October 7, 2010
What we do without television
A couple of posts ago I mentioned that my apartment is without a television. We actually wind up mentioning this fact fairly often, whenever we’re once again looking for a subleaser to live in our third bedroom. After one round of Craigslist roommate hunting a few years ago, we realized that most people still took the presence of a TV for granted, while we had long taken its absence for granted, and then blessedly realized that explicitly mentioning our lack of a TV, and lack of any desire to acquire one, in a roommate ad, vastly decreased the number of responses from people who were unlikely to be suitable roommates anyway.
We do still watch some TV; Emily #2 has a Netflix subscription, and most of what little I want is online for free. We just don’t have a TV. I think it certainly cuts down on the total amount of TV watching that we do, as well nearly eliminating passive, stupid TV watching. Everything we watch has to be a conscious decision; we can’t just leave the TV on in the background and thus wind up sitting in front of it all night. Even watching stupid TV has to be a conscious decision (Hoarders. I’m guilty).
People know that stuff is all online these days. People increasingly do not watch shows one episode at a time in their original television runs, but in marathons from Netflix. Still, the typical response, when it comes up that we don’t have a TV, is almost without variation:
But what do you do?!
It never fails to horrify me, that incredulous question. Or amaze me how short the collective memory of humanity is.
What do we do without television? Things that people did before there was television, I guess. Here are some of them:
1. We talk to each other. Most of the nights that I’ve inadvertently stayed up way past a reasonable bedtime were because Emily #2 and I got into a conversation and couldn’t get out.
2. We drink, and talk to each other.
3. We cook. Usually when people say they don’t have time to cook, I wonder how much TV they watch.
4. We read. The internet, the newspaper, books. (“When I was your age, television was called books!” ~ The Princess Bride)
5. We listen to the radio. Yes, I know This American Life is available as a podcast. There’s still something ephemerally great about sitting around the kitchen on Saturday afternoon and just listening to it. During both the 2004 and 2008 election seasons, we listened to most of the presidential candidate debates rather than watching them, and it was really fascinating what a difference in perception we’d have from people who watched them on the quality of argumentation, the importance of certain answers over others, even who won.
6. We write. Emily #2 is a playwright. And I’m a letter-writer, and a journal-writer, and now I guess, a blogger.
7. We work. Both of us are in theater/entertainment; we work long hours and we work at night. And the saying “truth is stranger than fiction” is true; it’s stranger and it’s way more entertaining. Very little of what gets made up to put on television can beat the reality of what we go through every night in live theater for suspense or entertainment value.
We don’t miss it–the ceaseless noise or mindless chatter. We like our neighborhood because it’s quiet. We had a roommate once who said she’d be okay without it, and then really, really wasn’t and kept trying to pressure us into getting one. Literally, there isn’t even room in a single room of our apartment to put one, and we told her that we’re not paying the rent to live in New York City in order to sit in front of the TV. I seriously don’t think I envision ever owning a TV again.