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I DONT WANT IT! – Cable Television

In the last article, I talked about some of my more amusing miscommunications with cellphones. That got me thinking about something of a gaffe with my service provider. My cellphone service provider also happens to be my internet provider, and they desperately want to be my cable television provider. But, I don’t have cable. Let’s talk about that.

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My Approach to Economics

When I encounter the opportunity to pay for a frivolity, like cable television or a new game console, I ask myself “What’s the best that could happen?” and “What’s the worst that could happen?”

The best that could happen is that I use the frivolity at least enough to justify the expense. Then, I would feel bad about how much time I was wasting.

The worst that could happen is that I do not use the frivolity enough to justify the expense. Then, I would feel bad about how much money I spent.

So, whether I’m expecting the best-case scenario or the worst-case scenario, I usually just decide not to spend the money.

What’s So Smart About a TV?

The end result is that I haven’t had cable since I stole it from my upstairs neighbor in college so that I could watch sports a few nights a week, and I haven’t gotten a new game console since the PlayStation2. I’m not entirely the luddite that I make myself out to be – I listen to sports on the radio, and I do, on occasion, game on my PC. But, I haven’t had cable in going on ten years.

I’ve also never bought a television. Televisions are like beds: there just always seems to be one or two laying around a place whenever I move into a place. So, I don’t bring them when I move and I don’t buy new ones. As long as I can plug in a VCR and my PS2 to watch tapes and DVDs, it’s a new enough television for me.

But, just like I still consume sports and play videogames, I have a new television. My fiancée acquired it. It’s one of those “smart televisions” which means that I don’t know how to use it, which is all the better for me. I can still use it to watch my VHS tapes and DVDs but installing apps and signing into things and all that is just too much. That’s where my service provider comes in.

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If You Don’t Watch Television, What Streaming Service Do You Use?

I got the call from my favorite verified spam number – the company that provides my cellphone service and my internet. The offer: an app for my smart TV that streams live channels.

“I don’t really watch television,” I told him, honestly.

“Okay, what streaming services do you use? Netflix? Hulu?”

“This isn’t about me streaming instead of watching television, this is about me not watching television.”

I’m still not sure whether he understood that that was something a person could do, but he proceeded with his offer. One week trial, completely free. He seemed dedicated. So, I gave in. A one week trial. Free.

I never installed the app. I never signed in. A week went by. A month went by. I got the bill. They had billed me for adding the app to my account and for a month of service. All together, I want to say it was something like $200. I called the company. I explained the situation. They took the charges off of my bill.

But, the story doesn’t end there, dear readers.

A few weeks later, I receive a call from the good old verified spam number. I pick it up. It’s someone offering the same deal. A week free trial of live local channels. Again, they ask about my streaming habits. Again I tell them that I’m not interested. Again they remind me that it’s free. This time I tell them: I’ve tried the free trial. It was a nightmare. I’m not doing that again. They wish me the best.

I’d like to tell you that this same conversation hasn’t happened at least every other week for the past few months. But, I’m afraid it has.

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Videos of People Watching Videos of People

I might not have been entirely honest with my service provider about the kind of viewing that goes on in this house. My fiancée’s seven-year-old daughter is the viewer in the house, but she’s really only interested in YouTube.

No matter what the Child says, I don’t categorically hate YouTube. There are a lot of good documentaries on YouTube – largely from the BBC, probably because they aren’t desperate for cash to pay their operating costs like PBS is. But, the Child isn’t watching documentaries.

Rather than wasting her own life, she prefers to watch videos of other people wasting their lives. She watches videos of people who record themselves playing video games – or worse, videos of people who record themselves watching videos.

I often ask her why she watches videos of other people watching videos of other people doing things instead of doing things herself, but she doesn’t seem to understand the question and I don’t know how else to ask it. It’s not only kids that do this. I once found my adult brother watching a Twitch streamer  reacting to a talk show host reacting to an Oprah interview.

To be fair, the Child doesn’t watch YouTube all day – because we don’t let her. But, she watches a lot more than I would like and infinitely more than she would if her mother hadn’t brought that bloody smart TV in here.

Long story short, she is the sole television watcher in the family and has no interest at all in television. I didn’t explain all of this to my service provider the last time they asked me if I wanted cable, but maybe next time – as they really do seem to call me because they’re lonely and want needlessly long conversations with people entirely disinterested in their product.

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(Please) Send Me the Bill

The good news about my service provider is that they have a lot of experience dealing with used-and-abused customers. They’re quick to bill me for stupid things that never should have happened, but they’re also quick to refund me the erroneous fees.

Everyone and their mom is trying to get me to switch to paperless communications. Depending on the communication, I may prefer paperless. Bills are not such a communication. If a bill doesn’t cross my desk – my physical desk – I won’t pay it. That’s not me being confrontational, that’s just how my brain works. It won’t occur to me to pay a bill that isn’t physically in my hand.

Every time my service provider offers to set me up with cable television, they also ask me if I’m interested in paperless communications. I always decline and I always give them the same explanation that I just gave you.

Inevitably, the month came that they didn’t send a bill in the post. I know this now because they told me later. I went about paying my bills as I always do (when they come in the post) and it never occurred to me that one bill did not come.

Then I got the notice. I owed them two months of service and a hefty late charge. Again, I dialed the number. Sure enough, they had signed me up for paperless communications, not sent me a bill, and then billed me for the bill that they never sent – because I never paid it. Again, they refunded me the late fee. I now get my bill in the mail each month.

The Way of the Buffalo

These are lighthearted tales about me keeping one step behind the tide. The last article was about much the same thing as I battle the forces of people who want me to carry a cellphone so that they can be worse at communicating like people. But, these tales are also scary. At least, to me they are.

These stories of refusing smart television apps, refusing paperless billing, they’re all reminders that I’ll only be able to get away with these things for so long. I don’t know why my mind is a hundred years older than the body that it occupies, but I daily feel like my life is being innovated away from me. Like my way of doing things is being replaced by things that don’t make sense to me.

Maybe that’s why these things that don’t seem funny have a way of making me smile. Hugh Laurie sang that “if you see me laughing I’m laughing just to keep from crying” so maybe I comedically phrase stories about my planned obsolescence because it doesn’t hurt so much to think about it that way.  I’m not some dinosaur watching comets, I’m a funny slapstick character. Yeah. That’s me.

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