Shall We Begin? - 07.12.99

Last night, I was out rollerblading when I saw something that caught my attention. Instead of devoting more time and thought to it at that moment, though, I stored away a mental note to remember just what I had seen and come back to it later. I had just ridden by an alley in which a small television box was sitting with what looked like a television actually inside it. As with other less-important mental notes, it got filed away further than I had originally expected, and I completely forgot about it until today, which turned out not being such a bad thing anyway.

When I remembered the box with the television, it was rapidly approaching dusk, and I decided to take a roundabout walk to the grocery store, just to see if it was still there by some off chance. Sure enough, it was, and upon second glance it looked to be in pretty good condition. I made another mental note on the way to the grocery store. I was going to come out later after it had gotten dark and snag the television, just to see if it still worked. Not only am I a big fan of dumpster diving, but finding electronic items that still might be working is more of an added bonus. My roomate in college had found all kinds of cool electronic stuff that people had thrown away (including enough parts to assemble an entire working computer), and I was revved to see if I could have some luck of my own (even though it was just a television).

When I got home from grocery shopping, I laid a couple plastic bags right out in the middle of the floor, just to remind me that I needed to take out the trash, and in turn take a little stroll to get that TV. I had doubts about getting it the first time that I saw it, but since it had been sitting there for well over a day I thought that it needed to be liberated. Besides, it was kind of fun just to go out and act semi-sneaky for once.

The other interesting thing about finding a television was that I hadn't owned one before. Although it really wasn't any big deal, I felt sort of strange thinking that if I was lucky and things worked, I would actually have a television in my apartment. This was a machine I had made fun of so many times in the past, and even had a postcard hanging on my door that said "Television is the alien inside our homes." I was torn for a moment, but then thought it might be a good way for me to catch more news and decided to go through with it.

On my first trip up the alley, I simply strolled on by casually as if I was out for a nightly walk. While I was walking, though, I scanned the area ahead of me on all sides just to make sure that there wasn't anybody out. Sure, it wasn't any big deal if someone saw me taking the television out of someone else's garbage, but I really didn't want a bunch of people seeing me on the way back to my apartment. While there was no real offense in what I was doing, it might look a bit suspicious if I were just out walking around with a television.

After rounding a corner and finding that there was absolutely nobody out on a Sunday night at 11pm, I quickly made my way back to where the television was and snatched it up out of the box almost without stopping. The cord dangled for a moment before I caught it with my other hand and the whole thing was light enough that I could sling it down by my side and walk along fairly nonchalantly.

I made it up to my apartment without anyone seeing me, and sat it down on the floor next to an outlet. I plugged in the cord, hit the power button, and the screen instantly flickered to life. The casing seemed to be in really good shape and although I could get nothing but static on the stations as I flipped through, I still wasn't deterred. It was also about this time that I noticed the television said "remote control sensor" on the front of it. Without much hesitation, I turned it off and was out the door again, this time with a flashlight.

The alley was still completely deserted, and I walked right up to the box and snooped around inside it. Underneath a chunk of styrofoam was a small, black remote control, so I scooped it up and put it into my pocket before turning around and again heading home. Two AAA batteries later, the television came to life again as I sat 15 feet away from it and punched the buttons on the remote. Things were starting to get fun.

After messing around with some of the settings and a coathanger, I was starting to get blurry images of people on the set and little choked bits of sound through the white noise. I still couldn't tell whether it was a black and white or color set because the picture was so bad, but I was having a lot of fun trying. I reasoned that even if I couldn't get it working, I could still film myself smashing it to bits and have yet another piece of propaganda in my rants against them.

A few more strategic bends later, the coathanger was tucked to the side of the television and the picture was crystal-clear on 6 channels, and I had a couple more with questionable audio/video. By this time, it was about 11:30pm, so of course, nothing was on. I sat it up in a corner and turned it off from my computer desk and here is where I sit.

At this point, I'm still kind of feeling good for finding a completely working 14" remote control color television in the trash. Although I've ranted against them in the past, I'm going to simply go through a few experiments with this one before deciding whether I should pawn it in or simply give it away to someone else. The main thing I know that I'll use it for is to listen to the news during the evening and stay caught up on things (I've found myself to be kind of a news-hound lately), but I have an admitted weakness for Politically Incorrect as well, so that will probably find it's way onto the set once in awhile as well. Like other things I said I wouldn't do, I can easily give it up if I feel like I'm getting too addicted to it. Stay tuned...