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I Need a New Drug:

Sasha Stone, Mirror TV Critic

Imagine my horror.  I look forward to Sunday nights because I know that some of the best television programming is on.  I get to be taught something I didn’t know by CBS’ Sixty Minutes, delve into a good or at least passable plot on PBS’ Mystery, and of course, no Sunday night would be complete without the tawdry goings-on of those housewives.  I know there are other, better shows on Sundays, but I’ve forgotten them.  Why have I forgotten them?  Because my DVR remembers them so I don’t have to.

So back to my horror.  It is definitely a possibility that TV is ruining my life, not to mention the lives of all Americans.  I had no idea how truly addicted I was until my little cable box went down.  It can’t even be called a cable box anymore because it’s altogether something else, something almost…intelligent.  My DVR knows me better than I know myself, except for the odd occasion when it accidentally chooses to record a lesser program over one I couldn’t miss for the world.  In those moments I feel almost like a neglected spouse, like my DVR didn’t really know me after all.  Can’t it understand that there’s no need to record a Paula’s Home Cooking rerun when a new Grey’s Anatomy is on?

We come up against the ways computers run our lives every day.  I didn’t really get it completely, though, until my cable box – my digital DVR – went on the fritz.  Recently, Adelphia handed itself over to Time Warner cable in our area.  When it did this, there was some need to change things electronically, or digitally, or whatever.  It caused my machine, which was happily and busily recording the usual stuff I like to watch, to just stop working.  I could watch TV, but I had to do it the old fashioned way, channel by channel.  With no guide to work from.  Do you remember those days?

Believe it or not, there was once a time when to watch TV one had to get up off their butts, walk over to the TV, turn it, then flip through the 13 channels available.  It boiled down to a movie, the news or cartoons.  Now?  It’s a whole different ball of wax.  We sit with our fancy remotes.  We watch what we want when we want.  We don’t have to worry about missing anything because no matter where we are we can rewind.  We can pause. We can fast-forward over commercials.

I didn’t realize that this whole time I’ve been watching my decent and satisfying recorded program collection, I was slowly becoming addicted, like a meth addict, to its ease of use.  When it shut down, it was panic time.  Sunday, what is on Sunday?  What am I going to miss?  I felt like I was one sweat droplet away from going over to a friend’s house just to check out what possibly MIGHT be worth recording so that they could record it for me.

It was sheer madness.  I restarted the player, hoping it would fix itself.  I didn’t want to out my desperation to the cable company just yet.  Besides, it had been a while since I paid my bill.  Restarted it, nothing.  My remote wouldn’t work. I couldn’t fast-forward or rewind!  I COULD’T PRESS PAUSE!!!

Finally, I sucked up my pride and called the cable company.  I must have waited on hold, listening to the same musical loop for an entire half hour.  Finally a voice came on.  No, it wasn’t my bill. No, there were no outages in the area.  Yes, I’ll make a note of it.  If the problem persists call us back tomorrow.  Of course the problem persisted.  By morning, it was as bad as it ever was.  The morning!  The Food Network was running a Halloween-themed marathon!  Sunday morning news shows!  MEET THE PRESS!

I mean, I tried to be reasonable, but half of my life is spent pausing and rewinding because I have untrained myself to watch a show when it’s actually on.  I had no choice but to call Time Warner Cable back.  Another half hour and another voice finally came on the line.  “Uh oh,” he said.  “We need to get you a new box.”

The good news was, they were bringing me a box. The bad news was, it was still Sunday night and I still didn’t know what I was missing.  It was suddenly so quiet and peaceful I began to wonder, at what cost television?  And I knew the answer.  I just didn’t want to admit it to myself.  After all, tomorrow the new cable box was coming.  Only one more day.

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