The day they screened out the TV

By

`I'M bored!'' I yelled, for three months solid. The complaint is doubtless one that many parents can easily imagine emanating from the mouths of their offspring. But for three months nonstop? I can picture myself now, draped determinedly across a piece of string that hung horizontally in our kitchen - like a cheap imitation of the more noble-minded woman suffragettes that I'd seen pictures of, chaining themselves to railings. But then my statement was not a complaint, it was a strident protest at what I perceived as my parents' totally repressive behavior.

They sent away the TV set!

Now heroes come and go in all shapes and sizes. Some have their praises sung in song, or printed in capital letters in the press. But sometimes there are real heroics going on in private quarters, right out of the public eye. Such an act of heroism was my parents' decision to deprive of us of the television. I don't know whether it was a financial decision or a moral one - but it sure was a brave one.

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Besides my in-kitchen protestations, I'd come home complaining of how all the other kids were chatting in the playground about all the programs I hadn't seen. How could you be in with the in-crowd if you were out of all the ``in'' topics of conversation? It seemed an intolerable burden for a teen-ager to have to bear. So I took it out on my parents. My brother, more sensibly, got involved in making model aircraft and using other talents I didn't have. So my resistance was single-handed. And my outlook was single-minded. Besides proclaiming my state of boredom, I perfected the art of being bored, so as to justify my demand - the return of the TV.

But my parents surfed the tides of teen-age tyranny with persistence and an abundance of infuriating patience. They probably knew that one day my protest would become a prophecy, and I'd really be bored; bored of being bored. And it happened - I found my own stubbornness pretty dull company after a while.

So I sneaked away from my self-imposed chains when no one was looking. (No one ever is looking in these cases, but try convincing a rebellious teen-ager of that!) I crept undetected up to my bedroom and knew that even if I couldn't join my brother in his show of creativity, there had to be a way of finding my own. Our older brother had gone gallivanting across the globe, camera in hand and artistic eye leading the way, and he'd left behind a cute typewriter.

So I started typing. Nothing minor. A rebel always writes whole books, never short stories. Only problem was getting past the third chapter - which is where the plot had to start tying together. I had a wardrobe drawer that was becoming stuffed with a whole collection of Chapters 1 to 3. But I enjoyed it. I stopped complaining at my parents and got more heavily involved in complaining at Chapter 4 for refusing to materialize.

Then my Britain-bound brother went away to college in another city, so I more modestly attempted a newsletter. Then I went to college myself and discovered the delights of diary-scribing. Then everything came together beautifully. I discovered that if you don't number your chapters, there is no Chapter 4 to thwart your progress. And thus I finished a novella to pass around to friends. They survived the experience, and I thrived not so much on owning the completed product as on the exhilaration of being involved in its coming to life.

But there is a new problem that has risen phoenix-like from the ashes of that initial bout of honest, if misguided, protest:

It's not that I have anything against ``the box,'' as it's affectionately known around here. There are a couple of comedy series that have brought me great pleasure. And I love sneaking downstairs to catch a midnight movie. It's just those ``in'' topics of conversation that I had regretted being unable to participate in.

Now I listen patiently, because my parents' fine example taught me the value of patience. I hear the words pouring forth. But, grateful now that their tactics made me change from soaking up entertainment to catching precious glimpses of endless possibilities on offer - when the talk turns to television, its dramas, and its melodramas, its stars, and their public or private lives ...

Quite frankly, my heart's silently protesting with a yell, ``I'm bored!''

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