In 1995, I lived in Minnesota. I was working in a stockroom behind a retail store in the Mall of America for $6.25 per hour. Somehow, I managed to buy a television. I had lived through most of my first two years of college without watching television regularly. In fact, I can’t remember watching much television at all during those years, except for a cramped dorm-room group viewing of the premiere of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
But dammit, I was working now, and I was going to buy a television. So I did. And for the next 11 years, that television kept me company. Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, Earth2, Highlander, The Tick, Deep Space Nine, the X-Files, Buffy, Farscape, and many more – plus hundreds of movies – played on its screen while I ironed, sewed, filed papers, studied for the math section of the GRE, recovered from various illnesses, or sometimes just sat there and watched. We had a good relationship.
Then C-Man became a regular in my apartment. “Can’t you hear it?” he said. By which he meant a high-pitched whine that the television allegedly emitted when turned on. “My god, it’s awful,” he said. (Actually there was also some profanity involved too, but I won’t bore you with the details.) After a while I had to admit that I could hear it if I concentrated, but even without concentrating I could hear C-Man whining and that was getting really annoying. So after much discussion, I told him to buy a television.
He looked on Craigslist for a replacement with similar characteristics, minus the whine. But since he is a geek boy, he was pretty much going to buy a new shiny toy. So he began to research. Over the next few months, I heard more than I ever wanted to know about LCD, plasma, projection, 1080p, and various other terms that I don’t remember because OH MY GOD I DID NOT WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT TELEVISIONS. I just wanted him to make a recommendation based on our household’s needs and desires. He finally did, after much boredom on my part.
The television he selected was made by Westinghouse, and it was on sale at Best Buy for some ridiculously good price, so we drove up there (about 35 minutes) and got one. It didn’t look very big at the store. I knew we were eventually going to have a house, and we’d be sitting further away from the television, and I didn’t want to buy another one at that point to fit whatever that new space would be, so I was worried.
We brought it home. It dwarfed the old television. It was like I had a miniature television for 11 years and didn’t know it. It turns out that if you put a 37 inch television next to 55 inch televisions, it looks like a tiny wisp. If you put a 37 inch television in front of a 27 inch television, you obliterate all evidence that the latter exists.
We had agreed I would put the old television on Freecycle, so I dutifully typed up an offer. When someone agreed to pick it up, I gave her directions. Then I started crying. Inconsolably. For over an hour. Did you see the list of television shows up there? For years, they and many others were my friends. Significant chunks of my life were spent tangled up in those characters’ imaginary lives, and for someone with a deep need for narrative this is a big deal. I just could not get over the idea of separating from that television, despite the silliness of keeping 2 televisions in a 500 square foot apartment.
I don’t know what C-Man made of it. My guess is that it boiled down to “girl crying, must fix.” This is the man who bragged that he had never bought a television. In fact, the according to the FCC, anything without a tuner is a monitor, not a television, and the Westinghouse did not have a tuner of its own and thus was not actually a television. C-Man found this very pleasing, because he regards television programming as more dangerous than heroin. Don’t ask me to explain how that coexists in his head with massive consumption of box sets of Buffy, Babylon 5, and Farscape. I don’t know.
But he loves me, so he agreed I could keep the old television. I retracted the Freecycle offer (sorry!), and the old television waited contentedly behind the new television for the day when it would once again tell me stories.
To Be Continued…