They seem sad, dejected and lonely sitting on a curb, waiting and hoping to be picked up, carried off and brought back to life by being plugged in and surrounded by a family who happens to love watching sitcoms together. Television sets appear life-like to me because they talk. This explains that melancholy I feel seeing an abandoned TV. Sure the words televisions say are actually the crap they broadcast but they can take the vision of one world and bring it into another one. That’s not to say you can have a real conversation with a TV.
Recently we wanted to watch, or maybe I wanted to watch, a preseason football game while working on our kitchen renovation. My wife, Ronna, suggested I hook up the old set in the basement. I hauled it up, attached the antennae and watched the snowy image on the screen before a hazy memory became clear. The heavy-ass set needed a digital converter box. I flashed back to that murky time when the digital transition was going to be happening and it was all over the television being explained and hyped. I’d forgotten. The old analog set was not going to pick up a signal. I tried to explain this but ended up committing to that day’s work out of lifting and carrying the old set down to the basement. There’s been at least one reason not to ditch it on the curb, besides the heartbreak, VHS tapes and old DVDs still look great on that set. So on that rare occasion when it’s necessary it will be there serve its duty as a monitor.
But it was the digital conversion that wasn’t that long ago that has created a nation of semi-obsolete televisions. You can still find a converter box. The new ones may cost 40 to 50 dollars, but you could probably get one cheaper, like you can find everything, online. It’s seems sketchy because you’ll be watching a digital image on an analog set. I’m sure these digital converter boxes work fine but why make the investment in old school technology when you can get a new, slim, sleek model for cheap. So out go the old sets often with a reminder note that explains that they work great or that the set is free. I’m especially fond of the giant televisions, wide-screen, state of the art in their day, that seem to take up a city block and would have to be moved by a crane. They make it easy to see how far technology has progressed.
I had an eye out for old TVs years ago when I had a plan to make a music video about a guy watching a music video on a mountain of television sets. I suppose the logistics of carting televisions around and hoarding them in the basement killed my inspiration. When I worked in a group home and one of the televisions broke, I made my one and only curbside TV grab. I got the set back only to realize the electrical cord had been cut. I had to drop it off at Far West Recycling Inc.
Sad, abused, orphaned, to say the least, it’s a difficult question on how to deal with the street TV dilemma. I wonder why there has never been an eye watering public service announcement for all television junkies to weep over. With a sappy soundtrack the narration could surely describe the plight of the homeless sets waiting for new life in an art project or crying out for a digital conversion to broadcast the late show at least one last time.