|my idea of heaven as a child|
Until I have the birth of a new baby to report, I'll write frequently off and on about television and its impact on my life. I should probably take the time to explain why television was such a huge deal to me even though I was limited to an hour of viewing time on school days and two hours a day on non-school days unless I was sick. While most of my contemporaries were children of technology, I was not. Early in my life, we did not have video games in our home. I played them on occasion at other people's houses, but because I didn't play them all that often, I wasn't very skilled at them. Who would be thrilled about playing a game that she was virtually guaranteed to lose every time she played? Video games weren't usually my first choice of entertainment when I went to another child's house to play.
We had computers in our home since before I was born, as both parents used them for work purposes, and Matthew and I were allowed to use them for research purposes and email. I then had the situation about which I wrote once in greater detail, in which I gave out too much information online to a child predator. My computer privileges were cut off for longer than two years to the point that in my early years of high school, I had to either take my brother's turn at doing the dishes for however many times we negotiated so that he would type a given paper for me (Matthew is a very skilled typist), or use an old IBM typewriter that my parents still had lying around to type the paper myself.
The school banned me from the use of technology as well. Since what happened did not happen on school computers or on school time, my parents could have challenged that ruling successfully, but they did not want me to have access to computers at home or at school. I was forbidden the use of technology everywhere. Microfiche in our school library had just been discarded at and replaced with a computerized version of the dinosaur method of accessing ppast periodicals, limiting my access of past periodicals to those of which the school still had hard copies.
I wrote a research paper on the U.S. space program when I was a freshman. The paper ended with the sentence: "Aerospace technology is increasing at such a rapid rate that man may soon land upon the moon." The sentence was a paraphrase from the most up-to-date volume on the subject of space technology that could be found in the library. I didn't cite it because the wording was sufficiently different that plagiarism could not have been charged based on the wording, and the sentiment was common knowledge at the time the book was published, which was 1965, if my recollection is correct.
The library had thrown out much of its nonfiction section because the Internet had essentially rendered it obsolete. Magazine subscriptions were being cut back drastically as a cost-saving measure because the only magazines actually read by anyone other than faculty were Teen Vogue and Seventeen. The other pertinent information needed from the periodicals could be accessed from the Internet. The school didn't bother updating its volumes with much nonfiction because it wasn't being used. The library budget was spent on fiction and techological resources.
Even though I won the challenge, my parents were upset with me for what they considered a smart-@$$ed maneuver, and grounded me from television for two weeks. I was expected to fly under the radar of trouble at school, and receiving an F grade on a paper, then challenging it on a technicality, did not constitute "flying under the radar" as far as my parents were concerned. It was at that point that my mother, who worked in upper-level administration for my school district, instructed all school personnel to email her if either my brother or I as much as sneezed too loudly in class. My brother still blames me for the Nazi-like regime under which we existed throughout high school. I maintain that my brother was a much bigger trouble-maker than I, and my incident and my mother's action caused him to be extremely careful and sneaky to avoid ever getting caught.
I have complete respect for those of you who came of age in the '70's or '80's or earlier, who had to type all your papers with typewriters. Essays were bad enough, but the annotated research papers were killers. I at least had the benefit of my teachers requiring APA or MLA formatting, both of which used parenthetical documentation. My dad has told me horror stories about the teachers who required the footnotes at the bottom of each applicable page. a student would type the page, then find that one of the footnotes did not fit on ther page. He would then have to re-type the entire page. There was no making a few quick adjustments on a computer and reprinting.
Matthew and I didn't get cell phones until high school. I was given one even though I was still under the technological ban. Due to a misunderstanding between myself and my parents, however, I was under the mistaken impression that our cell phone plan had unlimited texting. In the second month of ownership of my phone, I ran up a six-hundred-dollar bill through my own texting, not even counting anyone else's charges. I offered to take the six hundred dollars from either my long-term savings or my discretionary account, which was sizable for that f a child my age because I was well-paid as a part-time semi-professional musician.
My parents refused my offer. Instead, my cell phone was replaced with a child's cell phone which had eight numbers I could call: both of my parents' work numbers (my dad's was somewhat moot, as he had so many of them, but he had an assistant at one location who could reach him at any time), both parents' cell numbers, our home phone number, andthe home and cell numbers of my Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather, along with 911, which was automatic with most models of kiddie phones.
The kiddie phone also had a major microchip feature that allowed either my parents or the 911 dispatcher to pinpoint my location very quickly. That feature, though I felt insulted at having it at the time, protected me from much worse injury than I would have otherwise sustained the time I was attacked in the school restroom. I don't buy into that line of which many peoplle are particularly fond about everything happening for a reason, but the sequence of events that forced me to give up my regular cell phone for that kiddie one was a bigger blessing than I'll probably ever know.
Anyway, while other kids my age were playing video game [particularly the boys]. practically texting theit thumbs off, and whiling away hours on Myspace and later Facebook, I was studying, practicing musical instruments, reading (which I loved and continue to love), participating to some degree in school sports, and watching television. Even though I probably watched less TV than the other kids who had technological privileges (they didn't spend as much time either studying, reading, or practicing musical instruments), TV was probably a much bigger factor in my life than it was in the lives of most of my peers.
Getting to watch the TV programs I absolutely had to see became a major exercise in budgeting. The DVR became a life saver. There was an hour of Judge Alex that I couldn't miss. If Judge Alex appeared on any other program and I happened to know about it, I couldn't miss that, either. Depending upon the year, there might have been Seventh Heaven, (sorry to make you gag, Knotty), Gilmore Girls, The Office, Roseanne reruns (which I usually saved up on the DVR for days when I was sick), and the non-negotiables of House MD, South Park, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report. At one time I was even a Law and Order junkie, though I had to stop watching SVU after the restroom assault incident. Any PBS-type documentary about the JFK-shooting or Watergate was also something I felt i could not miss, though my parents sometimes gave me a free pass on that sort of programming and allowed me to watch it without counting it against my tV viewing time. (Big Love I watched at Claire's house. We didn't have HBO, so she DVRed it for me.)
The programs I felt I must watch (though not all of them were on my list any given year) exceeded the nine hours a week during the school year, assuming there were no school holidays. Watching everything took some creativity on my part. I knew which friends liked which programs, and I used them to record shows to watch with me when i visited them. Additionally, my parents awarded us a one-time bonus of ten extra hours of tV viewing for each perfect report card, either quarter or semester. (Anything less than a perfect report -- even a minus behind an A on a mid-quarter progress report -- resulted in revocation of all TV privileges until the teacher reported to my parents that the grade was back to a full A.)
Even before the track and field injury and subsequent restroom assault, I was sick more than was the average child, and my parents placed no restrictions on TV when we were sick, at least in part because we had to display measurable or observable symptoms to stay home due to illness, and because neither of us, despite the extra TV privileges, wanted to stay home from school. I can remember being forced to remain at home or at my Aunt Heather's house, or having been forced to leave school during the day due to illness on numerous occasions, but I don't once remember faking symptoms even during my half-year with Mrs. Moore. I remember not enjoying TV very much when I was sick, though it did take my mind off the discomfort to some degree.
Due to an extended babysitting experience with an incredibly lazy sitter, Matthew and I also had some early exposure to soap operas. I'll share that at some point in the near future.
Just before I turned sixteen, in my final year of high school, my Godparents remodeled my room and placed a TV in it. They felt they had to give Matthew a TV as well to be fair. My parents relented because Matthew and I had shown ourselves to be responsible students. All limits were lifted.
In the upcoming days I shall expand upon my life as a TV junkie. I'll discuss programs i especially liked that, looking back, I cannot believe I ever liked. I'll talk a bit about how my political views were shaped in part by the TV I watched. Perhaps most importantly, I'll share how I gradually came to the realization that, for me anway, real life is actually better than television.
Happy Birthday, America. and Mr. President, I liked your soulful rendition of Amazing Grace. It took b@!!s to have done that.