I have written before about the purchase of my first house in 1995. One of the things that I have not mentioned is this… I lived for the better part of a year without television.
My house was approximately fifty miles northwest of New York City, in Greenwood Lake, NY, but it was in the shadow of a mountain. Although I lived within range of many TV signals pouring out of The Big Apple, the mountain blocked the signal. Cable and satellite TV were not in my budget, so from November 1995 until August 1996 I had no live TV in my house.
I did own a television and a VCR.
Since my house was a substantial “fixer-upper” the lack of TV was actually a good thing. Every evening when I would return home from work, I would eat some dinner, put on the radio or A CD and work on a project in the house until bed.
My weekend routine was equally productive.
Early Saturday morning I would get up and drive my beat-up, 1976 Suburban into town for a hearty diner breakfast. Then it was off to the dump to empty the Suburban of whatever debris I had generated during the week. After the dump I went to Home Depot to purchase supplies before heading back home.
Both the dump and Home Depot were a thirty-minute drive away in Middletown NY, so I tried to keep those trips to once a week.
Typically I was back home swinging a hammer by 10:00am. I would work straight through until 6:00pm, when I would flip on NPR for A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor would be the soundtrack for dinner and the balance of my evening.
On Sundays I would get up, and do a few things around the house before going to Church, after which I stopped by the video store and grabbed a movie on VHS. Sunday afternoon was laundry and some more project work, but by three or four, I would pop the movie into the VCR and do some ironing in front of the TV.
Sunday evening I would get into the car, return the movie and head to Monroe, NY to do my grocery shopping. There was a small Grand Union grocery store in Greenwood Lake, but it was both expensive and lacked variety. The ShopRite in Monroe was a much better store.
So, one Sunday evening in January 1996, I dropped the VHS tape in the drive-through return slot and pointed my little green Saturn north for the fifteen-minute drive to Monroe.
I pulled into the parking lot, securing an excellent spot close to the door, grabbed a cart and started shopping. Unlike a typical twenty-something single guy, I actually cooked real meals most nights so grocery shopping for me was more than obtaining a weekly box of ramen noodles and a 12-pack.
I pushed my cart up one aisle and down the next, thoughtfully making my selections, though I was picking up a funny vibe in the store. When I got to the deli, I had to ring the bell twice before an employee showed up to slice me half a pound of Virginia ham. As he rhythmically pushed the slicer back and forth, I thought to myself, “even though this store is better than the one closer to my house, it aint no Wegmans.”
I grabbed my little bag of ham off the counter and continued my methodical zig-zag through the store. As I turned the final corner and headed toward the checkout lanes, I was a little confused to see only one lane open, but there was no line so, you know, whatever.
As I unloaded my cart onto the checkout belt, the cashier engaged in the usual small talk made by checkout personnel the world over. I finished unloading my cart and pushed it forward so the bags she had been filling could be loaded back in.
I was now face to face with the cashier, and as she scanned the last of my items she raised her head, looked me straight in the eyes and said,
“Do you know the score?”
Apart from the interactions with the small group with whom I had transacted my weekend business, and a brief dialogue with the pastor at church, I hadn’t had any meaningful conversations since I left work Friday afternoon. When you spend that much time alone, you tend to over-think things. As I tried to process this seemingly simple question, two possibilities swam through my head:
- Was she a really deep cashier who was posing some kind of rhetorical, existential question?
– or –
- Was she asking me a question about my interest in purchasing, or my knowledge about where she might purchase drugs?
Although I only paused a second or two, she clearly saw the confusion in my face, so she issued a clarifying statement, “You know… the score of the Super Bowl.”
With these words she may as well have said, “Please hand over your papers because we are revoking your status as both a man and an American.”
I politely replied that I didn’t really watch sports, bringing both the conversation and the transaction to a rapid conclusion.
By that time in my life I had never been a watcher of sports on TV. In the years since, I have been known to watch a game here and there, but I do so for the social aspect more than anything.
In “normal” American culture I am an oddball, an outcast, a freak when it comes to sports.
I have tried, but I simply don’t care; never have, never will. In middle school I developed a love of running and to this day I regularly train and compete. Every four years I do watch the Olympics, so I am not against sports, I am simply ambivalent to the hours of televised contests most people would never consider missing every week.
On the upside, I save $20 a month by not having the ESPN channels in my TV package, though when I was talking to customer service at DirecTV about dropping those channels, they asked, “Are you sure?”
A few days ago, one of my sons asked if he could have two friends over for this year’s Superbowl. This surprised me because of my four children; he is the most like me when it comes to sports. After working out the details of who was coming and how it would all work, he turned to me and said, “Is it okay if we go down in the basement and watch something else? None of us really care about football.”
There it is.
On the surface, most everyone I know would say I am a “normal” person. However there is this multi-billion dollar athletic-social-cultural slice of American Pie in which I do not partake. Knowing this about myself has always given me the perspective to dismiss the seemingly aberrant details about others – no matter what they might be.
You will encounter people in every corner of your life who do not conform to the things greater society as decreed as normal, and in some cases, downright required.
How you treat these “abnormalities” will determine the true winners and losers in life.
So… do you know the score? I hope you do now.
Copyright © 2016 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.