I celebrated New Year’s Eve doing something unusual. Unusual for me, that is. It was something I haven’t been able to do for a long time, and it was exciting to finally have the chance to do it.
I sat on my couch and watched television.
The Mister and I lost television reception following a major electrical event in 2013. Our outdoor entrance shorted out, and we lost thousands of dollars’ worth of electrical appliances and electronics. Almost everything that was plugged in at the time was lost—radios, computer, printer, battery backups, tool chargers, fencers, and even the electronic control panel on my kitchen range.
Weirdly, neither of my two small flat-screen televisions were damaged. But as we ran around the house assessing our losses in the aftermath, it became apparent that although the televisions themselves worked, there was no signal.
Not that we had ever had much of one in the first place. The previous owners had left their ancient rooftop antenna attached even though they had long since converted to satellite. When we moved here in 2007, The Mister juggled some wiring and hooked us up to the roof antenna.
That netted us a smattering of channels. CBS and Public Television all the time, ABC most of the time, and NBC often. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough. At least, until digital television came along. Our channel choices dissolved one by one as the broadcasters converted to digital. When the federal government’s compulsory digital conversion date came and went, we were left with CBS and Public Television on good days, and little else ever.
I am given to understand that digital television was mandated in order to free up bandwidth for portable devices. I guess that means that the reason I haven’t been able to watch Jeopardy for all these years is because everyone else in the world needs smart phones.
Without the option of cable in our rural area, we batted around the idea of satellite but decided we just couldn’t justify the cost. At around fifty dollars a month, it would be a waste either way. Watching fifty dollars’ worth of television a month would be a waste of our time, and paying that much and not watching it would be a waste of our money.
The Mister and I took another giant leap towards the Dark Ages when we lost our electrical entrance. His best guess was that the antenna amplifier had been fried. We bought a new one, and he fought his way through a maze of television wires to hook it in.
It didn’t work. The Mister was flummoxed, but decided that the brand new unit must have been destroyed when he dropped it. The work to replace our belongings was stressful and challenging, and we were too frustrated to bother with TV. We didn’t watch it that much anyway, and decided to just go without it for a while. We threw away the new booster and drove on.
We had Netflix and Amazon and a Roku streaming box, so no worries, right?
Later that year, when I heard some buzz about my favorite show, I felt wistful.
“I miss TV sometimes,” I told the Mister.
“Me too,” he said.
Another year went by. We went through the entire Netflix library of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and worked our way through all of Criminal Minds.
I like to have something on while I crochet in the evenings, so we let ourselves be sucked into reality TV on our Roku box and wished our low-quality viewing wasn’t shown so prominently in the “Recently Watched” category.
“I really miss television,” I sighed several times this past summer. It had been a full two years without it.
“I know,” said The Mister.
As my whining for television ramped up in frequency and culminated in daily nagging, The Mister did some homework and decided to buy a new antenna.
It arrived from the shipper early last week. The Mister spent an evening emptying out the box and assembling the parts and reading directions.
I was chatting on my phone the next night while I was putting away the supper dishes and The Mister was energetically trotting in and out from the garage loft where he was installing the new antenna. I squealed in excitement as he came into the room and reached for the remote control.
“I’m going to have tee-veeeeeee!!” I exclaimed to my sister, adding that I had to hang up so I could watch the evening news for first time in over two years.
A few obscenities exploded into the air. The Mister and I stood there suspended in frustration, staring at a blank screen with blue letters NO SIGNAL in the middle.
He went back to the drawing board. It had to be the wiring. He detoured to the do-it-yourself store on his way home from work the next day and came home with supplies. He barely took time for an evening meal, as determined as he was to win the battle with the television antenna.
After a couple evenings of wiring, drilling, placing screw-on ends, hooking up, ripping out, and adjusting, the moment had arrived. I stood watching while he pressed the remote buttons, holding my breath.
Channel five news flooded into the room. It was amazing. I felt like the people at NASA must have felt when they watched the first Apollo flight touch down on the surface of the moon. I wanted to cry and cheer, even though I noticed the commercials were still as hokey as they ever were.
It is still just CBS and Public Television. No matter how The Mister adjusted the antenna, that was it. But I had already scoped out the broadcast schedule and noticed that my favorite show was still on Thursday nights.
At eight o’clock, I was feeling celebratory as I sat down to watch. I wondered what had happened in the several seasons of hiatus. I was afraid the characters might have changed and I wouldn’t know them.
It was surprising how little they had changed, actually. Except for the girlfriend’s hair, they all looked and acted the same. The couple that I had heard became engaged right after I stopped watching the show was still engaged, but wait! They are headed for Vegas to elope!
My son told a few days later that the episode I saw was a rerun. I wasn’t all that disappointed. It was exciting to see the show at all. And what a way to ring out the old year!
The thrill of television is already worn off. We have never been big TV watchers, even less with only two channels. But I get to watch the local news with its hokey commercials. And please, nobody spoil it for me and tell me if they actually tie the knot on the next show.