How to Get by on Less

We once used antennas. We once used fat-screen TVs. Well, we still do.

My wife and I are retro and it’s a pain.

We have a fat-screen TV.

Yes, that’s fat as in pudgy.

We’ve never much cared about its age or size. We bought the set for the 1998 World Cup, and only for that really. We were more interested in going out than watching movies and sitcoms. But we didn’t want to miss the premiere football tournament – and the high probability of an Argentina-England showdown. So we splurged and the fat screen (they were all fat back then) became a fixture in a corner of our 20-square-meter apartment (yes, it was small) near Plaza San Martin in Buenos Aires. We’d moved in only a few months earlier and at first slept on my surfboard cover. We weren’t broke, just hard up. Argentina back then was more expensive than Europe and the U.S., and, hey, it’s that way again. Politicians may say everything’s peachy. They said that in the 1990s. Don’t believe them. It’s getting harder to get by. Believe me.

And believe me that our fat-screen is here to stay.

I think.

There has been a rise in the rumblings from my wife. She’s trying to get the fatty to work right now.

Age has been taking its toll for years, beginning with temporary blackouts. It lost the capacity to set off in a sprint. It started needing a warm up. At first it was a minute. Now it’s five. You can’t blame old fatty. He’s 13 and that’s pretty ancient for a TV and probably anti-economic. We’re not creating jobs and helping the global economy by updating or upgrading or upping-anything every other year. Fatty’s getting cranky, too. If you really want to watch a favorite program, you’d best turn him on 10 minutes before the hour or you’ll miss the opening scene. It’s happened with “Lost.” And the remote control? That stopped working in 2008. Its replacement went in 2009. We’re now remote-less. You physically have to turn the TV on with the on-and-off button and then press the channel changer button (the up one, not the down one) three or four times for it to crank on. And be careful with the volume buttons. Up means low; down means loud. The three kids used to muddle it up all the time. Now they’ve got it licked. It’s what they know. I used to have a such a TV when I was growing up in 1970s. You had to physically get up and change the channels (the three or four of them). Then came cable with dozens of channels and a box with a score of buttons. It was attached by a cable to the TV. You had to climb over to get past. We tripped a lot. We don’t have such problems today. No remote. No box. You have to get down on your knees and press the buttons to change the channels – to channel surf – until you get to what you want to see. You usually go past your channel in the obscurity of the warm-up phase and have to press back (not flick) to get to what you want to watch.

It took my wife a few minutes tonight. I went and made a coffee. She was still at it when we sat down to watch “The Untouchables.”

“That’s it,” she said. “We’re getting a new TV.”

I thought of saying that maybe we could wait for the next World Cup in 2014. Then we could retire this set at 16. Who knows, maybe fat screens will go all trendy and we can sell ours at a premium on eBay? We could make a mint.

“The Untouchables” came on… we’d missed the beginning.

She frowned.

I didn’t test my retro theory on her.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Paul Strobl May 30, 2011, 5:16 pm

    LOL–I have a fat screen here in Buenos Aires. My brothers-in-law make occasional comments about a plasma or LCD. Don’t think I’ll be doing it anytime soon. Besides, my remote still works 🙂

  • Charles Newbery May 31, 2011, 11:15 am

    You are lucky about the remote. My son thinks we can use his pogo stick to change the channels from a distance.

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