Last night a visitor knocked on my door. I opened it.
"Good evening!" she said with a fixed solicitor smile. "I'm with Time Warner Cable. Are you Teresa Hernandez?"
"No," I said. "She no longer lives here. I moved here back in May."
Her eyes widened in shock. "Why haven't you gotten the cable hooked up yet?"
The look on her face made me squirm. It felt as though she had stumbled across my heretic tribe subsisting on a primitive television diet of four measly channels. I half expected her to seize me by the shoulders and exclaim, "DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE ONE AND ONLY…CABLE?"
"Well, the regular channels are enough for us."
"But we can give you cable for only $34.99 a month, and that's with FREE installation!"
"Now that sounds like money that can be better invested in time with our kids."
She balked for a moment. Then–
"Well, here's my card," she said, clearly flustered. "In case you change your mind."
I remember a documentary that profiled a family in which the father and teenaged kids had turned into TV zombies. They lived and breathed TV shows in their spare time with a television set in every room of their home. The mother was at her wit's end.
A psychologist prescribed that the family turn off TV and turn on their lives. For a couple of weeks the family endured spending time with each other, playing board games and such. I say "endured" because it was clear they were not enjoying their time together, their conversations stilted as if strangers meeting for the first time. A follow-up report on the family showed they had migrated back to their original pattern, gazing into the abyss of the boob tube.
It appeared that TV had hijacked their souls.
Don't get us wrong. We enjoy several entertaining shows that the three major networds have to offer, and the kids love the educational shows aired on PBS.
But we invest most of our energy in life. Even if we lived in a complete dream home and our children had flown the coop, we still wouldn't fritter our money away on a monthly cable bill. Life is out there waiting to be grabbed by the tail. It's not defined by actors on a sound stage somewhere in Hollywood.
I think of a friend of ours who would rather starve than forego cable. "How can you guys live without cable?!" he asked. "You're missing too much good stuff!"
"You know, Dan," I said. "That's like telling a deaf person that they're missing out on so much when they don't hear music. They don't miss what they don't hear."
This is what I really wanted to tell the nice saleslady who interruped my evening in an effort to lure us into the cable cult.
After tossing her business card in the trash, I padded down the hallway to one of the bedrooms where the kids were waiting for me. It was my turn, and I was losing big time in a rowdy game of Mousetrap.