by Mike Todd
“Are you kidding me?” said the guy as he got in line behind me, shaking his head at the expanse of humanity between us and the service desk.
I smiled and gave him a look that said either “What are you gonna do?” or “Hey, nice legs.” I’m not that good at giving looks.
Even though some of my compatriots were disgruntled at having to wait in such a long line, I was quite gruntled; I’d gladly have waited all day to reach that desk. At the end of the journey, I would be dumping off a money vacuum that had been inhaling piles of $20 bills straight of our checking account every month for far too long.
“You cutting out your cable TV, too?” I asked the angry guy behind me. We both cradled large cable boxes in our arms. The previous month, we’d each paid the cable company $6.95 for the privilege of renting our respective boxes, including the 24-cent surcharge for the remote. During the six years I had rented that box, I paid $500 for it, money which could have gone toward a much better cause, like 23 minutes of daycare.
He looked at me like I was nuts.
“Nope, just getting it fixed,” he replied. Then, perhaps sensing that he was speaking to a person of extreme cheapness, he said, “But I’d love to dump it. When you wrap in Internet and phone, I’m paying $240 a month.”
All of a sudden, the suspicion of insanity became mutual. This guy might as well have just run through the nearest forest every month, dumping the contents of his wallet for woodland creatures to use as nesting material. Generously assuming that internet and phone accounted for $100 of his bill, he was paying $140 each month for TV. Nothing is that entertaining. Squirrels could easily have made better use of that money.
I’d recently waged a campaign in our house to rid ourselves of wasteful spending. With two kids in daycare, we’re basically paying for a second house, except instead of lakefront views, we get glitter on our floorboards. (Incidentally, if early learning institutions decided to put a moratorium on the use of glitter in art projects, I doubt anyone would complain. Just throwing that out there.)
The cable box became my number one target. By switching our phone provider and using cheaper TV alternatives, we could save $100 a month without really changing our life-wasting habits. The decision seemed to be a no-brainer, though one could rightly question the decision-making capabilities of people who choose to spend their precious few moments on earth watching “The Bachelorette.”
Already, our kids have grown up watching streaming shows over the Internet with no idea what a commercial is. We find this to be a nice byproduct of foregoing regular TV, although our children may enter adulthood without the ability to synchronize bathroom breaks and commercial breaks.
Once, on a JetBlue flight, we found a Dora the Explorer episode for our then-three-year-old son Evan to watch. Five minutes in, a commercial came on.
“PUT DORA BACK ON! PUT DORA BACK ON!” Evan screamed while a cartoon bird tried to sell him Cocoa Puffs. It was his first commercial. We spent the remainder of the break wiping away his tears and explaining capitalism to him.
Over time, we came to realize that with all the other available programming options, our cable box had simply become a very expensive clock. It was the only clock in the house that was correct for the few weeks after a Daylight Savings Time switch, but the expense no longer made sense.
“What can I do for you?” asked the lady behind the counter when my turn finally came.
“We already shut off our TV service. Just handing over the box and the remote,” I said. Then I gave her a look that said either “What a relief” or “Hey, nice legs.”