I Won't Buy Cable Because I'd Have Too Much to Watch

August 18, 1991

Dear Cable Company,

Thank you for your kind offer to hook us up. I like to see people excited about their product, even if they can't sell it to me. And don't take this personally, but you won't be able to sell me your product for a long time.

I'm not going to strike the kind of pose I used to and say there's nothing worth watching, even on all those channels. The problem is that there's too much to watch.

The more you tell me about the movies, news, comedy and children's programs I can buy from you, the more I imagine the images backing up in my set, all pleading "Watch me, watch me" -- while my books beg "Read me, read me," my letters cry "Answer me, answer me" and the house -- well, the house doesn't plead, beg or cry, it demands, "Clean me, maintain me . . ."

I know about time-shifting -- recording programs to watch later -- but my time is shifted as it is.

I work during prime time, which means most programs pass me by on the first run. (Does it tell you something that I've never seen "Cheers"?) I'll sometimes read about a promising program and ask my wife to record it for me if it seems worthwhile, as we used to do for "thirtysomething." But much as we liked that show, I don't know if I'd ever have started watching if I hadn't been home on parental leave when it made its debut.

The trouble is that when I'm home and awake there's the house to keep up (it took marriage to show me how householders live in Looking-Glass land, where it takes all the running you can do to stay in the same place), errands to run, my daughter to be a daddy to . . . you know, life. Because of that, I seem to have, at any given moment, at least half a dozen hours of programming waiting to be viewed.

I understand that's not much for cable freaks, but it's plenty for someone with a semi-permanent bad conscience about all the )) things he has to do, and wants to do, and hasn't done yet. Paying to trade my hand-me-down VCR for a cable-capable model, and then paying every month -- and, like a drug user, paying more and more, as you raise your prices for the top services -- so I can have another magazine to go through and have even more tapes-to-be-viewed piling up, is the opposite of my idea of fun.

The more I think about getting cable, the more it reminds me of buying a boat. Unless you're very rich, you don't make that kind of investment without planning to give it all your spare time. And then you don't know whether you own the boat or it owns you.

I can't say that I'll never say yes to your advances. When my daughter's friends grow old enough to notice that we're not wired, they could make her so miserable that even a parent with a due suspicion of peer pressure might have to give in. Or I could get a day job. Anything might happen. But for now, let's just stay friends.

% With sincere regards,

Jeffrey M. Landaw

Jeffrey Landaw is a makeup editor with The Sun.

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