As we closed last week, I was still on hold for Al at Comcast. During those four days while I waited for him to return, I had plenty of time to reflect on the impact cable had had on my life.
It began back in 1977, when my parents chucked their rabbit ears and converted to the church of Ted Turner. I even still remember the first movie I watched on HBO, “Car Wash,” starring Richard Pryor as Daddy Rich, the money-loving preacher. I watched it like seven times.
There I was with suddenly 50 plus channels to choose from and I kept watching the same movie over and over. I do the same at restaurants. The only thing I ever ordered at my favorite Italian restaurant in those days, Percito’s, was the veal parmigiana and spaghetti. And of course a Miller High Life, compliments of Merle the waitress, who would sit and chain smoke at every break.
Anyway, cable had come along and had given us the only thing we really ever wanted.
We could now get more of everything on TV – more sports, more weather, more news, more movies; more, more, more. But more than anything else it was mainly more… bad.
And each year there was more of the more. From that era until today, cable has grown from 50 channels to the 700 plus package plan, which Al tells me I’m very lucky to have (and if he had ever come back to the phone I would have thanked him).
A few days after giving up on Al’s return, my Comcast bill arrived. It comes in an email, which seems fishy to me because there are no details of the charges, only what I owe and when I owe it by.
It was $197. Al had let me down.
The cost was supposed to be around 80 bucks a month. Al had said so.
I was nervous and tried to change the subject with KM, before the subject even came up. But she is no fool and asked flat out, “Is our cable TV gone?”
Could she smell my fear? I had to answer.
“It depends on your definition of gone.”
The next day with fresh orders to come home at the end of the day, cable-less, I confidently headed out.
My first phone call was a familiar one. I paid close attention because their menu had changed. Then I pressed the #2 key for English.
Charlene in Mississippi answered and I could understand her perfectly. I told her my dilemma but she preferred to talk about the weather and her favorite foods. I asked if she liked veal parmigiana and she said she did. Soon we were laughing and even talking about sports. Then it came to me. I really cared about Charlene and wanted her to do well in her job. I even agreed to take the survey at the end of our call.
“You idiot, you’re screwed again,” my bothersome conscience said.
Charlene sensed my angst and asked me the real reason I was calling. Old Henry David popped into my head, way out there on Walden Pond, where he lived for that year, without cable.
“Well Charlene, it’s like this. I want to live deep and suck out all the good TV of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that is not good TV, to cut my cable and shave close, to drive Comcast into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
Quiet for a moment, Charlene at last replied, “I’ll give you a $20 discount, good for two years.”
“And I keep the SEC Network?”
But I had a bad feeling this wasn’t over.
Jay Edwards is a freelance columnist who can be reached at email@example.com.