Television was much more interactive than it is now, in modern times. Video games were not yet invented, but you interacted with the set by beating on any of the old black-and-white RCA, Motorola or Philco floor models until the picture returned. There is nowhere to hit a modern flat-screen television.
Back then, if an open-handed slap on the side, or the bottom of a fisted hand on top of the wooden cabinet didn’t solve the reception problem, someone could always go outside and turn the antenna and trust me, as the youngest in the family, I was always the designated antenna turner. My brother — who was not customer friendly — shouted directions. The placement of antenna outside was as important as was the location of the television inside the house. Usually, both were located near a window where the big brother could bark orders directly to the younger brother. Otherwise, my sister would have to act as a relay.
The scenario sounded something like this:
“Which way do you want me to turn it?
It was a legitimate question because the direction depended on which channel we wanted to watch.
Turn it a little more to the left — you passed it! Back to the right?
Just a touch. Wait! That’s it, stop! You passed it. Turn it back to the left just a little bit — what are you doing out there?!
I’m trying to turn the antenna!
Well, go back to where you were in the first place and start all over ...”
Back then, airwaves belonged to the people and television programming was free to the public. Apparently, the people sold the airwaves a couple of years ago. Old-fashioned television antennas still stand above houses here and there, but for the most part, television is not free. Now there are cable companies selling telephone service and telephone companies offering television programming.
Customer service has not improved much since 1959, when “The Bell Telephone Hour,” sponsored by Bell Telephone, made the switch from radio to television. In 1959, if the reception wasn’t good, you could always wait and maybe it would get better. If turning the antenna or a violent act against the set didn’t work, there was no one to call.
I was having trouble with one of the “interactive” services about a month ago. It was a minor service, but it was supposed to be a function of one of the little boxes the installer put on my self next to the high definition flat-screen TV. It was supposed to work and I wanted it.
I looked for someplace to hit the television or one of the boxes. I turned them on and off, unplugged them and even read the instructions in six different languages — all to no avail. Defeated, I called the 1-800 number and was connected to a computer. I didn’t like talking with the computer and I’m not real sure it was happy talking with me. By the end of the conversation, it invited me to call back. I didn’t.
I had knee surgery about two weeks ago, so while I was home recuperating with nothing else to do, I called the computer. It didn’t remember me, but it seemed much more customer friendly this time, though it could have been the hydrocodone. We talked until it was satisfied it could not help me, then it transferred me to a Level 1 technician in India. He was a very nice man and after 120 minutes, I took another hydrocodone and felt compelled to befriend him on Facebook and add him to my Christmas card list. He finally transferred me to a Level 2 technician in Arizona, who fixed the problem in 28 minutes.
I don’t remember turning the antenna for 148 minutes.
But anyway, a narrator used to end each episode of the “Naked City” with the following statement: There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.