The television in our home (there is only one) is seldom on. Mostly I find the contraption annoying, starting with news broadcasts. We turn the TV on most evenings to hear what the weather guessers are hoping to get right. In another column I wrote about the “teases” leading up to the actual forecast. It’s my belief that the weather forecast is the primary reason most people turn to the local news. It’s also my belief that TV stations are aware of this and keep that weather report out in front of us, the audience, like the proverbial carrot in front of a jackass. In hopes of hearing the weather prediction for tomorrow and the next day, we might sit through a half-dozen promos for the broadcast we are already watching.
These days, it seems to me that we are given more information about how some folks feel about an event than about the event itself. If, at first, the facts are not known, you can be sure we will get plenty of speculation, slathered with an abundance of emotional drama, to fill the time slot.
I can remember when we were told what was known about an incident, then told we would hear more news as it became available, and even more at 11. We were left to ourselves to decide how we felt about what happened and to do our own speculation. That ensured differing opinions in most households, often inducing actual dialogue at what we referred to as mealtime, an ancient practice in which families gathered to share the rewards of hard work and Mom’s endless kitchen efforts. They did it without a single ballcap worn at the table, too.
Of trendy television shows I know nothing. I have no interest in the tripe served up by the networks. I’m not about to sit through 20 minutes of commercials every hour to watch the puerile escapades of those willing to carry on like a Chuck E. Cheese birthday clown. My disdain for movies and television is often met with disbelief by some who find such an attitude not just unusual, but nearly pathological. I don’t care.
I am not entertained by people who enthusiastically act like fools for all the world to see. Watching that behavior embarrasses me, a reaction called secondhand embarrassment. I can embarrass myself at the drop of a hat. I can embarrass my wife even faster. I don’t want to feel embarrassed on behalf of a fool I don’t even know. When the antics of an adult human embarrass me, it’s not humorous or entertaining; it’s childish and it makes me uncomfortable. You never know; it’s possible that I could get used to it. Dementia runs in my family.
I wish the television was the only place this behavior occurs. Very recently I was checking out at a big store which I won’t name, but it rhymes with Mall Fardt. I was minding my own business, waiting to ring up my broccoli and standing under the flashing red light in the self-checkout pen, which was indicating to everyone in the store that a vintage boomer moron was trying to check out all by himself. A kind associate was shuffling my way and I knew her to be my rescuer by her magenta hair; red, white and green Christmas pajama bottoms; and a blue vest that was festooned with company merit badges.
“What’s the problem, Hon?” she asked. For the record, I had never seen this woman before in this or any other life. I thought “Hon” to be a mite premature for our relationship.
I said, “There’s no bar code to scan on this green stuff and I’d really like to pay for it before the cameras think I’m trying to steal it, though why on earth anyone would consider adding ‘aggravated broccoli theft’ to his rap sheet escapes me. Plus, I haven’t been trained on this system.”
“Simple,” she said. “But ya hafta know what this produce is to start. This is ‘brockly.’ Ya just look it up under fresh produce on this thing right here, select this, sometimes it takes a minute, push this button, hit ‘enter’ and there ya go. All set. Oh wait, that was organic. You have the regular stuff. Oh s—!”
So we undid and redid the transaction. Glancing wistfully in the direction of the one staffed checkout lane, I watched her fingers stab at the digital panel until she was satisfied.
Before I could say, “Thank you and happy St. Patrick’s Day,” she and her spirit of Christmas were gone, headed to the distressed elderly lady across the pen under a flashing red light. Pushing my cart out of the building to my truck, I thought, really, I don’t need television when there’s a Mall Fardt this close.
Butch Lawson is an observer of life. He lives on Bailey Island.