I’m too good for that


St. Paul Pioneer Press, September 13, 2003©

I’m better than you. I didn’t plan it this way, but you’ve made your choices and I’ve made mine. Let’s accept the consequences.

I don’t watch TV. That’s not to say I don’t own a television — I do. I simply choose not to watch it. People who don’t own televisions are either anarchists or, worse, poor. There is a working television in my house, yet I choose — I elect — not to turn it on.

Yes, I suppose this lends my persona a certain scent of sophistication. If this is the price I must pay to free my central nervous system of the pabulum that passes for televised entertainment, so be it.

While you numb yourself this fall by ogling nubile, island-dwelling “hotties” shoveling tapeworms down their maws for the chance to fall in love with chiseled dullards they met only 15 minutes earlier, I’ll decide whether to take in the symphony, a lecture or a poetry reading. You tell me — who’s the sucker?

A life unburdened by television is a life unbridled. Days grow longer, nights quieter. Time is no longer defined by blocks of hours but instead by ambitions.

David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” seems possible. Never heard of it? Peel yourself from the tube and look it up. Square dancing, sky diving, Lamaze — the doors you assumed welded shut are now open. No pushing, friend — the line forms behind me.

Of course, one doesn’t commit to such a dramatic life transformation, no matter how enriching, without certain sacrifices. I’ll admit to a bit of cultural illiteracy as yet another price, however small, of a televisionless lifestyle.

I couldn’t tell you whether John Larroquette won an Emmy or a spelling bee. Is Whoopi an actress or a cushion? Edwin Marriott, Kelly Ripa, Hank Hill — who are these people? And the fuss people here kicked up over Lee Majors leaving Minneapolis for a job in Los Angeles! I had no idea the Bionic Man became a newscaster.

My cultural buffer zone hasn’t insulated me from the incursion of “reality TV.” The very concept warms me with mirth. I mean, imagine, rinsing away irretrievable hours watching television to see people do exactly the things people do right outside your window.

For instance, just the other night, I was walking home from my agnostic Bible study meeting when I spied some little hooligan snatch this elderly woman’s purse. My adrenaline spiked as this snot-nosed street tough raced right toward me, purse in hand. Seconds ticked away like minutes, and only when the cowardly punk whisked past me safely into the dead of night did I exhale in relief.

Talk about suspense! And to think, I would have missed this if I were instead glued to the season premiere of “The O.C.”

If you can’t live up to the discipline of my lifestyle, I ask that you at least respect it.

My requests are quite simple: Please, shut your blinds as you watch television. As I stroll by your home, the glare from your TV, coupled by your family’s banal laughter, mocks my solitude.

And do refrain from discussing the previous evening’s watchings with your colleagues. Will Jack Bauer survive the next 24 hours? Will Martin Sheen really run for president? Are Sally Struthers and Sarah Jessica Parker really co-starring in a spinoff called “Sex in the Family”? Scintillating questions, I’m certain, but let’s strive for topics you and I can discuss with equal aplomb. Is, say, contemporary urban design just the perfect launching pad?

I do believe you and I can co-exist — if not in harmony, at least in peace. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go spend a little quality time of my own at home. The Vikings game is about to start.