hands in my pockets, I probably looked like a life-insurance agent on the make.
"Oh, I'm just fine. I'd like to ask you a question."
"Whut's that?" He was definitely on guard now. He drug deeply on his cigarette, exhaled and suddenly leaned over and coughed violently on his forearm. "Criminey", I thought, "this guy looks and sounds like he's on his last legs."
"Would you like a TV? I have a brand-new one in the back of my truck here, and it's yours if you want it. No strings attached."
The Wheezer went on red-alert, probably assuming that I was one of those con-artists who begin their spiel with "This is yours free, just for the asking." He shook his head. "Aw, I don't need a TV set. I already got 6 or 7."
I looked at him carefully. His clothes were stained, ragged, dirty. His car looked like it was headed for the scrap pile any day. The back seat was covered with empty Coke cans, burger wrappers, plastic bags, and enough dirt to grow a limited cotton crop in. This guy certainly didn't have 6 or 7 TVs at home.
"Listen", I said, "this sounds a little strange, but it isn't a sales gimmick. I'm going to give away my $600 TV set tonight, and it's yours if you want it. This is your lucky day. You've hit the jackpot, man. I don't want to know anything about you and I don't want anything from you. All I want to know is if you want it or not. No strings attached."
His blood-shot eyes focused on me. "No strings attached?"
"Nope." I shook my head. "No strings attached."
"No offence, but is it hot?"
I thought for a moment. Hot? Then it hit me -- he thought I'd stolen it! I grinned. "Sir, considering the circumstances here, that's a pretty fair question. Nope, it's all mine."
He suddenly grinned at me, exposing rotted teeth that leaned this way and that way like a rickety brown picket fence. "Well Mister, you seem to be on the up-and-up. I'll take the TV." He opened the door and began to painfully pull himself out of the car.
"No, no. Don't bother getting out. I'll load it for you."
He sat back and sighed gratefully. "Thanks a lot. I been sick lately, and it's pretty hard to get around."
I opened his back door. Garbage spilled out onto the pavement. He looked over his shoulder into the back seat. "Just set it there on the seat" he wheezed. "You ain't gonna hurt nothin."
I peered in. He was right: there was nothing to hurt except a couple of years worth of garbage. I walked to my truck, lowered the tailgate and hoisted the TV again. I wobbled over to the Wheezer's car, leaned over, carefully placed it on the back seat, and stood up. "There y'are. Enjoy your TV set mister."
"Thank ya', sir. I hope you have a merry Christmas." His face split in a rotten-tooth grin.
I smiled and nodded. "Merry Christmas to you, too." I got into my truck and drove off, feeling good. Hey, I'd done my family a favor, and did a good turn for a complete stranger. I drove home humming Christmas songs, feeling full of holiday cheer.
As I pulled into my darkened driveway, it hit me. Damn, there's another set in the house. The one in the bedroom. I shut off my truck and sat there in the dark, thinking. I knew if I waited long enough, I'd talk myself into keeping the smaller, cheaper TV. I heaved myself out of the truck and walked into the house. The smaller TV sat on a bureau in our bedroom. I eyed it for a moment. Hmmm. I had a sudden flash of inspiration. I quickly disconnected it from the satellite receiver, hoisted it on my shoulder, and walked out of the house. Just down the street was a dollar store with a huge green dumpster in back that the local vagrants groped through every day. I stood in front of the dumpster and heaved the TV into it. The set made a satisfying thud as it landed on top of the days' refuse. I slapped my hands together. There. Let whoever gets here first in the morning get the set. The early bird will indeed get the worm in this case.
I walked back to my house whistling a holiday tune, then stopped suddenly. Uh-oh. My wife's green Jeep was parked in the driveway. Time to face the music.
I walked into the living room where Ann and Mary stood in front of the entertainment console, looking at the snarl of cords and connectors dangling down into the empty, desolate looking space.
"Where's the TV?" Ann got right to the point.
"I gave it away."
Ann's lips moved silently for a moment. "You what?"
"I gave it away."
Ann blinked at me. "You gave away our new TV set." She said this in a conversational tone, as if we were discussing the weather or Mary's report card. "Who did you give it to?"
I looked around and sighed. "I don't know. I didn't ask his name. I just found somebody in the Walmart parking lot and gave it to him."
"I see." She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "So you gave a brand new, $600 TV set to a complete stranger. And there's no way to get it back."
"Nope, afraid not."
She wheeled suddenly, her ankle-length coat swirling around her heels, and strode off. Mary looked at me. "Daddy", she said, "I don't think that was too smart. She's gonna be mad at you for a long time."
"I know, sweetie", I said. "It'll be dog food and cold nights for a while."
She reached up, wrapped both arms around my neck and kissed my cheek. "I love you Daddy, even when you do stupid stuff." She hugged me hard. "I'm not mad at you."
I immediately felt better. You can't be down for too long with a kid like that in the house. Ann was indeed angry and I had cold suppers and a big empty bed for a couple of weeks, but like all storms, this one raged for a while and died down. We started spending more time together talking, playing games, and reading out loud. Mary bought herself a TV for her birthday, but we allowed it with the stipulation that it was only for watching DVDs and tapes -- no TV hook-up at all.
So that's how things stand today. We don't have TV and we don't miss it. The idea of connecting cable or satellite never comes up, and when I recently asked Mary if she felt deprived by not having television, she thought for a moment, shook her head, and said, "No, not really. Everything on TV is junk anyway."
Everything on TV is junk. Hey, that's my girl.