Karen never gets a soft drink when we go out to dinner unless it’s a special occasion and it drives me nuts. I mean it drives me crazy that she won’t get herself a drink and enjoy her supper. She’ll ask for water until they say bottled water only and she’ll say no water. I say every time, get a bottle of water. I won’t drink it all, she says. I’ll drink some, I say; I’m freaking thirsty over here. I’ll drink mine and then half of yours if you let me. I mean I’ll drink it all and be freaking thankful for it. But that’s Karen for you.
Personally I subscribe to what I call value-in-use theory, which is just the observation that we don’t experience too many different things, I mean materially speaking, on a day-to-day basis—the chair, the bed, the shoes, the mug, the spoon, often times the same chair, bed, shoes, mug, spoon, which is all in good order and I have no bones to pick, but the point that I’m making is why not at least make sure those things are well-accounted for? I mean buy a nice pair of shoes for once in your life. Buy a soda.
And don’t even get me started on her television. The right television depends on the person, but people spend more time reading the ingredients in their milk than learning even the basics of television consumption. Sure, it’s a calculus of personal physiology, preference, living arrangements, how many feet from the screen, height of preferred viewing chair/sofa, windows and visible lighting and so on, but it just drives me crazy when I think about all the people suffering through sub-optimum television experiences.
For example (and this dates me, but true movie lovers will know what I’m talking about), my perfect television is a 55” Samsung plasma screen. Looxahoma, Mississippi lacks a sophisticated television operation so I had to do my purchasing out of town, as usual. It’s no great secret that I do virtually all my purchasing by direct import; mine is not and never has been a local economy. Samsung delivered that television set to me white-glove service—for free, if you can believe that, because I cut that good of a deal. A fellow half my age unboxed the whole thing up for me. That was a real case of frisson there. The so-called Autonomous Sensory Motor Response. I felt good.
Let me put it this way: you couldn’t get a better deal than I got on my television, which by all evaluative metrics, subjective and objective, biased and neutral, was the best purchase for me at that time. Samsung, one of the last companies to manufacture primo plasma screen televisions, had just shuttered its plasma screen production altogether, despite plasma still being the best tech in home cinema. And that’s one thing you need to understand about me: I’m a big fan of the movies. I probably watch two or three pictures a day on average, and Samsung knows how to make that happen. So believe me, it wouldn’t be bragging to say that my 55” plasma screen television was the deal to end all deals. I’m telling you, Louisiana Purchase. Appomattox. And let me just say on behalf of Samsung that I’ve dealt with the Koreans before, and at the end of the day the chaebols really do have my best interests as a consumer at heart.
But that’s what I mean when I talk about the right television set for the right individual. See, my television is a great unit, and I get pleasure from using it. It doesn’t hurt my eyes because I’ve installed a strip of lights around the edges to back-light it. It blackens blacks. That’s the first thing I tell people when we watch television together is not to mind the backlighting, that they should know it reduces eyestrain and blackens blacks and that’s why I have it, it’s really an incredibly sensible thing to have.
Karen says she doesn’t think I’m taking care of myself. The truth is I was born with something of an anomalously well-put-together system, and for the most part things seem to take care of themselves in the textbook manner—leukocytes churn without any provocation, organ tissues homeostasize without my behest, things flush themselves out. What does Karen know? I’ve seen the way she lives, I’ve seen her shoes and her bed. She doesn’t even wash her pillowcases. Her television is about three feet too high on the wall and it’s still on its factory settings. And the soundbar! Karen doesn’t have a soundbar, and she certainly doesn’t have 5.1. A soundbar is basically the bare minimum of a television these days. A soundbar is just half-assing it for the sake of simple human decency. The built-in speakers face the back wall for God’s sake! This is all bare-minimum stuff at this point if you’re going to watch more than maybe twenty minutes of television a week, and I’ve told her that.
My father used to say beds and shoes were everything in this world, that if you weren’t in one you’re in the other. Well cut in a good television and I think you’ve just about rounded the whole thing off. Of course, there’s no such thing as a truly perfect experience. Even my beloved television is basically useless now. It happened practically overnight. But let me just say this: I pay my bills on time. I appreciate the fact that electricity is running through my house whenever I want it every time I make use of it, which is virtually all of the time. Facts like that don’t go unappreciated in this household. Fact of the matter is we’re connected, all roads go to Rome in the end, and if Karen doesn’t think I’m taking care of myself then I invite her to examine her own viewing habits a little more closely.
Daniel Uncapher is an MFA candidate at Notre Dame whose work has appeared in The Baltimore Review, The Wilderness House Literary Review, Posit, Neon Literary Magazine, the Dead Mule School, and others.