Wednesday

August 23rd, 2017

The Village Idiot

Nature abhors a vacuum cleaner

Jim Mullen

By Jim Mullen

Published July 6, 2016

I must have accidentally bumped something while vacuuming up a giant warren of dust bunnies behind my media center, because now my television is on the fritz.

And by "media center," I mean my TV. The rest of the items there -- the wildly expensive and way out-of-date tuner, the obsolete VHS player, the state-of-the-art (at the time) multi-disc CD player that I haven't used since, oh, 1995 -- are just decorations now. But they're all still plugged in, with a "spaghetti bowl" of wires and cords attached, many connecting them to giant speakers I never use.

These gadgets are zombies: no longer alive, but still sucking up power and interested in eating my brain.

I spent an hour down on my knees with a flashlight trying to figure out why the only thing we really use, the TV, no longer works. If you wonder why I'm not calling the TV manufacturer's help line, you missed last week's column. It takes longer to get them on the phone than it does to buy a new TV online and have it shipped from Korea to the house. Actually, if I'm not mistaken, that's the manufacturer's business model.

But it's not just the TV set itself I'm having a problem with; it's my TV provider. They've got me set up with three different boxes next to the TV, with all kinds of wires coming in and out of them. Figuring out which box does what is like trying to figure out a wartime Enigma code machine.

I have been thinking of getting rid of my TV package anyway. I'm paying a $130 a month for a package they advertise as costing $75 a month. It only gets up to $130 after they add on the monthly "Advanced Receiver Service" fee, the monthly "Protection Plan" charge, the monthly "Whatever-we-feel-like" fee, the "What-do-you-mean-you-watch-TV-in-the-kitchen-too" fee and the "You're-paying-for-90-channels-you-don't-watch" fee.

They're not nickel-and-diming me to death. They're five-and-10-dollaring me to death. If a cable TV company ever buys the Dollar Store, the next day, every item in the store will suddenly cost $10. But they won't change the name.

Our TV is practically brand-new. It's just a year old. Or to put it another way, it's an antique -- an embarrassment that should be covered with a black shroud when company comes. If our guests ever want to watch television, we'll just say we don't have one, that we've given it up, like alcohol and smoking.

But it's not broken; I know there's just a loose wire somewhere. Tightening and untightening every connection seems to do nothing. Is a cable plugged into the wrong socket? What does "antenna in" mean? Who has an antenna anymore? Does the output of this component go into the input of this other one, or is it the other way around?

Let's try this. Whoops! Now the TV in the kitchen has stopped working, too. There is sweat rolling off my forehead. If I don't get this fixed before tonight's game starts, Sue will cut off my head, then she will tell my head that now she plans to really hurt me. I feel like James Bond trying to figure out what wire to cut before the ticking bomb goes off.

There's only one thing to do.



I put everything back the way I think it used to be and pull out the vacuum cleaner once again. I vacuum behind the TV stand without a care, banging into everything back there for a good five minutes, and "accidentally" kicking it a few times for good measure.

"What are you doing in here?" Sue says.

"Cleaning," I answer.

"Well, go do it somewhere else. 'The Young and the Stupid' is on and I'd like to watch it in peace."

This is it. My life is over. I get ready to blame the lying, cheating, unreliable, soul-killing, money-grubbing cable company when I suddenly hear the theme music from her favorite soap opera.

I am never getting rid of this vacuum.

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Jim Mullen is the author of "It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life" and "Baby's First Tattoo."

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