By VINCENT CARDEGIN
AWARD WINNING COLUMNIST
Occasionally we didn’t get TV Guide. I don’t know if it’s because we couldn’t afford it that week or if Mom or Dad just didn’t get to the store on time. Later, when I was old enough to go to the store by myself, I discovered that the guide always sold out real quick. There were some Saturdays when I was able to snatch up the last copy, and others when the rack was bare. When that happened, we’d have to get a newspaper. But now and then we didn’t even have that. Nevertheless, as Sayer I had long since memorized the lineup of those three channels, which seldom to never varied during a season.
But by the fall of 1968 I had outgrown the knack of Sayer of the Shows, due to puberty. I still looked forward to my favorite programs, now more adult shows like Star Trek and Hawaii Five-0, but I had no interest in reading the Guide. However, all of us kids were still Changers. In fact, I distinctly remember my younger brother’s first time. One night Dad said to him, “Change the channel.” Almost in a panic, wearing his full-length pajamas and his hair still wet from his bath, he sat directly in front of the set, which was on the floor like a piece of furniture, its casing made of wood. Dad said to him, “You make a better door than a window,”—ah, I remember him telling me that many times my first few nights—and my brother scooted to the side. Then before Dad could say it, I instructed my brother, “Don’t switch so fast. You’ll wear out the knob.” And yes, I used him as Changer many times after that, until late one Saturday morning after Roy Rogers, when it must have occurred to him that I wasn’t Dad, he told me, “Change it yourself.” But I swear that the first three numbers he ever learned to recognize were 4,5, and 12.
It was during that time when we started rebelling against Dad’s quest for entertainment. Click click click and from a half-second of scene or a single note of theme music, recognition flashed in our brains and whoever was changing would lean back so as not to see those dots on the screen.
“Let’s try—” Dad would attempt, but we’d proclaim, “What? This is our favorite show! We want to watch this!” and stare at him like he was someone who needed to be held still with extra-long sleeves. Most of the time he’d give in and either watch with us or decide he had better things to do and left for another room or outside or whatever. We never knew exactly what he did, or what anyone could possibly think to do when such a good show was on. But sometimes he would insist on continuing his search, would point out that it was a rerun, or that the show was stupid, or if all else failed, that it was his television and he didn’t want to watch that show. When that happened we were doomed to switching past the channel or viewing a portion of the show along with bits of others while Dad endlessly evaluated all for watchability.
A decade or so later, I looked forward to tasking my own kids with those responsibilities. But by the time they were old enough, technology prevented it: remotes, and way too many channels to memorize.