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Breaking the cable that binds

SOME years ago, not long after I returned from university, it came to my attention that cable is the worst thing ever.

SOME years ago, not long after I returned from university, it came to my attention that cable is the worst thing ever.

I was sitting in front of the TV one evening when it struck me that, if I were truly honest with myself, I didn't really care very much who won the world championship of darts, but that while I was watching it, a long list of things I had planned to do that night - cleaning the house, doing laundry, eating a non-Cap'n-Crunch-based dinner - were not getting done.

If I wanted to raise my standard of living and, ideally, not die of scurvy, I figured I should really eliminate TV from my life.

I immediately - once the dart championship had wrapped up and following a surprisingly interesting documentary about disgusting but industrious ants - called up the cable company and cut myself off.

I have never suffered from an addiction, but when it comes to things that are delicious but bad for me, I can on occasion exhibit mildly addictive tendencies.

I may tell myself I'm going to eat a reasonable number of potato chips, for example, but when some time after opening the bag, I emerge from a kind of fat-and-salt blackout to find no trace of said potato chips beyond a few shreds of plasticized foil and some bloody bite marks on my less nimble fingers, I have to admit to myself that it was an unrealistic plan. (I've never had a cigarette, but I can only assume from this experience that if I did, it would only be a matter of weeks before I could pave a runway with my lungs and/ or the tobacco plant would be extinct.)

Anyway, it turned out my relationship to television had been somewhat similar -a kind of potato chips for the eyes, if you will, but less painful than that sounds - and that quitting was actually kind of difficult.

From what I remember, the next two or three weeks were spent more or less curled up around the remote control, shivering.

But the cravings gradually passed, the nightmares became less frequent and eventually I returned to normal.

I still had the physical TV, mostly because it was the kind of giant, monolithic vacuum-tube-era monstrosity that you'd need druids to move, but without all the moving colours and sounds to distract me, my life began turning around.

Time at home became a frenzy of overachievement: The carpet was soon visible in places; you could see things on the other side of the windows; laundry was being folded prior to wearing; there was nonmustard food in my fridge; and my house, in general, no longer looked like it had been rifled through by bears.

Then one day, not so long ago, I got to wondering if maybe I had matured to the point that I could ease television back into my life.

Maybe I had the strength to watch it in a safe and healthy manner, I thought.

I picked up the phone, and I ordered cable reinstalled.

Now, I know what you're assuming. You're assuming that I fell back on to TV like a tyrannosaur on a boneless chicken.

I didn't. This was because, at first anyway, I unable to turn it on.

Television, it turned out, had changed while it had been away. There were boxes that hadn't been there before and there were like nine times as many buttons on the remote that all said basically the same thing.

"On" didn't do what one might assume it would do - and why I had both a "TV" and "cable" button was beyond me. I kind of wanted both of those things at once.

No matter how many times I pushed any of those things, or how hard, none of them seemed to do what one expected, ie "something"

I would have asked for help, but I was too embarrassed to ask anyone - like the various friends of mine who had entertainment centres that look like something out of the Bat Cave which they have no difficulty navigating.

There was nothing I could do short of reading the instructions, so the TV stayed dark and silent.

Unfortunately, I eventually figured it out.

Slowly (ie immediately) it wormed its way back into my life, and a few months later, sitting in front of it, transfixed by a man on America's Got Talent who was rolling up a frying pan with his hands - no lie - I realized television and I weren't going to be able to work things out.

I put down my bowl of Cap'n Crunch and picked up the phone.

I cancelled cable again, and my life has once more returned to a state of balance.

Although sometimes, just sometimes, I can't help but wonder some evenings what those ants are up to.

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