Over the summer, 1 million Americans gave up their cable TV. I was one of them.
Tired of the exorbitant prices, I marched my cable boxes and the accompanying remote controls into the cable company's office, paid my last bill and felt very good about myself. "Who needs cable?" I thought.
Apparently, I do.
Prior to the great surrender, I didn’t think I watched much television. I watched a couple of news networks, the History channel, movies on TCM and, when I got sick, I would get sucked into those real-life crime stories on the ID network. I was always sure I would see someone I knew or, worse yet, someone I dated.
So I didn’t think going cold turkey would be so hard.
At first, the silence was nice. I had never used the television for background noise. Or had I?
There was a study done years ago that explained the popularity of the Weather Channel.
People living alone, primarily senior citizens, watched it for company.
Suddenly, I had no company that I could “invite in” with the click of the remote. No Robin Meade, no Lou Dobbs, no Betty Davis and no “everybody thought he was nice until he snapped” guy.
I tried to watch a DVD but when I put "Young Frankenstein" in, I received an ominous warning that read: “This operation currently prohibited for this disc.”
What? What did that mean? I immediately texted my son, Will, who had worked at Best Buy so clearly he knows what’s going on with electronics.
“Did you get permission to play it?” he texted back.
I was incredulous. "Do I have to? I OWN IT!!!!!!!!!! I thought I got permission when I BOUGHT IT at the store a long time ago."
This is the bad thing about texting. As I was getting worked up and ready to tell somebody off but I couldn’t think of who, Will’s next message popped up.
“Haha. I’m just kidding, Mom. The only thing I can think is maybe it’s just a bad disc.”
My older son, Matt, eventually figured it out but by then I had moved on. I started watching YouTube videos on my 15-inch laptop while my 55-inch black hole collected dust and mocked me from across the room. As did Matt.
“I can’t believe you are watching videos on your laptop and wait a minute. Are you also listening to television news on your phone at the same time?” Now he was the incredulous one.
"Yes, I am," I replied defiantly. "Yes, I am!"
When I canceled the Sirius Satellite radio in my car, they had talked me into an online subscription at half the cost. I had forgotten all about it until I was looking over my credit card statement days before.
Let me tell you something. Listening to a news channel isn’t the same as watching it on a screen. Kind of like reading the Akron Beacon Journal online isn’t the same thing as sitting down at the breakfast table with coffee and the newsPAPER. Though my mother would have clearly benefited from the former. For years, she started her day with cigarettes, coffee and the St. Joseph News Press and Gazette and, for the rest of the day, she had black elbows.
This last week nearly did me in, though. While I was thrilled that I was missing all the political commercials, the news junkie in me could not conceive of missing live election coverage.
I began asking friends if I could come over and watch with them.
"I could bring a covered dish," I told one friend.
“I don’t have cable,” she snapped.
"Then you don’t get any Apple Brown Betty," I told her.
Another told me she would be out of town and I guess she thought I was kidding when I suggested she just leave a key and I could let myself in and out and they would never know I’d been there.
Finally, my friend MaryBeth invited me over to watch the election returns with her and her husband, David.
To some, the Super Bowl is the ultimate TV event. Well, election night is my Super Bowl and I couldn’t wait, the excitement only enhanced by my personal experience with voter suppression earlier in the day.
It seems when I showed up to vote, they couldn’t find me among their list of registered voters.
As the line behind me grew longer and longer, the poll worker looked me up by various names.
Swoboda. Wagner. Swoboda-Wagner. I wasn’t there yet. I had clearly registered my new address when I got my license plates renewed in September.
"Is this voter suppression? Do I need to alert the media?" I joked with the ladies.
Turns out the only suppression going on was the probable anger in the now very long line behind me. Over the summer, I moved (again!) back to Westfield Center area and assumed I was back at my original polling place. I was wrong.
I made some comment about voting early and often at all the precincts and then skedaddled out of there hoping no one actually heard my name.
Which is why I probably fell asleep on the Klustys' couch before 9 p.m. election night and missed the whole thing.
I woke up with drool and a quarter stuck to my face.
I’m keeping that quarter and putting it in a jar with all the others. When that baby gets full, I’m getting cable again.
Contact Robin Swoboda at Robinswoboda@outlook.com.