I thought I was dying.
I thought it was a heart attack.
But really, it was just the sudden shock brought about when I had the overwhelming misfortune to look closely at my cable bill. Like many of us, I have most of our monthly obligations on an online auto-pay system, whereby the money is magically swooshed out of our checking account and into the waiting arms of the gas and electric guys, the cell phone guys, the water and sewer guys, and all the other great, grand guys who expect prompt payment from me on a regular basis. This is a good thing, in that it's a task that gets done right when it's supposed to, without any need for me to sit down, find the bill, dig out a checkbook, track down a pen that actually works, locate my glasses, and then, despite all odds, actually mail the thing. The bad news is that it's easy to forget just how much money we're spending, except on the occasions when I take a closer-than-usual look at what's going on with our incredible shrinking bank account.
Who knew I was paying sixteen million dollars a month for basic cable tv, an internet connection and my home phone?
Well, not quite. But over time, our regular charges have grown--and grown--to represent a fairly significant chunk of change. Significant to me, at least, especially when you consider the relative quality of said television programming, online content and most of the telephone calls received. I suppose I could cut back somewhere else, and maybe cease smuggling home those pricy little chocolate and yogurt-covered thingees that I adore. But we know that's not going to happen, so why bother talking about it?
But I do believe something has gotta go.
The reason the cable folks seem like good candidates for the cut-back has to do with the way their attitude towards me has evolved--or, rather, devolved over the years.
Why is it, I wonder, that they practically sent candy and flowers to get my business in the first place? But now that I've been a good, faithful, steady-paying customer for years, they treat me like the guy who dumped their sister on the night of the senior prom. My bill has steadily grown, while potential new customers receive a never-ending stream of amazing low-cost offers from the same darn company, plus an ever-growing host of competitors. I have friends who have called and threatened to cancel, and then received temporary discounted deals of their own. But it's my feeling that the company already ought to know I'd rather pay less if I could, but is pretty happy with the way things are right now. And anyway, the nearly two months I've spent in the grip of these modern marvels since we came back from our no-technology beach house on the North Carolina shore have just about worn me out. At the very least, the experience has convinced me of now much I don't miss when I'm away from television, the world wide web and the phone on the wall.
Because, here's the thing. Most of what I end up viewing on the tube is dumb, mean-spirited, semi-obscene or a repeat, and the Cubs seem to manage to lose every time I watch them. Constant access to the internet just means I have more chances to see pictures of people's cats, streaming videos of embarrassing moments in the lives of total strangers, and cajoling emails from desperate, expatriated Nigerian princes. And while I kind of like having a home phone, along with the phone number that's been associated with us for just about 40 years, about 99.9% of the calls we receive are home improvement and repair salesmen, interest group pollsters and purveyors of fabulous vacation trips that I'll never take.
So, I'm giving serious thought to cutting the cord, so to speak; to canceling our cable tv, internet and home phone service. A set of digital rabbit ears ought to give me access to some network tv and local news, weather and sports. I have a mobil internet hotspot that we use when we travel, so I can check email and those cat pictures anytime I really need to. And while I still have a few friends who still use my home phone number when they want to get ahold of me, I'm sure they'd be happy to call my cell phone or send me a postcard instead.
Meanwhile, I'll read more and we'll resume having conversations that aren't timed to the next commercial. Social networking might be replaced to something more akin to a real social life. And I won't even have to embarrass myself by lying to the next storm window salesman who calls.
And who knows, maybe I'll even have the time to stop and think about things a little bit.
Nothing wrong with that, is there?