So, I have just spent the past week trying to negotiate with my provider for better and more economical cable TV, internet and cell phone service. While I do not mean to disparage the efforts of the last representative I spoke with (for in the end she was the only one who took the time to help), there are still things that have not been resolved. And I don’t have it in me to sit on the phone for another two hours to go over every excruciating detail with yet another person. The happy electronic tones of press one, press two are still playing tennis in my head. Call me crazy, but I have trouble with a communication company that can’t seem to communicate.

My concerns about a system that has now become a necessary evil in our modern society are three-fold.

The first problem is the enormous hit to the pocketbook each month. Enough said.

The second problem is the availability of decent programming for people over thirty. And I am well over thirty. I am no prude, but I maintain that the use of gratuitous sex and violence just for the sake of filling air time does not entertainment make. Way back in the day, much was left to the viewer’s imagination, particularly in regard to sexual encounters. Things did not have to be spelled out in graphic detail. Most of us somehow figured it out in the front seat of a ’59 Chevy. My kids are reading this and in today’s abbreviated lingo are screaming OMG, Mom, TMI! Oops sorry, dears. I found you all under cabbage leaves. Yes I did!

People may have suspected by the goofy grin on Sammy’s face that he and Rita had been ‘doing it’, but there was a policy much like the one once boasted by the American military – don’t ask and don’t tell.

As for the violence, it was mostly confined to Saturday morning cartoon viewing. Unlike today’s victims, Wile E. Coyote always resurfaced after every encounter with the Road Runner, with his ears and limbs intact and ready to face another showdown with his resourceful and mischievous aforementioned nemesis. Most of us do not need the sight of body parts being jettisoned across the screen to convince us of someone’s untimely demise.

The third problem I have in dealing with service providers is that not only do the left and right hand have conflicting agendas; they do not even seem to be attached to the same body. While one representative declares vehemently that a certain facet of the service is available, the next will assert that it is not – has been discontinued – was never an option – may be initiated down the road. Do these people not work from the same handbook? Left handbook? Right handbook?

I checked the TV guide one evening to see if there was something moderately entertaining available. The same program, one featuring the above mentioned sex and violence, was showing on five channels. Okay then, maybe a reality show. Hoarding? No thanks. Those programs make me want to catalogue all the nuts and bolts in the garage and plunge myself into a vat of disinfectant. Human interest? What’s that? A program about people who have a fear of public washrooms? While I have great sympathy for those folks who may find themselves in serious distress after carelessly wandering away from their own facilities, I have to ask myself, “In what sphere does a program like that meet even the marginal standard for entertainment?” It merely calls to mind the need for that oh-so-fashionable-old-people’s lingerie.

How about a sitcom? There have been, and still are, a few good ones. And I’m all for clever dialogue that skirts the edge of raunchy or has a double meaning, but listening to bathroom humour and kid’s put-downs of adults while anticipating a canned laugh-track, makes me long for Leave it to Beaver. But just as an aside, who thought ‘Cleaver’ was a good name for this squeaky clean, all American family?

There are of course the cooking shows, though my interest in cooking at this stage of my life is minimal. Besides, on the odd occasions when I have tuned in to watch some of those battling chefs, I am somehow reminded of the Hatfields and McCoys. It didn’t take me long  to lose my appetite for both the candied tripe with cucumber sauce and the pepper spray of sniping remarks. Does anyone remember the Galloping Gourmet and his regular noshing?

And then there are the programs featuring the antics of celebrities – their angst, their latest romantic encounters, their success or failure in the trenches of rehab. For the most part, I have no idea who those folks are or why they are heir to such fame, but I am always sympathetic when at the supermarket I see by the tabloids that most are suffering from irreconcilable differences with their current partners. “Air miles?” I hear the clerk say while I ponder the plight of Curtis and Margo. “No.” I reply, “I only travel in my mind.” It’s always fun to watch the clerk’s reaction.

Every so often the providers give you a tease with a three-month trial of another option. And just when you think there might be something worth watching, it’s gone unless you want to pay an additional $5.99 a month. See problem number one. Guess it’s now back to re-run episodes of Petticoat Junction, which in hindsight were not that great the first time around. Laws a mercy!

So, after all the time spent last week there are still some wrinkles. I still have nine sports channels even though my athletic interest is confined to making it up the basement stairs with a basket of laundry. The promise of channels more in keeping with my interests are still in the wind but a ten dollar credit on one feature resulting in a seven dollar charge on another puts me in the positive by three bucks.  Should I pick up one of those tabloids?

So, in the end I guess I’ll have to learn not to sweat the small stuff, or as Eleanor Roosevelt so sagely put it – “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”






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