The Serpent Beguiled Me

I ask that the readers of this service beg my pardon for a digression from the usual line of library topics in order to assist me with a personal difficulty. Today, while I was minding my own business a disaster befell my household.

I ask that the readers of this service beg my pardon for a digression from the usual line of library topics in order to assist me with a personal difficulty. Today, while I was minding my own business a disaster befell my household. This morning’s sun lit the eastern sky with the promise of a pleasant summer day: I went to the gym as usual, and then as is often my habit, to the library; I go to libraries even when I don’t have anything special in mind, simply because they please me so much and moreover set the day off to a good start.

After that a cup of strong coffee and a Danish, and the short ride home up the hill. Unbeknownst to me, a peril was lurking in my neighborhood, waiting to put an end to the peace and tranquility, even to the very way of life I had known for decades. There, at the end of my driveway sat a delivery truck whose contents—well, I will let the reader decide for herself.

The delivery man said, “I have a large box for your address.” With that he proceeded to the rear of his vehicle, lowered a ramp and rolled off a hand truck upon which sat a corrugated vessel no smaller than the Titanic whose side was emblazoned with an electronics manufacturer’s logo. I fell immediately into a sort of shock; though I had expected this, the actual arrival was altogether too much for me to absorb. The man pushed his burden up the walk, then hefted the box into my living room. I signed some papers, and became the custodian—I shudder to say ‘owner,’ of a television set, the first one beneath any roof of mine since I was in knickers.

A while ago my wife, she of the traveling business dodge, sent me an email informing me that she had, through the accumulation of certain mileage points, gained enough credits to choose herself virtually anything from a particular catalog of amusements, one of which turned out to be the aforementioned television. It turned out that she desired this television badly, mostly for its ability to play DVD movies. Wife does not often ask for things; when she does it means she wants them badly. Being as I am a good husband (and being as I have not brought any bread into this home since beginning library school two years ago) I thought the better response would be to go along—perhaps she would forget.

She didn’t forget. I forgot, until today. Until this day I had not owned a TV set; not seen a single episode of Seinfeld, Cheers, Baywatch or any of that other dreck since before I left home for the navy in 1974. I had my own dreck in the form of televised baseball, but I managed to keep the shame of that pastime in the tavern where it belonged alongside my other favorite vice, to be enjoyed sparingly, then left behind and denied the next morning if I were questioned.

Now the devil inhabits my own home. I have been one of those people who blame television for a good proportion of the ills of society, especially the inability of ordinary folk to listen without interrupting and the tendency to require information to be digested into very tiny bits. If television doesn’t make idiots it certainly caters to them—and now I’m feeding that particular dragon, and a big one he is. The thing resembles nothing so much as a refrigerator fallen upon its side; there are smaller screens at drive-in movie theaters. I can’t move the thing by myself, not so much because of the weight, but owing to the fact that it is bigger around than a circus elephant.

I wanted very much to hide the thing somewhere, but can’t. When I can I’m going to shove it away in the spare bedroom. That way visitors won’t know we have one—I feel rather like a moonshiner or the proprietor of a crackhouse. But I wonder: why should I? Pretty soon I’ll probably get used to the thing. In no time at all, I’ll be watching fourteen year-old call-girls pouring out their hearts to Oprah, or following the soaps; I’ll be able to talk with authority at the water cooler about whatever bloody cop show is getting the ratings. If I want to impress a fellow watcher, I can always mention that I saw something on PBS, whether I stayed awake to the end or not.

As for the library, I would imagine my focus on that that will recede into the distance as my mind is taken over by commercial programming and the latest in recorded home entertainment. Perhaps I can find a library with a good selection of recent movies to fill the hours I might have wasted on those grimy old books.

And so, I have fallen after all these years. I suppose, like Adam, I could blame my wife for the loss of Eden, but that won’t make it any simpler to live in this brave new world.

Michael McGrorty