Sunday, July 17, 2011

I’m always on a mountain when I fall

I hate to say I’m givin’ up but I believe
Losin’s just become a way of life with me
Losin’s wouldn’t be so bad at all
But I’m always on a mountain when I fall

He didn’t write the song—that honor goes to Chuck Howard, a songwriter who also penned Waylon Jennings’ Come with Me and Conway Twitty’s Happy Birthday Darlin’—but the lyrics and title of this post belong to what may very well be my favorite of the many tunes in country legend Merle Haggard’s repertoire.  As a song that pretty much nails what my life is often like, it’s second only to Rose Colored Glasses as my favorite song of all time.

If you’ve been keeping up with recent events on the blog, you know that I was finally able to scrape together enough fundage to purchase a TV set for my bedroom here at the new Rancho Yesteryear because my father—bless his heart (buh-less his little heart!)—has reached a point in his life where he gets no greater thrill in his leisure-time TV-watching activity than sitting in his easy chair and staring at grown adults yell and scream and threaten one another on such socially-redeeming series as Operation Repo.  As for myself—well, it’s not my thing, really…most “reality” shows aren’t particularly my meat and I can’t be in the room for more than a half-hour at a time before the spectacle of people being unpleasant and having their conversation continually bleeped out (on one occasion my sister Kat overheard Dad watching this show from her upstairs kitchen at my parents’ former place of residence and asked if someone was backing up a truck downstairs) starts to bore through my skull.

When we first made arrangements to find new lodgings back in April, we had a representative from our local cable company—Charter, or as I not-quite-so-affectionately call them, CharredHer…in honor of a computer modem I purchased from them that was fried within one week after a thunderstorm—hook up TV in the living room and in my bedroom because it was really the only thing I insisted on, having visited my parents at my sister’s place in the past and experiencing my father’s iron-fisted control of the TV remote first hand.  When the gentleman installed the cable, he was giving me a guided tour of what he had done in my bedroom and I remember being curious because there was no cable box by the hookup.

“Don’t I need a cable box to receive channels from Charter?  Like TCM, for instance?” I asked him at the time.  He assured me that I did not; all that would be necessary is to hook up the TV set I planned to use and allow the device to go searching for the stations automatically.  It would be that darn simple.

If you’ve read this far—please take note of this.  I will return to it in a bit.

I had thought that when my parents brought their things from my sister’s house one of the items making the trip would be the TV that was in their “living room” and that the set in my apartment would simply find a home in my new bedroom.  I learned, sadly, that this would not be the case—and the way I learned it was that Saturday when we made the big move my mother informed me that she was putting me in charge of hooking up the TV and that I needed to get a move on because there was a Braves game on that evening.  After a few setbacks, I finally managed to get the TV, cable box and DVD recorder up and running…but I also lodged a formal complaint that we needed to move swiftly on the matter of securing a second TV before too many viewings of Bait Car made me do an Elvis-meets-Robert-Goulet number on the present set.  With the help of my BBFF Stacia, who came up with the clever idea of starting a (description removed on the insistence of PayPal©) and a few other funding sources whose origins would take too long to explain, I ordered a snazzy 22” RCA HDTV set with DVD player combo, and was informed that it would arrive at our domicile sometime between July 15-20.

The FedEx man brought the set yesterday.  I was amazed at how lightweight this puppy is—I would guess its overall weight to be in the neighborhood of 15 lbs…so if I’m wrong, it can have any one of those prizes from the top row.  In fact, when I pulled it out of the carton I was so intimidated by it that I did something I don’t normally do unless something is on fire—I took out the instructions and read them.  The only real difficulty I had in getting the TV up and running was attaching the set to its stand—and that’s only because the screws were very tiny and I have been cursed with big, clumsy fingers.  But I managed to get the TV to stand up and not fall forward (I even found a Philips screwdriver to complete this task…and finding a set of tools around this jernt is nigh-on impossible) and in plugging the TV in and connecting the cable to the back of the set, I was ready to roll.

Our cable package gives us a fairly impressive fistful of channel offerings—most of which I have very little use for; most of the time I’ll only watch TCM (supplemented with a little Fox Movie Channel and Sundance) though with our acquisition of MeTV I’ve been in a kind of rerun-loving mode lately.  So when I turned the new TV on and it did its auto channel search I started to get a little concerned when the onscreen display informed me that it was about 75% complete and it listed only 67 analog channels found.  But in that last twenty-five percent, the digital channel numbers started racking up big time, to a total of about 137.  If my arithmetic was right, that added up to a little over 200 stations.  To quote a famous Delta Tau Chi pledge: “Oh boy…is this great!”

Sixty-seven channels...you gotta be jinkin' me!
Yahtzee!  Now that's more like it!

The new TV set…it has a channel system that’s a little off the beaten path.  Analog stations start with “A,” so if you look at the TV listings to your left (click to embiggen) WSB Channel 2 (“Now with more fire!”) shows up on my set as “A2.”  Subsequently, the digital channels begin with “D”.  But there appears to be no rhyme or reason to the digital listings; for example, if you turn to “D69” there are about ten subsets of channels…listed as “D69-1,” “D69-2,” etc.  It was a little confusing for me—but no sweat; I’d just experiment with a little channel surfing until I found my beloved Turner Classic Movies.

So I went through every freaking digital channel and every freaking subset of the channel.  And before long, I could hear that oh-so-familiar plaintive sad trombone…signaling one thing and one thing only.

Home shopping!
¡Telenovelas en español!
And religion...lots and lots of religion.

I cannot pick up TCM on my TV set.  Staring up into the heavens in a manner that Phil Silvers would be proud of, I said to no one in particular: “I’ll bet you’re enjoying the heck out of this, aren’t you?”  If there’s a cloud to this silver lining I’m good to go on any other channel that, alas, I have precious little interest in…this might be a slight exaggeration but each of the remaining digital selections are either home shopping networks, channels in Spanish or those lame sitcoms the Disney people crank out with mind-numbing regularity.

Faced with the prospect that I shelled out a little over two hundred dollars for a TV set that behaves precisely as the one in the living room, I made my way out to that area and sank down in my chair, disgusted.  My mother, intuitive nurturer that she is, immediately knew that there was something wrong and so I explained the situation to her.  With the problem solving skills that she has acquired through years and years of mothering, she suggested that I take the cable box back to my room so that I can get TCM in there.  “Your father and I rarely watch anything past channel 67 anyway,” she explains.  Brilliant!  I think to myself.  So much so that I immediately dismantled the elaborate set up and proudly carried the box back to my boudoir.

It is then that I encountered Snag #2.  The plug on the new TV set is three-pronged, and the plug on the cable box (you plug the TV into the box) is missing a prong.  A minor setback, but I managed to locate an adaptor to put on the TV plug…which introduced me to Snag #3 in that the adaptor won’t “stay put” on the plug.

So this is the portion of the show where I started to make those squealy frustration noises like Curly Howard always did…and I ventured back out to the living room to tell my Mom that I’m going to have to switch TV sets…she and Dad will get the new one, and I’ll take the old one.  That’s when Snag #4 pokes his ugly head in the door—the cable won’t reach to the table where I planned to sit the old TV, and the only other alternative is to sit it on the top shelf of my computer desk, which is just asking for trouble because if it ever falls off and I just happen to be sitting at my computer it will land on me and kill me.

Mom keeps insisting that I take the new TV because it’s lighter and will sit easier on the computer desk shelf (I’ll also not risk getting a hernia lifting the old set up there).  But there’s still that nagging, pesky problem with the mismatched adaptor plugs between TV and cable box.  Stymied at every turn by my valiant attempts to brighten up my work area with The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ (ka-ching!), I take temporary leave of my senses and decide to call CharredHer about the problem.

Yes, I know…because my life so closely resembles a sitcom I sometimes act like a character on one in that I often do idiotic things without rhyme or reason other than to move the plot along.  The person I spoke with offered no workable solutions that wouldn’t end up costing my family and I more money on our cable bill—namely, we would have to add a second cable box so I could access the channels, an added expense that both my father and mother would use profanity about at a moment’s notice.  Here are some edited highlights from the conversation I had with the CSR:

ME: I can’t comprehend why I can’t pick up TCM on this TV…when your guy installed the cable he assured me that I wouldn’t need another cable box.
CSR: Well, you probably misunderstood him.  You can pick up the basic and expanded package but any of the other channels will…
ME (interrupting): I didn’t misunderstand him…I asked him specifically if I would be able to receive TCM without a cable box and he said there would be no problem.
CSR: Well, when we had TCM positioned at channel 52, technically you would have been able to watch it—but since it’s been moved you need the box.

I’m not making this up, by the way.  I woke up one morning and turned on TCM…only to find programming from BET in its place.  Trying not to panic or hyperventilate, I conducted a search of the onscreen schedule and eventually located Tee Cee Em’s new neighborhood at channel 164, right after the Fox Movie Channel (163).  The irony of this is—if I had still been living at my old apartment, I’d be without TCM and you would have heard my reaction to this as far out as Seattle.  (I didn’t have the same package we do now.)  This was further compounded by the amusing heads-up that we sent on our cable box’s messaging system, which informed us that there might be subtle changes to the lineup on a certain date…and the message was dated three days after the date of the change.

ME: Then why the need to move the channel?  It wasn’t bothering anybody...
CSR: Well, we have no control over that.
ME: What do you mean you have no control over it?  You’re the Charter Cable company, aren’t you?

She then offers some lame explanation about how those channel location decisions are made by some mysterious “network”—I don’t know who these people are, but if I had to hazard a guess, their board of directors probably consists of representatives from both Netflix and CBS Home Entertainment…their weekly agenda consisting of spirited discussions on how they can continue to screw classic movie fans, probably done while stroking white cats in their laps.  I had to stop talking to the CharredHer CSR because every avenue I went down ended up with us having to shell out more money, and if we continued on that present course I’d end up channeling my inner Rip Torn from Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story:  “Son, you’re about as useful as a cock-flavored lollypop…”

This experience has left me bloodied but bowed…I just need to redouble my efforts to get TCM working in my bedroom, and I’ll probably end up knuckling under and footing the bill for another cable box (I apparently need a “special” cable box because of the HD TV).  Again, because I always try to look for clouds in silver lining, I was able to find where the Me-TV was hidden on the new TV (it’s listed as D39-2); I started channel surfing again last night and was never so happy to see Hawkeye and Trapper John in my life.  (Rick Brooks got a taste of Me-TV recently and while he wasn’t wild about the fact that most of its programming is edited and/or on DVD it’s an oasis here in the bedroom portion of Rancho Yesteryear.)  Speaking of DVD, I’ve put a few discs in the set’s player, and it works out pretty nice so I can at least program what I want to watch if there’s nothing worth tuning in.  But that’s going to just about do it for this week’s episode of Ivan’s Wacky Life…so roll the credits and theme song!


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2 comments:

Brent McKee said...

I will be honest with you. I have never heard of a system where you need to plug the TV into the Cable Box for the system to work. I'm gob-smacked, not that a cable company would distribute such an abomination but that an engineer would willingly design and create such a thing. Usually they have more self-respect.

Stacia said...

Holy cow, Ivan. When you start quoting Rip Torn, I know you're serious.

You might want to check with some Radio Shack-type place to see if there are adaptors you can buy which would fit snugly. You can definitely get cable line to extend what you already have. Over the years we've collected about 50 feet of extra cable just in case. Even moving furniture around to get that big TV close to the current cable cord you have now would be cheaper than a second box. Just please do not risk winding up on an episode of World's Funniest Television-Based Deaths.