Back in the early 80s my brother and I wanted to get a dog. Badly. We also lived in an area where TV reception was spotty (at best) and if we wanted to watch Star Trek reruns we had to go outside and spin the big aerial antenna around to pick up ABC. How are these two items related?
My parents weren’t “pet people”. I am sure they never had any intention whatsoever of letting us get that dog. But what they did know was that in early 80s America a new pop sensation – a music television channel! – was sweeping America. And for two early-teens boys, getting cable in order to get MTV was a priority.
Maybe you can see where this is going: we were given the choice between cable and a dog, and chose cable. That began a decades-long relationship between cable TV and me. Briefly I had satellite TV (once in Moscow, and once in New Jersey) but a cable always piped in a signal from somewhere into the house.
But a couple of years ago we got a Roku device, which completely changed how we watch TV. We started watching movies, at first, and then noticed that good, solid educational programs from PBS, Nick Jr., etc. were also available. Bubelah watched Russian TV and movies on a laptop, and my sports intake dropped dramatically with two busy little toddlers. I didn’t want to spend one of two weekend days glued to the TV throughout the fall and winter watching the NFL, especially since I’m a Jets fan and they don’t get shown much in this Jacksonville market (we get Bucs, Jags and Falcons).
So we finally dropped cable TV. We kept the high-speed internet. And we even dropped our VOIP “landline” in favor of our mobile phones and Skype. Now, we aren’t getting rid of the medium altogether. I’m not one of those people who is ready to quit watching the idiot box altogether – I do enjoy movies. I think some television is good for children, because they will get exposed to it one way or the other. And some shows and movies do teach, albeit only a little bit.
We’ll still have access to broadcast channels, but other than PBS I doubt we’ll ever watch them. I’ll probably tune in to an occasional football game, but if there’s an NFL lockout (as seems likely now) my sports viewing will drop to almost nothing. We’ll still let the kids watch their favorite shows, and we’ll still catch Anthony Bourdain on Netflix once in a while.
So who knows how I’ll feel about this move in a few months, but saving $70 a month for something we didn’t use much and really only used for mindless viewing (”hey, let’s watch Bad Boys II for the nth time!” or “look, House Hunters International is in El Salvador!”) doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Plus, I changed my car’s oil by myself this weekend – reading Early Retirement Extreme must have had some kind of effect on me.