My cousin, an executive level banker, and her husband bought a house by a lake about a year ago. She told me that they were instituting a no screens policy. No TV’s, no computers, no Blackberries or Palms allowed. While I admired her vision and even understood why she’d make such a policy, I secretly thought she was going a bit overboard. I could give up TV or computer but not both at the same time. Screens are important to me, I realized. However, I now find that I am facing screen overload and time without screens is sounding better and better.
Through digital cable we can watch hundreds of channels and listen to music of all kinds. Sports, movies, news, reality TV, home and garden, spiritual, children’s, lifestyle, PBS, multicultural, Style, Cooking, Sci-Fi, and shopping, not to mention good old ABC, NBC and CBS only scratch the surface of what is available for our viewing pleasure. Unless it is midday and I am home alone (I watch the least TV), a TV is usually blaring out noise somewhere in the house. With two adults and six children, we own 8 TV’s and 4 computers. It happened slowly, one screen at a time and when I began taking inventory, I couldn’t believe how mired in electronic land we’d become. My husband can even watch TV on his cell phone should he find a spare minute. My son is a major player of video games when he’s not midsemester at college and has been known to hang out with his friends and connect as many as 8 TV’s together in a circle on our dining room table so he and his friends can play together on line. Screens are everywhere, taking over, and my husband and I are seriously evaluating what we need vs. unhealthy indulgence.
Nevertheless, screens hold an accepted place and I didn’t realize I faced screen overload until I was putting gas in my van a couple months ago and suddenly, in front of me, I saw GSTV – Gas Station TV. Am I so pathetic that I can’t live without a screen in front of me at every turn? Now even gas stations feel they have to entertain me. Maybe they think if they lull me into a bored coma I won’t notice that I’m spending $60+ to fill my tank when it used to cost $20. Perhaps the oil execs berated and badgered by congress regarding their million dollar bonuses came up with the bright idea of mindless TV to influence the public. I picture some marketing whiz saying, “Hey, we have all this extra money, let’s provide customers with a TV at every pump and play brain numbing gas station trivia.” If it weren’t illegal, they’d probably add subliminal messages. “Fill your tank. Buy oil. Don’t forget the cigarettes, chips, candy and soda.”
Since I can’t afford to buy a house at the lake and leave screens behind, I protest instead. Not only do I protest, I refuse to watch. Turn those puppies off at the pumps, take the screens down, and donate them to a 3rd world country! I don’t need to be entertained while I am filling my tank. Whether it’s serious looking actors discussing the benefits of gas additives or my local weather, GSTV strikes me as ridiculous. Take those screens away and use that extra cash to lower the price of gas at the pump. If I crave entertainment, I’ll make a call and risk my cell phone exploding at my ear.