E is working under a very important deadline for an exciting project, so I don’t want to disturb him. Poor E doesn’t belong to a writers’ organization where he rents out a desk (and he can’t pretend to be me and use mine). Therefore, he’s working on his project at home. And I must not disturb him. So I am not turning on the TV. If one person is watching TV in our apartment, then everyone is watching TV—there is no way to avoid it.
This life without TV has strange sounds in it. For instance I know that someone above me was just doing the dishes; I can hear the pipes flush their soapsuds down. There is a hush, a shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh out in the airshaft, is that the sound of our city breathing? I can hear the turning of my own head. My swallow. My fingers tapping on these keys.
A life without TV involves conversation. E will read a line from his project aloud, a whole scene. When there is no TV you do things such as make eye contact. You notice things in your apartment that you haven’t looked at in a long while because whenever your eyes were in that direction they were trained on the TV. For instance a photograph. A book you forgot you had and still want to read. Your birthday flowers. Your new toys.
I grew up without television. Either we were living in a house that got no reception, or else we weren’t allowed to watch. Anything beyond Sesame Street or Mister Rogers would rot our brains, you see. And even now, it is when the TV isn’t on to drown out my reality that I see the places where my brain has gone rotten. I am not used to living without commercials. I might lose track of time altogether. I might not know when it is time to get up and brush my teeth.