Less is More

A friend of ours swears that they don’t watch television. Ever. Period. But then days or weeks later they’ll tell us in passing about something they were watching. There are no points awarded for not watching television, or being up to date on the happenings of American Idol, The Office, or whatever people talk about around the proverbial water cooler.
My apartment does not have a view of the southern sky. If it did we would subscribe to satellite television. Not for the need of how ever many hundred channels at the crystal clear resolution that my dad raves about, but simply because of cost. Right now Dish Network is offering a free DVR upgrade, with a monthly bill of 19.99. A few years ago when we first moved to Washington we switched to satellite, which Comcast offered to buy back from us if we switched. A few months later when our apartment changed their policy on having dishes, we took them up on their offer. We had a great deal with digital cable with on demand, which had just come out. It was fun, for a while. Eventually the novelty wore off, and prices increased. Just coming back from six months at sea, I was happy to completely get rid of cable, and tv all together, not yet accustomed to miss it yet. My wife however was not so excited about that. So like in every good marriage we met somewhere in between on common ground. We dropped digital cable for the archaic basic cable.
Have you ever found yourself late in the evening flipping through the channels complaining that nothing is on? Sometimes even staying up late, trying to find something to watch? I’ve found myself watching tv just for sake of watching tv. Even when I had found something worth watching, i would still skip around saying, that I would come back it if I couldn’t find something better. There is nothing better. And still I will search for it during the commercial breaks. This is when I changed my television watching habits.
About a month ago when prices increased again we called Comcast and politely threatened to switch to satellite if they didn’t reduce our rates. When talking to the service or sales representative it helps to play dumb. When I called told them that my parents had just gotten satellite and were getting a pretty good deal on it. And because I’d be saving so much money I wanted to know if they could reduce my rates or I would be switching. This is where the sales pitch begins. For now cable’s advantage over dish is its High Definition capabilities. I had just bought a new TV, apparently one of last ones that isn’t HDTV according to the cable service rep, trying to persuade me that if I ever planned on switching cable was the way to go. For now I don’t care about HD, but if in the future I do there is an alternative to cable. With local network affiliates switching to an HD signal it is possible to pick it up with an HD antenna. A quick check at froogle or amazon showed me indoor HD antenna’s in the twenty to thirty dollar range. Less than what it would cost you for a months worth of HD cable. After accepting that I wasn’t letting up the cable representative offered to give me the new customer discount saving me $20 a month for the next six months. A total savings of $120.
But why stop there? Even with basic cable I still felt that I was still wasting too much time. So I programmed the channels that I don’t watch our of the rotation. Shopping networks, jesus networks, reality tv all the time networks, no longer come up when I’m scanning. With less to choose from, my watching has at least gotten more efficient. We are often obsessed with the availability of choices then the choices them selves. If I only have to choose from the most essential channels, instead of a hundred more that I didn’t even know I needed, the idea that something better must be on out here somewhere, has dwindled. Every week or so, or when I find myself flipping through the stations two or three times, I re evaluate what I’m really watching. I try to remove at least one more channel from the line up. Today I removed a few more. MSNBC, the Golf channel, Nick, and MTV. Eventually I suppose I will one day only be watching Northwest Cable News, CNBC, The Discovery Channel, and the Food Network in addition to regular network television.

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