The New TV

[Ed. Note: This was written way back in 1997. It's kind of funny looking back at the days before 55-inch flat panel, 3-D, HD TV's.
Ah, the simpler times!]

Okay, I love

I admit it.

I know, it's terrible and shallow... but I can't help it. Things are cool! So of course life reached its zenith the day we got our new Zenith... well, it was a Toshiba, actually; a 30 inch, vertically flat picture tube, stereo sound TV.

That ought to have pushed life to its zenith.... right?

We have been watching the same old console TV since before Dani and I were married, over 11 years ago. It was one of those big furniture deals, with genuine plastic, wood-like molding. It's been a nice TV. I still can remember quiet evenings snuggled in front of it with Dani, watching "St. Elsewhere" or "Hill Street Blues." But one of the color guns is beginning to fade, and off and on it casts everything in sort of an antique sepia tone. (At least when the kids complained some old movie wasn't in color, we could say, "Whadya mean, not in color? What is that?")

But then Christmas came and the boys got their new Nintendo 64.

All of a sudden no one could watch videos anymore because the boys were playing Super Mario all the time (ALL we can watch are videos these days, since we dropped our cable subscription last year...$30 a month was getting a bit much for the privilege of watching the Home Shopping Channel).

So one day a week or so after Christmas I had an idea.

"Hey, you guys," I said to the boys, " why don't we take your Christmas money, pool it together, and buy a new TV for your bedroom? (rather than saving it for something practical and boring like college. This is the kind of thinking that has gotten me to where I am today). That way, you guys can play your games, and the rest of the kids (me) can watch TV downstairs. Mom and I will even pitch in our Christmas money to help pay for it." I figured we could pick something up for under $200.

The boys agreed (it was a hard sell!), and so after dinner I ventured out into the black of a winter's night, climbed into our frozen car, and set out for Shopko to scout out TVs.

You walk into the TV department of any store and what are your eyes drawn to? Certainly not the dinky, little 13 inch portables; not my eyes anyway. My eyes are drawn to the BIG TVs; the 35 inch models with the wide screens and the deep color....

So, along the back wall of the electronics department at Shopko was their display of TVs. Very practically minded I started pricing the small screen models.

Really, I did.

Well, I skipped over the 13 inch models - that would hardly be any fun at all. But the larger ones, the 19 inch ones, were closer to $300. Heck, for another hundred bucks we could get a brand new, flat screened, square cornered 27 inch set. I mean, if we are going to spend that kind of money, wouldn't it make sense to spend a little bit more and get some real bang for our buck?

Now all of a sudden I am looking at the big TVs. Forget the boys, forget a new TV for them. It's like the 32 inch set at the end of the display is drawing me over, calling my name, "Paul, Paul, buy me... I'm what you really want!"

But wouldn't it make more sense to invest a little bit more money and get something we ALL could enjoy? Sure it would! (Notice how I used the word "invest" there...) The old TV is going to have to be replaced one of these days anyway. The boys could have it in their room, and we could get a brand new wide screen TV for the living room.

So I came back home with my shopping report, and my wonderful new idea; a new 27 inch TV for the family.

The next day; a cold, foggy, sloppy Saturday afternoon (the kind anybody with any sense would have stayed at home - I was on a mission now!), we packed the seven of us into Dad's little Plymouth Acclaim (seeing as how the van is out of commission; hemorrhaging transmission fluid, power steering fluid, and just about every other kind of fluid, and sitting like a frozen block in the driveway) - and we went hunting for a new TV.

Of course there is no end to it. Next to the 27 inch models, for a hundred dollars or so more, are the 30 inch ones. Next to them are the 32 inch sets, next to them are the 50 inch ones, and next to them are the ever larger projection TVs. It's always, "For just a few dollars more, you can get something even bigger and better..."

What had started out to be a modest little TV for the boys room was now dangerously close to becoming some thousand dollar projection monstrosity!

I had started out with a reasonable idea, and little step by little step I was inching it up until it was becoming completely unreasonable. Only by now it SEEMED completely reasonable.

Now, if the night before I had put on my coat and said, "Dani, let's go spend a whole pile of money on a new TV!" She would have looked at me as if I were Jed Clampet suggesting, "Hey! Let's go hunt us up some raccoon!"

Well, fortunately some sanity reigned in the end, and we settled on our (fairly) modest 30 inch Toshiba.

Unfortunately by then it was late Saturday afternoon. The last delivery truck had just gone out (of course!), and there was no way we could fit this giant thing into our trunk. We would have to wait until Monday to get our new toy.

It was a long weekend.

(I am worse than the kids when it comes to stuff like that!).

Finally Monday came (the kids were home from school - AGAIN. Don't they ever go to school?), and around 11:00 the phone rang, "This is Knie's. We've got your TV. Are you going to be home in the next 20 minutes?"

I danced a jig and announced to the kids, "Today, today, it's coming today!" (spoofing the scene from "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie's dad was rejoicing over the announced arrival of his "Major Award"). I think I was more excited than the kids.

A half hour later, there it sat; this monstrous black bubble of glass.

Staring at us.

It was wonderful.

For about 20 minutes.

I have since made a couple of discoveries.

One night a few days later, Dani had gone to bed and the kids had fallen asleep scattered around the living room, in sleeping bags on the couch and floor, watching "Twister" or something. It was late and I was in the mood to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." So I put in the tape. But the only place for me to watch was down on the floor right in front of the set. Well, from there it was like being at a movie theater! And it occurred to me that if you want a bigger TV, all you have to do is move closer to it! Just move your couch in a foot and save yourself two or three hundred bucks!

The second thing I learned was, this wonderful marvel of technology is absolutely no good at all without something good to watch on it. It's cool and all. The size is impressive, the picture is sharp, the colors are bright... but after about five minutes you get over that. And then you find yourself sitting there, remote in hand, flipping through the channels over and over, vainly searching for something worth watching.

And finally, I have learned yet again that "things" can't make you happy.

That first week we had our new TV was miserable. The kids were bad, I was cranky and out of sorts. Nothing seemed to go right -

And the TV didn't help at all!


by Paul Dallgas-Frey
The winter of 1997

click here to go back to Half Baked Stories

back to Navigation Central

Navigation Central

1997 Paul Dallgas-Frey