Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Boob Tube

I realized today how incredibly pervasive television has become. The talking box is every where.

This afternoon I took Unruly to the dentist for her six month exam and cleaning and what was hanging above the cool tilty chair but a flatscreen television. With cable channels. And a remote. And a pair of headphones so the viewer can listen to Scooby Doo but not disturb the guy getting a root canal in the next room. Of course Unruly plopped right into that chair, adjusted the headphones and started flipping through channels like an old pro. At a mere five years old, the child almost immediately master any remote she gets her hands on. Got one with 1,001 buttons and a spin dial? She'll figure it out and then program a few new combos for your surfing pleasure. The child can program the damn VCR (I, on the other hand, get tired of staring at TV snow and whine until she or Wild fixes it for me) and she figured out the DVD player by the time she was three.

But, I digress.

TVs are hanging out in cars, installed in the headrests of airplanes and bolted to the ceilings in Wal-Mart where they hover like all-seeing gods. I've seen them in the lobby of movie theaters airing trailers for the "Now Showings," at bars (of course) and in restaurants. Sometimes I feel like I just. can't. escape. I frequently make a no-TV-today command decision at home on the weekends (something for which BOTH girls hate me, I'm sure) and force the girls to actually live their lives a little instead of watching someone else's life.

Warning! Warning! Nostalgic trip down memory lane ahead. May, or may not, contain the utterance "Why, when I was a kid..."

I remember just one TV for the entire house...not a TV in every room. Our single TV was small, unobtrusive and had these knobby things you had to twist on the front of it. There was no remote. You pulled on one knob to turn it on, twisted the same knob to turn the volume up or down, and clicked the other two knobs through various numbers and combinations, while attempting to clear the picture and get the sound AND the picture to match. Sometimes you had to adjust the rabbit ears to get a better picture. We had exactly three channels. (Yes, cable had been invented. We didn't have it. I never missed it.) One channel had the local news (which ALWAYS seemed to be the only thing on), soaps and regular programming. It was NBC when NBC still used the color peacock logo. It actually had feathers instead of just being a silhouette. Cartoons were aired Saturday morning until 11 a.m. None of this 12 channels of continuous, 24-hour cartoon marathoning for us! The second channel was PBS before PBS became just another network channel. I remember NOVA and The Twilight Zone and lots of church choirs and sermons on that channel. Finally, our third channel was usually just fuzz, but on a really nice night, with little wind, we could get Magnum PI and Dallas and even a little Star Trek. I never felt deprived, even when my friends were talking about the latest music video on that newfangled channel MTV, back when MTV actually played music videos.

Today we have more than 300 channels. We still just have one TV and I refuse to allow the girls to have TVs in their rooms. I have an entire list of shows I record on the TiVO and they keep multiplying because I just don't have time to watch.

Sometimes, I dream about throwing the TV and all the miscellaneous geegaws and gadgets that go with it right. out. the. window. In this dream we play cards and Monopoly and Scrabble and enjoy our time together as a family instead of spending our time just existing together while watching someone else's life on TV.

And then I wake up and realize I really don't want to miss the next episode of "Bones" or "Supernatural" and that trying to get Wild to sit down and play board games with me would be akin to pulling teeth with a pair of tweezers.

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