Judge a person by the size of their book collection, not their TV.
I got that notion from my dad who was born more than a century ago in a bookish era. His modest home library included a surprising amount of poetry, the occasional novel that I would scan for “adult content” and a rousing history of warfare between England and Scotland.
Someday I’ll have a library like Dad’s, I thought.
Only it never happened. Today I own maybe four shelves’ worth of books, a scant amount by traditional standards.
What happened? TV happened. DVDs happened.
I have never watched as much as most people. Today’s national average is over five hours per person per day. That’s TV as practically a full-time job.
I have mostly watched on a 21-inch screen. When “big screen” TVs came along, I wasn’t tempted to upgrade.
Dad would have been proud. Maybe I wasn’t a books guy, but my need for video entertainment was under control.
Then Cheryl’s dad died and we inherited his 27-inch, fat box TV. The difference between 21 inches and 27 inches was amazing. I thought we were watching IMAX.
Meanwhile, the TV industry went hog wild. Screens grew humongously bigger and thinner.
I know this from trips to Costco where shoppers must run a gauntlet of giant screens flashing gorgeous vistas. I always paused and gawked. So this is what TVs have come to.
Yet I never thought of buying. Because I’m the son of a book guy.
Our inherited 27-inch TV, weighing what seemed like a half ton, went with us into the garage attic during our home improvement project. By then, my enchantment with it was fading. The screen would occasionally flash the aurora borealis. The audio had a reverb that stuffing magazines beneath it would not cure.
As we prepared to move back into the house this winter, Cheryl insisted that Stan’s TV must not come with us. It’s time to go big and flat, she said. It’s time to experiment with streaming.
I came home one Friday to a 40-inch flat screen that Cheryl had picked up at Costco along with cat food and rotisserie chicken.
Never say that Cheryl isn’t one for the bold move.
But when we moved into our new living room and hooked up the 40-incher, the human figures on the screen were impossibly small.
We’d made a rookie error. We were used to watching TV from eight or so feet away. In the new room, the prime TV-watching furniture was 18 feet away. A 40-inch screen didn’t even begin to close the gap.
Pass the binoculars.
What to do? Cheryl had just bought the biggest TV of our lives and it wasn’t nearly big enough.
She feared if we bought larger yet, the TV would dominate our new living room. A TV-centered room was never the plan, she said.
Neither was zero TV the plan, which is what a 40-inch screen amounted to, I said.
We trotted back to Costco and bought a honkingly large 60-incher. The box was so impressively big that two men offered me unsolicited compliments as I stood outside the store, waiting for Cheryl to drive up for pickup.
We had the monster screen mounted on the wall. Like a serpent, it can spring out and swivel.
We like our purchase. The screen commands our eyeballs in a way that Stan’s old 27-inch screen never did.
If my dad were to come back from the dead, I’d expect him to render a tart opinion of our nearly sofa-length electronic acquisition.
He might also look around the room and wonder where the books are.