© 2022 by Robert Moskowitz
The action was coming fast and furious. The New York Knicks were down by ten points late in the fourth quarter, but staging a satisfying comeback. Every time the Boston Celtics brought the ball downcourt, it seemed as though the Knicks were able to knock it away, block the shot, force a turnover, or get the rebound. Four, five, six times in a row, the Celtics failed to score, and now here came the Knicks starting a classic fast break.
But just as the ball crossed mid-court, the screen went dark.
“No!,” I shouted, to no one in particular. “What the hell?”
The lights were still on, so it wasn’t a power failure. I ran to the kitchen and checked the circuit breaker for the living room. All good.
I ran back and flipped the TV’s power switch. By now it was too late, anyway. The TV was one of those new-fangled ones with just electronic buttons for power, sound, channels, and so forth. There was no “off” or “on” position. You just touch the power button and the TV makes a solenoid sound and the screen makes sounds like static electricity and after a few seconds the picture comes on. But not now. None of the buttons did anything.
The TV wasn’t going to show me the end of the game.
Next day, it still wasn’t working, although the green “ready” light was illuminated, as always. I bundled the heavy TV into my car and drove to a nearby repair shop. I parked and carried the TV into the store and plopped it heavily onto the worn, crowded counter. The repair guy ambled over.
“What’s the problem?,” he asked me.
“Damn thing doesn’t work. It quit in the middle of the Knicks game last night. One minute it’s working perfectly, then the picture and sound just turned off.”
“Let’s check it out.”
He found the TV’s power cord, traced it to the loose end, and jammed the small plug into an outlet fastened to the rear of the counter. The “ready” light came on, just like it always did. He touched the power button and I heard the familiar solenoid sound. The screen made its usual static electricity noise and after a few seconds, the picture and sound came on.
The repair guy scratched his chin.
“It’s working now.”
“Isn’t that always the way? You take the thing in for repair and it works perfectly.”
The repair guy gave a mild laugh.
“I can’t fix it if it ain’t broke,” he told me. “I wouldn’t know where to start. Next time it happens, bring it back and I’ll take a look.”
I bundled the TV back into the car, drove home, and brought it back inside. It worked perfectly. But only for a few days.
This time I was watching a classic movie and right when the guy and gal start moving in for their first kiss, the screen went dark. Janice sat up from where she was reclining next to me on the sofa.
“What just happened?”
“I don’t know,” I told her. “It’s the same thing as a few days ago.” I checked the circuit breaker again, slapped the TV on the side of the cabinet, and pressed the “on” button a few times. Nothing.
It worked out, however, because Janice was in kind of a romantic mood from watching as much of the movie as we did. We spent the next hour cuddling and kissing and all the rest. All things considered, I couldn’t feel too mad at the TV.
But just like before, the next day I took the TV to the repair shop and – just like before – sitting on his counter it worked like a charm.
“So obviously it’s broken,” I told the guy. “It’s working now, but in a few days it’ll conk out again. Can’t you check things over and figure out what’s causing it?”
“I wouldn’t know where to start,” he told me. “I could check voltages and amperages and circuits until the cows come home. Until something stops working, it’ll all look normal.”
I was getting real tired of carrying that goddamn TV back and forth to the repair shop. I thought about drop-kicking it into the trash. I thought about selling it, but I’d just be off-loading my problem onto some other poor bastard. I brought it home and starting praying it wouldn’t break again.
But of course it did.
Back into the car, back to the repair shop. But this time, the shop was closed for the weekend. Man, my luck was just about running out. I was trying to think of who I could yell at, or punch, or throw the TV at. But my better nature prevailed, of course.
I thought about leaving the TV in the car, as I would have to take it to the repair shop on Monday, when it re-opened. But we didn’t live in a great neighborhood, and I figured that a TV sitting in a car would be an open invitation to thieves. So I carried it back into my living room.
I set it back on the table, as usual, and without thinking I plugged it in. The “ready” light came on. Janice walked into the room and gave me a delighted smile.
“It’s fixed already?,” she asked. “That was quick.”
She touched the “on” button and the damn thing made its usual noises. Within a few seconds, the picture and sound came on.
“That’s crazy,” I said.
“What are you talking about?”
“The shop was closed. Nobody touched it. It was broken, and now it’s working.”
“Think of all the money you saved,” she said happily.
The thing worked for about a week and then crapped out again. I smacked it, moved it around a little, lifted it an inch and dropped it back onto the table. I figured there must be a loose connection somewhere inside, and transporting it to the repair shop had been enough to jiggle things back into place. But I couldn’t get the TV to turn on.
The next day I drove it to the repair shop. How stupid was I? The shop was closed for the weekend, just like it had been the last time. Feeling foolish, I took the thing home and plugged it back in. Then I had a bright idea. Just as an experiment, I touched the “on” button. Damn if the TV didn’t do its thing. It worked perfectly.
It only took three or four days for it to conk out again. But this time, I decided to play along. I loaded it into the car and drove it back to the repair shop. But I didn’t take it in. I simply parked in front the shop, shut off the engine, waited a minute, and drove home. Then I brought it back inside. Damn if it wasn’t fixed!
The stupid TV just wanted a ride in the car.
I wasn’t sure how to process what was going on here. I mean, I was the master of this house, right? I owned that TV, which was an inanimate object. It had to work when I wanted it to work, didn’t it? If it didn’t work properly, I could get it fixed. Or I could get rid of it and get another one. There was no way this TV could be in charge of the situation and demand a ride in the car when it wanted one, right?
On the other hand, I now had this TV’s number. When it got cranky and stopped working, a simple ride in the car would put it back into a good mood and it would start working again. I could live with that. And I didn’t have to spend any money on repairs or a new TV.
So we lived like that for a while. The TV asked for a ride about once a week, and I got pretty used to carrying it out and back. I found out all it needed was once around the block and it would be happy again.
But this wasn’t really a viable situation. I mean, if the TV stopped working and I wasn’t around, there was no way Janice could take it for a ride. It was too bulky and heavy for her to carry. Also, the TV started liking the rides more and more, asking for them not just every three or four days, but every two or three days, then every day or two. And once around the block was no longer enough. It wanted more time in the car.
As things went on, I found a longer ride that seemed to make the TV happy. It involved driving past an appliance store with lots of new TVs in the window. Eventually, I discovered that the length of the ride didn’t matter. If I drove past that appliance store, my TV would work when I got it home. If I didn’t go past that store, no amount of driving around would convince the TV to turn on.
I'm not a patient man, and after about six months of this carrying and driving the TV, I went to that appliance store on my own. Fortunately, our finances had picked up a little, so I bought the brand new model they were featuring in their show window. It was a nice big TV with lots of fancy features, including a remote control.
I had it delivered. Janice wanted the new TV in the bedroom, but it was too big and the room was too small, so we had the delivery guys place it on its new stand in the living room, basically just a few feet away from our broken TV.
“Do you want us to take this old one away?,” one of the delivery guys asked me. I looked at Janice. She looked at me. She shrugged.
“No thanks,” I replied. The delivery guys finished setting up the new TV and left.
Janice and I sat down and turned it on. The picture was big and bright. The sound was deep and full. We were happy.
The next day I was watching the Knicks on the new TV, and I remembered that the Giants were also playing, but on a different channel. For a moment, I felt frustrated. But then I smiled. I had two TVs. I could watch both games simultaneously.
Glorious. I was in hog heaven.
The next couple of weeks passed in a haze of sports, romance flicks, and game shows. The new TV was a major upgrade, and we totally failed to notice that the old TV hadn’t conked out like it usually did. Two weeks. Three weeks. A month. Total reliability.
I was the master of this house! Everything worked out just as I wanted. Even better, because now the old TV was working perfectly and I also had a second TV that worked even better.
One day I was sitting on the sofa watching two different basketball games at the same time when Janice called to me from the kitchen.
“Hon, could you come here a minute, please?”
I got up and left the room. She gave me a nice kiss and then pointed to the kitchen garbage can. It was full. More than full, actually.
“Could you take that out for me, please.” She caressed my belly and gave me a big, warm smile.
I smiled back and took the garbage can out to the alley. I dumped it carefully in the bin and returned to the kitchen, where Janice stood ready with a new plastic bag. I arranged the bag in the can, placed the can where it belonged, gave my sweetie another kiss and a quick caress, and headed back to the sofa.
Where I stopped, dumbfounded and confused. The old TV was now showing the same game as the new TV.
“Janice? Why did you change the channel on the old TV?”
She came in from the kitchen with a confused look on her face.
“What are you talking about?,” she asked me. “I was in the kitchen the whole time.”
We looked at each other, and watched as the old TV blinked off, blinked back on to the game I had previously been watching, blinked off again, and blinked on again to the same channel as the new TV.
Janice and I looked at each other, grabbed hands and left that room as fast as we could, with the synchronized sounds of both TVs blaring in our ears as we ran.
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