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Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Season Without Television

It all started with a simple voicemail: “Please call Bell ExpressVu in the next 24 hours for a very important message.” We didn’t have the time or inclination to return the call. The next week, we had a similar recording on our answering machine. Again, we ignored it. Finally, our cable bill arrived in the mail with an extra charge on it. We had been billed for a channel that we had not asked for. Apparently we were supposed to call the company at the beginning of the offer to tell them that we did not wish to have the channel added to our package.
The Farmer decided he just wasn’t going to pay that portion of the bill. He made a note on the invoice and sent it back, with his usual monthly payment. This went on for months. The unpaid, unasked-for portion of the bill slowly accumulated in the balance.
After a year, the phone messages started again. They were probably from the Accounts Receivable department but we will never know for sure because we didn’t return the calls.
Then, one day, Farmer Fisher sat down to watch his favourite Saturday morning television program, “Canada in the Rough”. Much to his surprise, all but one channel displayed the message: “this channel is only available with a paid subscription”. The Farmer put down his coffee cup with a smirk and said, “Well, honeybunch, it looks as though we’ve been cut off.”
Now, the Farmer doesn’t watch a great deal of television, but he is fond of hunting and fishing shows, the occasional documentary, war movies and just about anything on the Lonestar channel. I confess a minor addiction to all singing and dancing programs, but for the most part I sit in the living room just to be with my husband. I always have the laptop or some sort of reading material to fall back on if he’s watching another episode of “Bonanza”.
The girls, however, are a different story. When they found out that we had no television, they were incredulous.
“But you’re getting it back, right? You can’t expect us to go all summer without television!”
I took the bait. “You know, when I was growing up we only had two channels. It wasn’t a big deal. If there was nothing on, you read a book. In fact, during the summer months, my father believed you should be outside from breakfast until dinner. He unplugged the television and put it in the garage until September.” (I’ve repeated that last part to my kids so many times that I can’t even remember if it’s actually true…)
The girls rolled their eyes at me for the twentieth time that weekend (doesn’t that cause irreversible damage to the retina at some point?) and stomped off to their rooms where they quickly text-messaged their friends to spread the unbelievable news.
We probably will get our account settled and our television working again. It will likely take only a phone call to get things sorted out. But in the meantime, we are actually enjoying seeing the girls working on their scrapbooks, talking to each other, baking in the kitchen, reading and – yes, it’s true – playing with the kittens OUTSIDE. They don’t even spend much time on the Internet because, of course, we have dialup and that is too frustrating to bear for more than a couple of hours.
We might just leave things as they are for the rest of the summer. The Farmer and I are so busy in the gardens and the barn; we won’t notice the missing television.
And the nice folks at Bell ExpressVu didn’t cut us off cold turkey. They did leave us with one channel. Farmer Fisher can watch as much “Cosmo TV” as he wants. I think he is developing a deeper appreciation for “Sex and the City”.

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