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RSVPhillippi | June 2017


Two Dark Days

By Dennis Phillippi

During one of our recent spring storms there was a loud crash of thunder and suddenly the sound went out on our television. Naturally, I leapt into action and turned the cable box off and then back on. Historically this has been an effective solution for every television-related issue. All we would have to do is sit and wait for a few minutes while the cable rebooted and we’d be good to go. The cable rebooted. The sound was still out. My wife and I have been an aberration for a long time in that we have had one operational TV. So, you can imagine the catastrophe that had befallen us. We had no television. Not if we wanted to hear what they were saying anyway.

Since we were unable to find any businesses that actually repair TVs, we accepted the fact that we had to go out and buy a new one. It had been well over a decade since we had bought a new TV and we were at a little bit of a loss. The next day we visited a couple of places that specialize in selling them, and eventually were seduced by one that was UHD. That would be Ultra Hi-Def. We didn’t plan on getting an UHD TV, but the second we saw one hanging on the wall at the big store and were hypnotized by the insane clarity, we were sunk. On a side note, the same thing happened to us decades ago when we went out to buy a sensible car and came home with a shiny red sports car, but that’s a story for another time.

With help from an unusually attentive employee, we were able to get the big box into the car and drive away with the thing. Once we uncrated it in our living room we spent two hours trying to hook the thing up ourselves. After a good bit of bickering, and a few attempts on my part to give up, we thought we finally had it. Holding our breath with excitement we hit the button and waited. There was no sound. And it was in black and white.

Despite my misgivings I followed my wife’s advice and called the cable company. I’m pretty sure the guy who answered wasn’t given the name Scott at birth, but I’m just going by accent here. I carefully explained the situation to Scott and he carefully explained what he believed might be the problem. This called for several tries on Scott’s part. Eventually it became clear; the cable box was the culprit. The cable box that sat atop our spanking new TV, and looked down on its uninstalled, but perfectly functional predecessor. Scott clicked away on his keyboard and informed me that a cable guy would be by to make everything okay in two days.

My blood ran cold. We were going to be without television for two days. The last time I was without television for two days was when I was performing at a resort in Lake Placid many years ago and I thought I was going to go insane. I could more easily go two days without food or sleep. Obviously, I have a problem.

Like most people of my generation I wasn’t just raised watching television, I was raised by television. I am the youngest of six children and I spent the vast majority of my childhood parked in front of the TV and forgotten. My preschool was Captain Kangaroo. My after school care was reruns of Gilligan’s Island and I Dream of Jeannie. The six kids on The Brady Bunch were closer to me than the five other kids living in the same house as me.

As a teenager, TV shows were appointments that had to be met. I know this will sound shocking, but when I was a kid there was no way to record a television show. If you wanted to be able to talk about what happened on Roots, you had to watch Roots when it was broadcast like everyone else. Our parents dragged us out of bed to see the moon landing and Nixon resigning because otherwise we wouldn’t see it.

Of course I got a VCR as soon as it was possible to get one and wore out tapes rerecording over them time after time. To this day for some reason there are old VHS tapes of Twin Peaks sitting in the top of a closet in our house.

Nothing pleased me more than the arrival of the DVR. Rewinding live TV has become one of my life’s great pleasures. Being able to stack up recording of things I might never actually watch, without having to have them on videotape makes me feel like a king. Just the idea that I can hit the record button and maybe watch that last fifteen minutes of a rerun of Bones at some later date thrills me.

And now we were faced with two days of no TV. Sure, I could watch streaming stuff on my tablet or phone, but it’s not the same. When you do that you choose one show and you watch it, from beginning to end. There is no flipping around on Netflix.

It was flipping around that I missed. Maybe it’s a guy thing. I don’t watch commercials, even though I’m occasionally on them. The second a show or game goes to commercials I’m using my bestest electronic friend, the previous channel button. If the previous channel is also on commercials it’s time to roam. I know probably thirty channel numbers by heart and I can cycle through those in less than a minute. I know instantly if there is any reason to pause on a channel, and I know when there isn’t. God, how I missed flipping around. It was a tough couple of days. These are first world problems people. The good news is; now we have two TVs.