A television from Santa

Vizio 42 inch

Our TV gets switched on for the first time - it's already a much-loved family member

The Christmas spirit in our household is on 42-inch, crystal-clear high definition as of today. My parents forked out a huge amount of money – about $600 including tax – to replace our old relic of a television that looked like it belonged on the set of Friends, circa 1996.

The new television was a hot topic for a while. Should we get it? Who has the best deal? What size? After heated debates that would put the American presidential nominees to shame, the parents ventured to Costco to talk to their friend Mike, a man who has advised them on a fortune’s worth of electronic goods. They know Costco Mike so well, I kind of felt like they owed him a Christmas card and some homemade cookies. Instead, Mike had the misfortune of listening to my dad’s probing questions for 10 minutes. Merry Christmas, Mike.

With the purchase made, it was a small matter of getting the damn thing in the car. It’s not like chucking your groceries in the trunk. When my dad told me it might not fit in our Toyota Camry before he left the house to buy it, I scoffed. ‘Of course it’s going to fit,’ I said confidently. My dad, as usual, did not believe me and got the measuring tape out and then stomped out to the car. Having now seen the size of the television and the box it came in, I can understand why he was worried. It’s huge. The box alone could be reused to erect a doll’s house made out of cardboard, should you have a crafty bone in your body. I don’t, so it’s going to get chucked away with the recycling.

Old Sony television

This television is no longer welcome in the family room and awaits its fate

Televisions are a big deal in the United States and other countries where people have a fair amount of disposable income (or access to a lot of credit cards). But it was a surprise to hear my parents discuss their new purchase with their friends. It went something like this:

Mother: ‘We got a new television today. Yes, we finally replaced the old one.’

Friend: ‘How big is it?’

Mother: ‘It’s 42 inches!’

Friend: Oh my god, Steve [the Friend’s husband]. They got a 42-inch television. That must be bigger than ours.’

Steve mumbles something in the background.

Friend: ‘Actually, ours is 50 inches.’

I am not going to make any snide remarks about how this could sound a little sexual. That would just be crude.

Sitting around the dinner table tonight, my mother summarized this whole telephone conversation. It prompted her to ask the English Husband what size our television is in London.

‘It’s 32 inches,’ he replied.

‘It might be smaller,’ I added. (I generally assume everything about our life in the UK is on a smaller scale.)

‘They don’t make them any smaller,’ said my mother.

I’d like to correct her American presumption that televisions don’t come smaller than 32 inches, because they most definitely do. I’ve seen them in a countless number of flats. But I suspect they no longer get made in black and white, which makes me wonder why the BBC even bothers with the black-and-white television licence.

Television box

The size of this box caused my dad a few headaches in the Costco parking lot

Our newly installed television looks like it could be a piece of modern art – it’s so sleek and stylish. I fight the temptation to kiss it. We are still behind most American households, however, who average about three of these monstrosities. If you want to know what this television means to my brother, who has just been given a Playstation 3 for his birthday, read my blog about taking part in a survey about our television viewing habits.

Merry watching, everyone.

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Filed under American life, holidays

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