The voice on the other end of the line kind of offended me. “So, what do you watch?” That was the question she asked. My response . . . I don’t watch. The line of inquiry about my television viewing habits was a little offensive because all I was doing was attempting to remove certain “free” services off of our Direct TV subscription. Apparently, before any services can be removed, a person must be grilled to unmentionable heights before those services will be removed. She wanted to know . . . “So, what do you watch?”
This story started several months ago when I was notified that the area cable company that provided us our television, Internet, and phone service was dropping the rural community where we live. With that notice I was served with the challenge of finding comparable services before being dropped into the no-service land with no means of contacting the outside world. That was nice of them to provide the warning . . . besides, for several years, I had been hinting to the family that we could do better. I was wrong . . . not completely wrong, but I was wrong.
There was nothing comparable for the price that I was paying. Turns out I already had a good deal despite only 40 viewing channels, sporadic telephone service whenever the wind blew (which in Montana is a daily occurrence), and semi-fast Internet service for just under a hundred dollars. In the few months I was given to find something to replace the service, I kept running into dead ends. I could find great telephone and Internet service, but no television service. There were no cable companies that serve our rural neck of the woods . . . only satellite companies like Direct TV. Plus they were nowhere comparable in price . . . I was going to pay anywhere from 50 to 100 percent more just for the privilege of being connected to the outside world.
As I stated above, I have not devoted even an hour a month to viewing television programming . . . I basically do not watch television. I have not watched television a whole bunch in over a decade. The only exception to that rule is when the University of Nebraska football team is playing a game on television . . . but living in Montana, that is few and far between. Occasionally I watch a show on the public station if it is something I really want to see . . . but, I have since learned that a lot of the programming that is offered on the local PBS station is also available on their website . . . so, why pay for it, plus I can watch it when I want to watch it. The bottom line is simple . . . I do not watch enough television to spend nearly a hundred bucks a month for the privilege of having my mind be made to mush.
Now, there are others in the house that do watch more than an hour of television a month. The wife told me I had to consider them, too, when making the decision . . . so, being the nice guy that I am, I bundled the whole kit-and-caboodle together . . . and, it came with a free three-month subscription to the movie channels like HBO and Cinemax. They called it the “premium package”—something like a couple of hundred extra channels of these movie stations in which people can watch recent movie releases, order movies to watch on demand, and basically get lost for a couple a years just trying to figure out which channel is which. I really didn’t want the free package, but they insisted that we try it . . . after all, it was for only three months. After three months I could drop it if I didn’t want it.
Of course, Direct TV doesn’t tell you when your three free months are up. There are no bells or ringers that announce that the three months are up. There are no emails letting you know that the offer has expired. No phone calls. Not even a snail mail notification. Nothing! That is when the whole problem began.
Upon receiving the monthly billing statement I noticed that we were suddenly being charged an extra 50 bucks. Examining the statement closer I saw that we were now being charged for our “premium package” . . . a “premium package” which, after polling all the inhabitants of the house, was not even being used. With this increase our so-called services had now doubled what we were paying prior to having to make the switch. As squeaky tight as I am when it comes to money . . . well, this was unacceptable. Thus my call to cancel the “premium package” . . . something I had been assured that I could do when we signed up for this privilege of being connected to the world.
First, I was put on hold with mind-numbing Muzak. Finally a real human-based voice spoke to me. I explained what I wanted to do . . . remove the “premium package” . . . and, was told that she would have to transfer me over to another department because she did not have the authority to deal with that issue. More Muzak . . . suddenly I was longing to be in an elevator far, far away . . . and, then, another voice. For a second time I explained that I wanted to remove the “premium package” from my service. I was greeted with pacifying “uh huhs” . . . and, “I will need to transfer you to another department to get this done.” Yeah, you know it . . . more Muzak.
Then the voice . . . the voice that I was assured would remedy this issue, free my wallet of its assault, and life would return to normal . . . and, no more Muzak. For the third time I explained what I wanted to do . . . remove the “premium package”. No sooner had I mentioned canceling the service that the person on the other end of the line began her interrogation . . . pleading and teasing with new offers . . . and, finally a “fine, we can do that. Could you please hold while I make a few changes on your account on my computer . . . enjoy the Muzak while waiting.”
I expected the counter-offers of new deals. I expected the questions about why I no longer wanted the “premium package”. What I did not expect was the inquiry about what I do watch on television. I doubt that she expected me to answer her with “nothing”. There was a pause on the other end . . . “Nothing?” came the reply. Nothing. I do not watch television. I have my reasons . . . primary is that it is a mind-numbing experience that brings no value into my life . . . there are other things that I could be doing . . . more productive things, more mind-expanding things. Also, I do not need to be told what to think which seems to be where most people get their information from . . . sixty-second sound bites that are thrown out as the definitive authority on all we humans are supposed to know. In actuality it is really no one’s business why I do not watch television. I just want the darn “premium package” that is costing me an extra 50 bucks a month . . . which no one watches . . . off of my bill! Plain and simple . . . put that to Muzak!
I do not care whether or not other people watch television. I do not care what other people watch on television. I have my own opinions about television and television viewing. I believe that it is like any other tool that when it is used correctly it can be beneficial . . . but, it really is no one’s business what I watch on television since I really don’t watch anything on television. And, I should not be treated like some sort of cretan because I don’t watch television. I spent thirty minutes defending myself when all I wanted to do was to remove a subscription off of my television service . . . something that only took two minutes when they actually got around to doing it.
Key the Muzak . . . are you listening? Isn’t that what watching television is? Visual Muzak? Oh . . . I’ll save that rant for another day.