, Part 1

The room at my old apartment had a cable connection. My new room doesn’t.

Back in Apartment C I watched a fair amount of TV — more than I wanted and should have. Although it was often nice to have on in the background, providing a comforting white noise while I thought and hammered the keyboard, it was mostly distracting as hell. On many nights it stole my concentration and zapped my creative initiative with whatever cosmic, radioactive force it emits.

For the next few weeks I’m going to conduct a little experiment: No TV, at least in my room. Though there’s no wall plug-in, a cable cord runs along the baseboard on one wall and connects to the cable from outside the apartment. I could conceivably buy a splitter and route a cord to my Sony, but I’m unsure if it will work without the cable box (now there’s a novel concept I can write about later). The thing is, though, that I don’t care. College basketball season is now in full swing and I know I’ll watch whatever game is on regardless of who’s playing (I refuse to watch Duke, though). Except for a few necessary projects, I’ve taken an extended break from writing and want to see if a TV-less life will jump start my creativity. Hey! I’m writing right now — on my bed with my MacBook, the lifeless Trinitron staring at me from across the room — so it appears to be working.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned from living with random roommates: When people don’t have a hobby, artistic outlet, or higher calling to keep them busy in their free time, all they do is watch TV. Case in point: My current and former roommates, L and A.

L worked from home. He always had his giant TV on during the day to provide background noise as he built sales spreadsheets and other such useless corporate bullshit. If he wasn’t working, cooking, or out with his girlfriend, he was watching old episodes of “Two and a Half Men,” “Entourage,” “Mad Money,” or “Grey’s Anatomy.” That was how he spent his free time.

My new roommate, A, has a slightly different situation. He’s a carpenter. His work is entering the slow season so he now has tons of time to do whatever he wants. In fact, I doubt he’s worked a day since I first toured the place about three weeks ago. In the morning the door to his room is closed and his keys are on the kitchen table. When I return around 5 p.m. I open the door and find him — surprise surprise — parked on the couch in front of the TV watching whatever’s on ESPN (a far better choice of programming than what L was interested in, if you ask me). Apparently he leaves the apartment to surf and work out, but it’s not when I’m here. Besides the proof hanging in our shower — he puts his wetsuit there to dry — I’d think all he did was eat, watch TV, and sleep. (I did catch him reading a book when I came home today, which made me smile.)

I couldn’t do that (or maybe I have to an extent), but millions of people in this country do it everyday (nearly 18.7 million people tuned into “Dancing With the Stars” on November 11th). Think about this: What if there was no TV? What would Americans do with themselves if there was no “American Idol,” no “Grey’s Anatomy,” no (gulp) “College Football Final”? Instead of parking our fat asses on couches and recliners, we might be out making our country a better place. We might be beautifying our neighborhoods, strengthening our community bonds, or taking classes and gaining a better understanding of our culture, history, and selves. It's food for thought.

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