Requiem for a television

How do you bid adieu to an appliance? A member of Salon's reader community, Table Talk, takes a crack at it this week.

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Private Life

Off Topic: Still Not Owned by Rupert Murdoch

bookseller — 05:36 pm Pacific Time — Sep 21, 2007 — #5515 of 5968

So I just got a call from my mother, extremely peevish — think overtired three-year-old (only without the screaming and kicking). After some mystification on my part, I realized the reason for her crankiness: Her TV broke last night, and the new one will not be delivered till tomorrow. I suggested that she betake herself to the movie theater half a block away, but she (pouting audibly) said that she had seen the movie, and besides, going to the movies tonight — which happens to be Yom Kippur, one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar — would be “disrespectful” to her neighbors (whom she loathes). I suggested that, actually, her (extremely religious) neighbors were probably at synagogue and were in any case unlikely to be spending this sacred evening keeping tabs on whether she went to the movies, and that if she were really concerned about offending them, she could DRESS UP like she was going to synagogue and then sneak off to the movies. I further said that if she were to, say, purchase a 50 Cent CD, rearrange her speakers so that they faced directly toward the common wall, and play the CD at top volume, that perhaps would be disrespectful. I also said that if she were, for example, to fry up a pound of bacon, after having directed a fan to waft the fumes into the common hallway — the one shared with her neighbors who are ritualistically fasting this evening — that, too, could be considered disrespectful. But she remained peevish.

So then (borrowing a scene from a great old George Segal movie), I pretended to BE the TV set. “We’ll be right back,” I said, “with Bravo’s 100 Greatest Songs of the British Invasion. Shake it up Sadie, shake it up Sadie, Twist and shout, twist and … call within the next five minutes, and we’ll send you not only the miraculous Oxygenated Chicken-Plucker but also your very own live chicken. And you’ll tell us it’s the best chicken you’ve ever … So the arsenic was in her bag the whole time? Unbelievable. Well, the workings of the human mind are pretty twisted at times [cue theme music from "Gone With the Wind" -- I couldn't remember the theme music from "CSI"] Ferry cross the Mersey … we’re back, with the 100 Greatest Songs of the …”

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Nope, still peevish. I, however, am wheezing with laughter. I’m just killing myself here. I ask if she would like me to say a prayer for the dead television set. She, again, says something about its being Yom Kippur — this, you understand, is the woman who once made a pork roast for her kosher-keeping colleague when he came to dinner on a Friday night — and I offered to say it in Hebrew. She bet me five bucks that I couldn’t, so I sang the Hebrew grace before meals, which I happen to know by heart but which is also the only Hebrew prayer I know. She refused to give me the five bucks, on the grounds that it was a grace before meals, and didn’t have anything to do with the dead TV.

So then I eulogized the TV. I asked if she had named it, and she got very affronted, saying that only white trash named their possessions, besides which, naming it would imply that she had forgiven it, which she hadn’t. So I said that Death is always difficult, and never more so than when it comes freighted with unspoken angers and resentments, words we never had a chance to utter and that will now have to remain unsaid. But even as we acknowledge and honor those feelings — and we must, for they are valid — we must not allow them to overshadow our genuine grief at the passing of Television Set, which gave good and faithful service throughout its life, and which moreover was purchased on sale. We must gently push away our irritation at Television Set, and allow ourselves to be grateful that it has now moved on to … to Television Land.

At this point I attempt to imitate a trumpet playing “Taps,” but I am snickering so convulsively that it doesn’t really work.

I am a very good daughter.

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