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TV or not TV…

I love David Sedaris. I was introduced to the humorist’s writings in The New Yorker. I feel a special kinship to Mr. Sedaris, not only because I believe we share a similar sense of humor, but because he was born in Binghamton, NY, where, coincidently, both my daughter and I studied as undergrads (though not simultaneously). I am currently reading his book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, which is comprised of chapters from his early years, including one in which he describes a neighbor who did not believe in watching TV. As a child, Sedaris could not fathom the idea of a person choosing not to own a television, and so he decided to spy on this man’s family to see what else they could possibly be doing if they were not watching TV. (You’ll have to read his book to find out.)

When our family lived in Narrowsburg, NY, we had a television set but no cable, so we watched videos. In addition to our weekly runs to the local video store, my father would record episodes of “Sesame Street” for our kids, which they would watch over and over again. After we sold our house on Deep Hollow Hill Road and moved back to New Jersey for a brief period, Brian decided he wanted to get cable. Although I was opposed to the idea, I grudgingly went along with it. I remember that January very well: No sooner did the Cablevision guy hook up the cable than the TV became the focal point of our lives. The television was located in our basement, which we’d converted into a den/office. Every evening, instead of having our habitual after-dinner conversations, Brian would suddenly disappear downstairs where, an hour later, I would find him on the couch, remote control in hand, channel-surfing.

As for our son Ian, as soon he had eaten breakfast on weekday mornings, he would make a bee-line for the basement and wouldn’t emerge until I forced him to get ready for school. About two weeks later, I received a phone call from his second grade teacher, Mrs. Wilk, who asked if something was going on at home, since Ian seemed preoccupied and wasn’t concentrating on his schoolwork. The next day, I phoned the cable company to come and remove the cable. Our family deserves a place in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the first to cancel their cable subscription after only three weeks.

That was back in 1995. Fast forward eighteen years: Even though Brian sometimes laments the fact that he’s missing the Wimbledon final or an FA Cup match between Manchester United and Manchester City, and I have to wait for the third season of “Downton Abbey” to come out on DVD before I can watch it, I know that I’m not missing out on very much. Life without TV has been much more rewarding.

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