This is a true story. And the only reason you’re reading about it is because it’s been resolved.
Let me start it by saying Joe is sitting in front of our new 55-inch Samsung flat screen television watching last night’s episode of Lost. The look of contentment on his face is something neither I, nor any other human, is capable of evoking. It is a Cheshire cat grin basked in the glow of a very expensive machine mounted four feet off the ground. It is the look of sweet relief usually seen on the faces of mothers, who after hours of labor, reach out to cradle their newborn babies. For Joe it is a state of solace only fiber optic cables transmitting a HD signal could offer.
It is a whale of a TV, so sharp and un-pixalated that my brain can barely discern what’s happening for real in my living room, from what’s happening inside the LCD panel hanging on my wall. Of course it does nothing for me. Of course I balked at the purchase. Of course I wanted a kayak instead. At $1,600, I whined that we could get two kayaks for the price of one TV. But since my husband has agonized over this purchase since the day we met, I knew it was only a matter of time before we drilled a dozen holes in our wall and attempted to heft a 70-lb. television onto a metal bracket, oblivious as to whether or not we hit studs.
The man really, really loves his TV.
Rewind to Jan. 14.
After shopping around for the best possible deal on a 55-inch LCD flat screen – a painstaking search that included one failed trip to Best Buy, in which I called a manager to complain about false advertising – Joe ordered his dream TV from Newegg, taking advantage of free shipping, no sales tax and a coupon he found on the Internet.
For six days Joe meticulously followed the TV’s order status online, from processing, to packaging, to shipping, to its estimated arrival date – Jan. 21. I cannot stress how characteristically Rain Man-ian he was during this time. Those of you who know Joe, know exactly what I mean.
“The TV has been processed. It should be put on a truck any minute now.”
“With any luck, the TV should arrive Thursday. Will you be home Thursday?”
“The TV is on a truck in Indiana. It’s traveling 65 mph on Interstate 80, which by my calculations puts it in Tampa by 3 p.m. Tuesday.”
“Is it worth it?” I asked, exhausted by the play-by-play. “To switch cable companies? Aren’t they all the same?”
“No. Verizon has a better variety of HD channels.”
I was so amused by the prep process that I told my friends and family that Joe was nesting. Fluffing his nursery. A ball of nervous energy and anticipation, awaiting the arrival of his firstborn child.
“Oh shit,” he exclaimed one night, fixated on Newegg’s tracking page. “The TV’s arriving Wednesday. You won’t be here Wednesday.”
“Shit. Well. I guess I’ll work from home.”
“I guess you’ll have to,” I said. “Just remember to take deep breaths. Remember what the Lamaze coach told you. Delivery is unpredictable, no matter how much you plan for your baby’s arrival. If it gets too painful, don’t be afraid to ask for an epidural. I’ll be home around seven tonight.”
The TV arrived on Jan. 20. It took two days and eight calls to my father to mount the hanging bracket on the wall, and in the end we had to ask Joe’s brother Phil to help lift it. I wasn’t strong enough. Also, I was nervous as hell. My palms were so sweaty I kept losing my grip.
When it was up, it looked exquisite. We watched Wall-E and a documentary on Jimmy Page, Jack White and the guy who always wears skull caps in U2. Four days later, a Verizon FiOS technician arrived at our house to hook up our cable. Per Joe’s request, I recorded ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, ran up to Pier 1, purchased a new TV stand and then waited for him to come home, refusing to touch anything on or around the TV, including the furniture.
When Joe came home, he sunk into the couch like a king at a feast and watched 30 minutes of PTI, which I must admit, was a beautiful site. Then we unplugged the TV from the wall, removed our old wooden TV stand and slid the new one in its place.
“I like the stand,” Joe said. “It’s the perfect size and shape. Good job.”
“Thanks,” I chirped, pleased with my purchase.
What happened next brings most grown men to their knees.
I plugged the TV into a surge protector, plugged the surge protector into the wall and the second the prongs went into the outlet, the TV exploded, sparks flew out from behind the screen, the cable box fizzled out and the entire living room filled with a smell I’m only familiar with because I grew up in the woods blowing up old appliances for fun.
I guess I screamed, though I don’t recall screaming. Not that it would have mattered. My husband was unconcerned with my well-being. I could have been eyebrow-less and convulsing on the floor and he wouldn’t have noticed. His six-day-old flat screen had just exploded and our living room smelled like barbecued wires.
First he tried to turn it on. Pathetic, I know. But what else was there to do? Maybe this was high definition at its best. Maybe there was a Discovery Channel show on about fireworks. Although I hadn’t been electrocuted, I knew better than to make these jokes, so I kept to myself as Joe desperately pushed the on button.
“It’s dead. It’s totally dead,” he stammered.
“It stinks in here,” I squeaked.
“It smells like an electrical fire in here.”
“The TV is totally dead.”
“This is really bad, huh?”
So we called Verizon and explained that the only thing that changed since we purchased the TV six days ago was the cable box, and that the TV had been perfectly functional up until this point, and that I noticed the set-top box was running kind of hot when I picked it up and set on the new stand.
Verizon, clearly baffled, said they’d send someone out first thing in the morning. That was when Joe, white in the face, hung up the phone and wept. It was first time I’d ever seen him cry.
I know it’s too late to make this story short and I’d love to spare you the details about how my husband aimlessly wandered the house with his laptop in a technologically-impoverished stupor because we have no backup TV, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that Joe lost one night’s sleep and his appetite over this incident.
So, what happened to the TV? Who was responsible? Did we have it in time for the Super Bowl? The season premiere of Lost?
Well. After entertaining two Verizon managers and one electrician, everyone’s best guess was that the HDMI cable running between the TV and the cable box was perhaps improperly installed. Wedged into the back of the TV, so to speak. The two Verizon managers who stood scratching their heads the next day in our living room revealed that just one week prior to our incident, another brand new flat screen exploded in a similar fashion. That, coupled with a melted HDMI cable, was what (we think) prompted Verizon to file a claim with its insurance company. Ten days later, we received a check for $1,600 minus $25 for six-days depreciation.*
No, we didn’t have a TV in time for the Super Bowl, nor did we have it in time for the season premiere of Lost. In the end, it took two weeks for the replacement to arrive, during which time we played a lot of Rummy, watched a lot of YouTube and actually ate dinner at the kitchen table.
Of course the dead TV was hanging on our wall the entire time. We didn’t bother to pull it down until the new one arrived, giving the impression that all was well in the Bardi living room, until of course you reached for the remote.
To lighten the mood during these two weeks, I invented a new meaning for the FiOS acronym: “Flames Instantly On Starting,” and decorated the blank screen with drawings of our favorite broadcasts, including TMZ
and MSNBC’sCountdown with Keith Olbermann.
Joe and I launched an epic Rummy tournament: “Battle to Kill Time Until TV II Arrives.”
But other than one landslide victory in the first game, Joe’s scores got increasingly worse as the tourney dragged on and soon it became even too much for me to bear.
I admit, the absence of TV in my life had little impact as I had once lived an entire year without one and before that, I mostly got by on four local channels. It’s not that I hate TV or fear it is the demise of the human race. It’s just that I’m inept at using the remote. I get depressed when I watch the news. I get pissed when I watch any reality show other than Survivor and I’m still hung up on the fact that Ally McBeal went off the air in 2002.
But by the time the new TV arrived, I had reached my wit’s end. My husband, bless his technophilian heart, had become insufferable. At one point, he had ordered a replacement TV from a shady hole-in-the-wall in Brooklyn with a history of hawking refurbished appliances, something a quick Google search revealed. In trying to make sense of the company’s convoluted and crooked cancellation policy, we canceled his credit card and prayed the charge hadn’t gone through. It hadn’t. Still, Joe barely slept that night.
Last Tuesday, after watching a preview screening of The Wolfman at a North Tampa theater, he rushed to his parent’s place to watch Lost because he needed to in order to host Creative Loafing’s Lost podcast and because he planned to discuss the show on a local radio station that week.
Me? I wrote a 12-page letter to my pen-pal Lauren in Toronto.
PS. Top photo by Susan E Adams
PPS. Our replacement TV arrived one day before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics.
PPPS. After sharing this story with my friend Kat, I received an email with a link to an audio recording of Hunter S. Thompson lambasting JVC because his new DVD player wouldn’t work.
*It is important to note that the folks at Verizon were extremely professional, understanding and empathetic during this entire incident. It is also important to note that Joe and I did take time to reflect on more important things doing our brief reprieve from television. Like each other.