There’s something to be said for making a bad first impression – if you can make it stick in a way that makes you intriguing. A firm jaw line, a full head of hair, and brains can only take you so far. Well, that’s the gist of relationship advice I’ve been handing out to my kids. The source of this bad first impression does not make the list of usual suspects, you know … spinach in your bicuspid, self-ripening zit on your chin, festering cold sore, watering eyes from inhaled seasonal allergens. In their eyes, it’s far worse. We don’t have cable.
SIGNIFICANT PAUSE WHILE YOU LOT OUT THERE IN THE ETHER COLLECTIVELY EXHALE IN SHOCK.
Eight years ago, our neighbor’s Labrador decided she had a backhoe for paws and dug up the buried cable that ran from our yard to hers, and ripped it clear off the cable box on our wall. Kayla, the excavator, made a meal of it. Never mind that the cable was snugly entrenched two feet underground, obscured from mortal olfactory sensors and even the X-ray vision of the Osprey raptors flying overhead.
We took that as a sign and cancelled cable service. “The planets must have lined up perfectly for something like this to have happened,” I explained to the kids, holding my personal bible, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.
The way the “free” channels came in, we may as well have been stranded on a deserted island, with the closest television tower on the neighboring continent.
The kids were livid. Nine, 7 & 5 they were and still managed to astonish me with their vocabulary of choice (age appropriate) cuss words. Their outrage had little to do with not having a show to watch on the idiot box, but more with having to quit cold turkey.
Withdrawal was instantaneous.
“There, there, there,” I soothed. “You guys are lucky; you have each other to play with and a basement full of toys. When I was your age, I had to share a broken tricycle ….”
They scattered in formation like Navy Seals in the midst of a covert operation before I got to the sob story about having to split a single bar of candy with four others.
Their indignation continued. Somewhere in the US Constitution there has got to be an Amendment that makes TV an essential right, they argued. Once they got over their angst, we realized that without television to fill the white noise between meals, we could fill it with laughter, screaming, tantrums, tattling, and fist fights that came with their own killer sound track. Voila, just like that we had created our own home grown cable channel – Family Feud.
The ratings were dismal. But when the boys choreographed a WWF fight sequence that landed one of them in hospital with an inguinal hernia, we decided to cancel our channel and invest in a receiver and bunny ears which the government gamely subsidized.
The trouble was that we had taken one giant technological step forward and three of those same kinds of steps backward.
“I’ve only just gotten used to the freedom of answering the telephone while still hooked up to the internet,” I gushed on the phone to my mother.
“You finally got rid of the dial up internet connection?” she asked, relief evident in her voice. “I’m so proud of you!”
Yes, we were possibly the only family on this hemisphere who had dial up for this long.
“I don’t think they had TV when they were growing up,” our daughter reasoned. “They are REALLY old.”
“Nah, they’re just cheap,” our oldest promptly corrected.
“Cheap, Jeep!” I forced the advantage right away. “We feed, water, and clothe you guys, don’t we? Then quit complaining!”
“And don’t forget BOGO ice cream …” I felt compelled to remind them. I never pass on the Buy One Get One free deal.
But I have to admit, the bunny ears are a particularly sharp thorn in their sides, and on occasion, mine too. Reception from ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS each has its unique position on the bunny ears. After much experimenting, we’ve boiled it down to a rather precise science:
ABC: requires the hardcover version of The Help, the half chewed up, deflated moose dog toy, one flat cushion, and the antenna aimed at the point on the curtains that hang down like Farah Fawcett’s famous bangs.
NBC: requires a short footstool, the 250-page The Cartoonists’ Workshop and a brief invocation.
CBS: sheer luck and often one designated child to hold the antenna while standing on one foot.
Despite the precision of our combined efforts, the bunny ears system repels meaningful relationships with other facets of living such as operating a blender, taking a shower, making a phone call, dog chasing his tail …
We haven’t yet found the gumption to host a Super Bowl party at our house; the brief invocation may not work.
So, now it’s 5:30 in the p.m. on Oscar night and we are having a crisis; Farah Fawcett’s bangs are hanging rather limp. The Help is anything but. Somebody switched the cushion, and put the stuffing back into the moose toy.