I'm going to date myself here, probably more than I'd care to admit but it's a worthy cause. I remember a time when we had both BETA and VHS tapes piled next to the TV set, (no one calls it a TV set anymore, do they... *sigh*) liberally used in the video cassette players owned by way of 'trickle-down-technology economics'. not my actual TV set, but close enough for the visual aid
I remember coming home after kindergarten classes, anxious for the highlight of my afternoon; my favorite television program (yes, not show, but program) 3-2-1 Contact. I'd dash into the living room and plop down on the mustard yellow shag carpet and wait for my mom to perform the secret magical ritual that brought the television to life. behold, a cable converter box so even poor folks with hand-me-down television sets that were *gasp* not cable ready could enjoy the modern splendor of not having to stand on one foot holding rabbit ears to get in the evening news! What you can't tell from the picture is that it's a black box - we got hbo free. They talk about stealing movies today as if it were new. pshaw. My folks were some old skool hax0rs
We had strict television viewing rules in our house, only they weren't rules that one could break per se, they were more laws of nature. It was explained to me that there was a finite amount of television available, so it was in fact possible to use up all of the television. Therefore, we all had to very carefully decide what we would watch so everyone would get their fair share of television time. If, for example, you were to wander out of the living room and leave the television on, you could ruin family television time later that evening, when the whole family was planning on piling on the couch with popcorn to watch the debut of Short Circuit on cable. Behold my parents clever avoidance of fighting to get their children to go outside and play, to read a book, or listen to dad tell stories about church trolls. But what really made this absolute genius is this; we kids had no idea of the existence of remote controls. The television was turned on by pushing the right buttons and turning the appropriate knobs and that was as far as our universe went. The sun revolved around us, the earth was flat and you had to get up to change the channel.
The remote control was cleverly hidden in the safest child free zone in the house; the top of the refrigerator. So after 3-2-1 Contact was over, I was supposed
to turn the television off and go and read or go ride my bike. But there sooo many good programs after... Well, the voices of my better angels were shouted down by my impish demons n my head and I'd try to sneak some extra tv time in. My mother would slip into the room as silent as a ninja and power off the tv with the remote reclaimed from it's high perch. I would then of course, do what any young kid would do; panic! Oh no, oh no, I used up all the tv time. I had to hide. I had to get rid of the evidence. I had to blame it on my younger brother. Then, like clockwork, I would hear my mother call from over the sink of dishes she was washing, inquiring after my goings on in the all too quiet living room. I can still hear her walking into the living room, calling me by first and middle name, and admonishing me for using up all the tv time and how could I be so selfish...
Outside of the lingering guilt complex (which would have happened anyway as my whole family is Roman Catholic), I have to say, it was quite brilliant. I was at least 9 or 10 before I knew of remote controls and by this point I had read our entire encyclopedia set, every Nancy Drew book ever written, most of Stephen King's published works, and the time life series mysteries of the unknown.
I should apologize for the length of this post. Pithiness, like punctuality, has never been an overly developed character trait for me.