The Cable is Out!

For two weeks!

Oh no!

While The Curmudgeon is not one of those people who claims never to watch television – “I only watch PBS and HBO” a lot of folks like to say, which only proves they haven’t watched PBS in years because it no longer shows anything even remotely worth watching unless it has its hand out to ask you for money – neither is he someone whose television is on for so long that he can cook food on top of it.  Television definitely has a place in his life, and he is neither proud nor ashamed of that.

About six weeks ago his cable went down, and after a two-day wait, a Comcast technician came and fixed the problem.  A little less than a month after that his cable went down again, but this time the technician declared his line “totally dead” and explained that repairing it would require construction work outside The Curmudgeon’s home.

“How long will that take?” The Curmudgeon asked, fearing the worst.

“About ten days to two weeks,” the technician replied.

The worst – ten days to two weeks with…no…television!

Now The Curmudgeon didn’t reach the ripe old age of fifty-four, and never married, without cultivating the ability to entertain himself.  Two television-free weeks would be a challenge, he told himself, but a challenge he could definitely surmount (cue chorus of “We Shall Overcome”).

Yeah, right.

The first challenge came when he went to exercise.  Other than perhaps Kris Jenner, there are few things The Curmudgeon dislikes more than exercise, but exercise he does – yet always to the accompaniment of television, to stave off the unavoidable boredom.  In the mornings he spends fifteen minutes stretching on his living room floor, followed by crunches and push-ups, and then ten minutes on the rowing machine in his bedroom.  Without the television to pace it, however, even this modest amount of exercise proved terminally boring, so when The Curmudgeon (rather conveniently) came down with a rare summer cold that immediately went to his chest, he seized on the opportunity this presented to drop the rowing machine portion of his morning routine (he refuses to call it a workout; The Curmudgeon exercises, he does not work out – there’s a difference).

Then came the after-work routine:  the same crunches and push-ups, followed by a half-hour on the stationary bike, which also is located in his bedroom.  This is the part that really requires the help of television, and this is why, for the first time in his adult life, The Curmudgeon has a television in his bedroom.  He never, ever watches television in bed, not even right before going to sleep; not when he’s sick; not even when, three times within one year, he was recuperating from abdominal surgery and the very act of getting out of bed was excruciatingly painful.  Better just to endure the pain, he always felt, and get up rather than watch television in bed.  But television was unquestionably critical to passing thirty minutes on the stationary bike, and music has never sufficed as an alternative.  The chest cold provided the excuse he needed:  he cut the cycling to fifteen minutes, at half-speed, after rummaging through some drawers and finding a few old VHS tapes – yes, VHS tapes – with television programs recorded on them that he then threw into the VCR – yes, the VCR – to make the time more bearable.  Not to say that some of those tapes were a little old, but The Curmudgeon did see an episode of the television series Everwood while pedaling one day.

He found that he missed television at other times as well.  The Curmudgeon works at home, and after eating lunch, he generally turns on the television to provide background noise while he reads; now, there was no television.  Instead, he sat on his patio and read.  After dinner, he missed the same thing:  television as accompaniment for reading or writing the next week’s blog entries.  Often it was the most passive of viewing:  just a Phillies game – The Curmudgeon is a baseball fan and watches parts of a lot of Phillies game – with the sound turned way down, or even off completely (during the Chris Wheeler innings).

So what did The Curmudgeon do without his electronic pacifier during his two weeks without television?

For starters, he read three books.

And twenty-seven magazines, thanks to his Kindle and Calibre.

He wrote first drafts of two complete short stories (fiction).

He joined a free internet dating site and ended up talking to eleven different women, only three of whom were worth meeting and none of whom were worth a return engagement.

He listened to an average of three CDs/albums a night and explored Pandora radio and Spotify on his brand-new iPod.

He listened to the Phillies on the radio and learned that their radio broadcaster is light years better than the higher-paid, more highly regarded people who do the same job on television.

He wrote new blog entries he could run during his two-week August vacation, thereby creating the illusion that he’s still around.  (Whoops)

He labored in the kitchen like a regular iron chef, filling his freezer with a month’s worth of sweet-and-sour meatballs, about fourteen portions of chicken, a fresh batch of spaghetti sauce, chocolate raspberry bars that can be defrosted and eaten one at a time, three batches of peach soup, four servings of sweet potato-pumpkin soup, and enough sloppy joe for three meals.  He also made a batch of homemade granola and a batch of muffins and a rice kugel and a brisket and tinkered with a slightly flawed recipe for homemade, sugar-free orangeade.

He invited his family to a fourth of July dinner and cooked up a storm for that occasion as well.  During that afternoon he explained his home entertainment situation to his loved ones and received their well-intended expressions of shock and dismay, outrage and commiseration.  The next day The Curmudgeon’s brother, a non-stop television watcher who regularly expresses his disdain for his brother’s tiny, twenty-six-inch set – little brother has one of those more manly sixty-inch models – called to invite The Curmudgeon, who lives within walking distance, to come join him to watch television any time he wishes.

Finally, though, after two weeks – TWO WHOLE WEEKS! – the big day came:  the laying of the new line was complete and the technician restored The Curmudgeon’s television service.

What happened next reminded The Curmudgeon a lot of the old Allan Sherman song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah.”  If you’re old enough to remember the song (hear it here), it consists of an unhappy child writing to his parents from overnight camp, complaining about how terrible it is.  Mostly it’s terrible because it’s raining and he can’t do any of the things that make camp worth attending.  (For some people, that is; The Curmudgeon is a city boy and would rather exercise than attend camp.)  As the boy in the song continues complaining, however, there’s a sudden shift in his sad lament:

Wait a minute, it stopped hailing,

Guys are swimming, guys are sailing,

Playing baseball, gee that’s better,

Muddah Faddah kindly disregard this letter.

And that’s what happened to The Curmudgeon after work on the day his cable was restored.  There was Guy Fieri, telling the chef at some diner, drive-in, or dive that his dish was tender; there was CNN’s Howie Kurtz, his transition to gelding now complete and raising his obsequiousness to new levels; there was Amanda Freitag, kindly telling a chef that his inedible dish lacked only a little seasoning; there was Sheldon bossing around Leonard and Raj and Howard; there was Teresa Giudice, reminding The Curmudgeon that every time he thinks he’s encountered the dumbest person in the world, there’s always someone dumber; and there was…Ziva David!

The Curmudgeon would like to tell you more about this transformational experience, but he has to run now.  C-SPAN’s Brian Lamb just asked a writer why he chose to use endnotes instead of footnotes in his latest book and this should be really, really interesting.

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  • By The Divorce is Final | The Four-Eyed Curmudgeon on October 8, 2017 at 6:09 am

    […] indifference, and the occasional angry word; for a few personal examples go here, here, and here. In the end, like most prisoners of a bad marriage, The Curmudgeon escaped at the very first […]

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