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April 27, 2001

My cable TV service was cut off the other day and life quickly became very weird. Apparently only our neighborhood was affected because some friends from other parts of town told me they had no interruption. I donít know what happened, but apparently something cut the line and we had no reception at all for several hours. We were left with painful withdrawal symptoms like those you see in movies about smokers, alcoholics and other addicts who try to break their habit cold turkey. Donít kid yourself. Itís hard to do, friends.

The break occurred shortly before 3:30 p.m., just as the movie I was watching neared its denouement. Itís an old one and Iíve seen it in snatches over a period of several years, but that particular time I was looking forward to seeing it all the way through, from start to finish. A couple of favorite game shows also were lost in the dark period. I tried to catch up on some reading while the screen was blank, but I kept checking periodically to see if service had been restored. Futile effort. Supper time, usually signaled by one of the evening news shows, arrived, without notice, to our surprise. Conversation at the table was forced and irrelevant, except when we debated what to do when the time for our favorite evening shows arrived without benefit of television.

Time came for our weekly trip to the church for choir practice (without the usual warning signal of Bonusland on the Wheel of Fortune), and we left the house, discussing how many of our favorite night-time shows we apparently were destined to miss. Home again, early because our practice was abbreviated. I was still expecting, and ready, for a Wednesday night without ďLaw and OrderĒ and ďWest Wing.Ē But then, what to my wondering eyes did appear but a TV screen all lit up with the usual midweek nighttime offerings, and life seemed normal again.

Our house is one of those where the television set is usually turned on even when no one is watching. Itís like a comforting friend, standing by to provide companionship when called upon but otherwise to just be there. Donít think that we watch it every hour of the day and night just because I give that impression. I find that time goes by slower when thereís no TV to divide it into 30-minute segments, and that is good. I feel guilty about the amount of time I have wasted on the worthless trash usually provided by the electronic media, but I do value the occasional gems, some of them actually educational and worthwhile for a variety of reasons.

But I am dismayed by the empty feeling that was created by just the temporary loss of that small screen, because I realize that it threatens to dominate our life. Maybe we should create a period of no television each day and just abstain from it altogether for more than a few hours.

Life already is much too short to have it divided into 30-minute segments filled with junk food from the networks and syndicates. But just donít take away the Mary Tyler Moore show and other classics. I deserve them.