Life without the box

2011-07-20 00:00

“WHAT do you do with all your free time?” It’s a question I often get asked when I mention that I don’t have a television in my apartment. For some reason, people consider the concept of life without the box unfathomable.

Initially I did too, but after a year without a television in my home, I’m really glad that I don’t have one.

I used to be a die-hard TV junkie. My morning routine often consisted of checking what was on that day and, if there was nothing great, flipping through channels until I settled on something mildly interesting, or ended up watching three things at once. This could go on for hours if I had no immediate priorities.

When I was at university, I plonked myself on the couch after every exam, and just watched infomercials because there was nothing else worth watching. I even went through a phase where I had a ‘top five’ list of infomercials that were worth rewatching if I was desperate (the Big Green Cleaning Machine was somewhere on that list).

I admit, I was addicted.

Sometimes the best part of my month was when the monthly DStv guide arrived. I would sit and page through all the movies and documentaries, and note the ones that I wanted to see.

My days would revolve around my favourite sitcoms, and I would almost count down the hours until they started, constantly checking my watch to make sure I didn’t miss them. I would cut important phone calls with friends, skip supper and avoid going out just to see a programme.

If I missed it, I would start a new countdown to the scheduled rerun, and would be sitting in front of the magical box of moving images at least 15 minutes before it began.

Knowing all of that, I sometimes ask myself: “What the hell do you do now with all your free time?”

At first, I spent most of it hiring DVDs and watching them on my laptop. Now, I just ... live. I’ve started reading and drawing again, I go out, I catch up on things that I need to do, and I have time for people, chores and hobbies.

TV fills the space without anyone realising that that is what it is doing. A friend of mine told me that she can’t be in her home without her TV on, even if no one’s watching anything, because just hearing it calms her.

It’s an easy solution to any problem. Your children are bored or troublesome: switch on the TV. You don’t want to do something or there’s a conflict that you want to avoid: watch TV. It’s an easily accessible escape from reality that requires minimum effort.

Most of it, however, is junk and bad TV is addictive, more addictive than good TV. This is easy to believe, considering the most-viewed shows on TV fall under the category of reality TV or soapies.

Often, during my junkie phase, I would choose to watch something that I knew was mindless, like the Pop Idols auditions, rather than something educational, like a documentary on television junkies who prefer to watch bad TV.

And recently, at my brother’s house, I got sucked into the mindlessness of bad TV, and ended up watching two slots of Takeshi’s Castle in a row. For those of you who have never heard of it, it’s probably where shows like Wipeout were born, and consists of an uncountable multitude of contestants doing really (really) silly things like jumping onto a body-sized skateboard-like thing with the right amount of momentum so that they stop at a specific point. It was so, so bad, and it just kept getting worse, but I couldn’t look away. I wanted to see just how bad it could get.

This is why I don’t have a TV.

It does have one major disadvantage, however. I’m constantly out of the loop when it comes to conversing with people. Having a TV doesn’t only take up free quality time, but it’s also all anyone ever talks about.

Maybe I should just get my own island while I’m at it.

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