I have never watched so much TV in my life. I think this is truly safe to say. I’ve been trapped alone in a hotel room in North Dakota for two weeks now. Yes, I have spent some time seeing patients in clinic, but I have been booked pretty lightly. All my nights are free. And I find it safe to say, in this town of 18,000, in the dead of winter, there is nothing else to do. Well, there is a Walmart. And some bars. But I don’t drink anymore, although I am strongly considering it.
A little background on the TV thing. You see, I grew up without one. Yes, I was a freak. I was a freak for a lot of reasons, mainly because I was brilliant, and because my parents were Wally and June Cleaver in a world where everyone else’s parents partied and screwed around and, well, watched TV. I’m not saying I had a bad childhood. In fact, the opposite is true. I had a wonderful childhood. I have no early traumas to draw on when I do my writing. Trauma for me was coming in second in the spelling bee (which never happened, by the way).
But we had no TV. My parents did not buy a television until I was grown and out of the house. They thought TV was a waste of time, and money. And although I hated them for it, in hindsight, they were definitely right. I spent some of my childhood snatching moments of TV at my friends’ houses. When I spent the night at my best friend’s house, we spent all Saturday morning watching cartoons. I went to friends’ houses after school and we glued ourselves to The Brady Bunch and Gilligan’s Island. I got every precious moment of TV I could get.
On occasion, my parents would rent a TV for big events. When the Olympics came on, for example, I would keep that TV on every minute I possibly could. The folks would pull me away after an hour or so, but I got to watch M*A*S*H, and I got to watch Nadia Comanici win her gold. But I felt left out all through junior high, and high school, because the kids were talking about shows, and I had never seen any of them. In junior high, I went to a class party that was held just to find out Who Shot JR. I watched that show, and I had no idea what was going on.
Funny thing, though. After I left home, TV lost all importance in my life. We never had one at the apartment when I was in college. I was so busy out meeting people, and partying, and studying, that it just didn’t seem relevant. Once I was in medical school, I certainly didn’t have a TV. I didn’t have the time, and I couldn’t afford it anyway. Same thing for residency.
There was one brief period in my life when I did watch TV. When I took my first job out of residency, I rented an apartment which included cable in the price of rent. I felt it would be foolish to waste the cable, so I bought a TV. Since it was my first job as a real doctor, I bought a BIG TV. I still didn’t watch it much. When I watched, the TV stayed on Comedy Central. It cheered me up when I was feeling down, or when I was staying up late making jewelry. I loved old episodes of Saturday Night Live, and I loved the Daily Show. But my absolute favorite was What’s My Line Anyway. The original one and the one with Drew Carey. I watched that show for hours and hours. It made me laugh hysterically. And by this time in my life, that took a lot.
Once I got married, we never got cable again. We love to watch movies, and we test shows that we hear are good on Netflix. We’ve enjoyed Burn Notice, Bones, Buffy, Angel, Heroes, In Plain Sight, White Collar, Castle, and most recently and delightfully, Big Bang Theory. We watch kid’s movies with our daughter. I don’t think she even realizes that we don’t even watch “real” TV. We are commercial free.
But this brings us back to where I am now: a hotel in North Dakota with a winter storm on the way. I have spent the weekend holed up in here, except for a brief period yesterday when the weather was so beautiful I had to go out. There was nowhere to go, really. I went to Walmart, and the little mall. Not much going on there. But I could go out without my coat.
Otherwise, I’ve been a shut-in. Watching regular TV. And thank goodness for movies. And thank goodness for Law & Order. You can find that on anywhere, any time. But these ads. Oh my God! They’re giving me nightmares. The asinine Sonic guys. The Geico pig. McDonalds Fishy McBites with the rapping wall fish. That Geico thing where the African basketball player runs around slapping everything out of the air? Trojan vibrators being sold on prime time TV? Seriously? Really? When the hell did that happen?
And the shows. Holy cow. The world has gone to hell in a handbasket, for sure. Duck Dynasty? The Virgin Bachelor? Honey Boo-Boo? Almost Naked Animals? Amish Mafia? Swamp Pawn? Teen Mom 2? These names sound like they should be satires of real shows. No wonder my patients are so darn dim. It’s not their fault. Their brains are being poisoned. It’s not even insidious at this point. It’s overt. War has been declared on the minds of the world, and we are just letting it happen. And I think I know why. I can’t turn this thing off, because I’m so damn bored. I think we’re all giving up. Because we’re just damn bored.