Friday, March 11, 2011

TV, or Not TV, That is the Question

"Mommy, why are we so poor?" my 10-year-old son asked recently, out of the blue.

This was a perplexing question, since I had not really considered us so low on the totem pole of life. Both my husband and I are employed to our educational capacity with doctoral-level jobs. We live in a community that by many objective and subjective measures would be considered fairly desirable. We have a house with enough room for everyone, and with a back and a front yard. My son had already traveled on three continents by the time he was 5 years old. I would venture to say we are firmly in the middle of the pack.

So I asked my son--who, by the way, is the antithesis of a materially deprived child--why he thought we were down on our luck.

"Because our TVs suck," he replied. Actually, he used a much milder word, but the word "suck" seems to best reflect the disdain in his voice and facial expression.

OK, he had a point. we have four TVs, none of which were purchased in this millennium. One has a built-in VCR slot, all are boxy and heavy enough to do real damage if dropped on a foot, and all have screens that are somewhere in the 20something-inch range.

I get that people nowadays (and by "nowadays," I mean the past 25 years) prefer larger, sleeker televisions. People opine about their HDTV and surround sound. And I, truthfully, have never met an electronic gadget that I didn't want. And, despite our presumed impoverished state, I will admit to having purchased many, many of these electronic devices. Just not TVs.

But the problem with our hulking, but deceptively small-screened televisions is they still work. What does one do with four 80-pound boxes of transistors? We could donate them to charity, I suppose. But we have previously had items rejected from Goodwill and Salvation Army, and that is a humiliation no one needs to endure more than once in a lifetime. The televisions are too big to fit in our trash cans, which would mean arranging for a special collection by our local waste management service. This is nether pleasant nor cheap. I don't know which family member is going to lug hundreds of pounds of dated machinery to our driveway and risk neighbors seeing how clunky out technology is. These TVs have been with us for probably six or seven residences, and the stress of having to reinstall cables and DVD players and extension cords is just too much to contemplate. And, did I mention the TVs still work?

I made a mental note never to let him go over a friend's house again, lest the rest of our belongings seem even more sucky in comparison.


  1. Followed the link from the blog farm and just had to read your post. Really enjoyed it :)

  2. Welcome, Sumanda! Your photos on your blog are beautiful! Thank you for reading! Best, Karen

  3. Ok so we have the higher tech TVs in our house. But they got there for a reason. The smaller HDTV, because my husband survived 30 years in the coal mines. The larger one in the living room? Because I wanted him to have something for company when I was travel nursing in California and Alaska. (We also have 2 like yours so I think we strike a balance.)
    The problem? The TV in the living room is still his favorite companion. And since I don't cook, I have definitely lost ground.
    Love the post! My sister read it over my shoulder and loved it too!

  4. Hi, Cath! I'm impressed! It is not that I have an ideological bias against large TVs, it's just that I still can't figure out what to do with the old ones... and we are out of rooms to put TVs in... except closets and bathrooms. We used to stay in a hotel in NY with a phone and TV in the bathrooms and, truthfully, it sort of creeped me out. We need a bigger house! Take care! Karen

  5. It's definitely a bizarre experience to discover even the thrift stores don't want your stuff!

  6. Ixy--I know! I am very attached to my things and am deeply offended when people won't even take my stuff for free! I have learned now to just stick everything in a big trashbag and drop it at an unstaffed drop-off location... my husband has been known to add mismatched socks to the donation bag :). Thanks for your post! Best, Karen

  7. I know! I received a new TV as a Christmas present (I am very spoilt) and have no idea what to do with the old one. I tried to give it away at work but no one wanted it.
    Surely you didn't pass up the opportunity to tell your son that "bigger is not always better"?

  8. When we upgraded at my house we ended up giving the old clunker to a friend. I think it is still sitting on the floor of her apartment. Unused.

    She just didn't want us to throw it away, and now she is stuck with it.

  9. Hi, Josie--In this case, bigger certainly is not better because the old clunker probably weighs twice what a sleek new TV would! Next Superbowl, I'm flying to Australia to watch on your TV! :) Take care! Karen :)

  10. Hi, Doug--Just for future information, I am like your friend. I will take anything that is free and stick it in a corner somewhere. So if there is any outdated computer or half-broken appliance around, there is a good chance someone can guilt me into taking it... Thanks for posting! Best, Karen :)

  11. Those old clunkers seem to last forever, though! The new ones need expensive tubes every few years. But if you do want to get rid of them, you could give them away on Freecycle, that's what we did with our old one when we were given a flat-screen.

  12. Hi, Brighter--I troll Freecycle looking for goodies... Hopefully I can snag a free 52-inch flatscreen if we decide to unload ours there :). Thanks for reading! Take care--Karen