RECENTLY, New York City had a blackout which caused all nine television stations in the area to go out for several hours. This caused a tremendous crisis in families all over the New York area, and proved that TV plays a much greater role in people's lives than anyone can imagine.

For example, when the TV went off in the Bufkins house in Forest Hills, panic set in. First, Bufkins thought it was just his set in the living room, so he rushed into his bedroom and turned on that set. Nothing.

The phone rang and Mrs. Bufkins heard her sister in Manhattan tell her that there was a blackout.

She hung up and said to her husband, "It isn't your set. Something's happened to the top of the Empire State Building."

Bufkins stopped and said, "Who are you?"

"I'm your wife, Edith."

"Oh," Bufkins said. "Then I suppose those kids in there are mine."

"That's right." Mrs. Bufkins said. "If you ever got out of that armchair in front of the TV set, you'd know who we were."

"Boy, they've really grown," Bufkins said, looking at his son and daughter. "How old are they now?"

"Thirteen and fourteen," Mrs. Bufkins replied.

"I'll be darned. Hi, kids."

"Who's he?" Bufkins' son, Henry, asked.

"It's your father," Mrs. Bufkins said.

"I'm pleased to meetcha," Bufkins' daughter, Mary said shyly.

There was an embarrassed silence all around.

"Look," said Bufkins finally. "I know I haven't been much of a father, but now that the TV's out, I'd like to make it up to you."

"How?" asked Henry.

"Well, let's just talk," Bufkins said. "That's the best way to get to know each other."

"What do you want to talk about?" Mary asked.

"Well, for starters, what school do you go to?"

"We go to Forest Hills High," Henry said.

"What do you know?" Bufkins said. "You're both in high school."

There was dead silence.

"What do you do?" Mary asked.

"I'm an accountant," Bufkins said.

"I thought you were a car salesman," Mrs. Bufkins said in surprise.

"That was two years ago. Didn't I tell you I changed jobs?" Bufkins said.

"No, you didn't. You haven't told me anything for two years."

"Yup, I'm doing quite well, too," Bufkins said.

"Then why am I working in a department store?" If I had known that I would have told you you could quit last year. You should have mentioned it," Bufkins said.

There was more dead silence.

Finally Henry said, "Hey, you want to hear me play the guitar?"

"I'll be darned. You know how to play the guitar? Say, didn't I have a daughter who played the guitar?"

"That was Susie," Mrs. Bufkins said.

"Where is she?"

"She got married a year ago, just about the time you were watching the World Series."

"How about that?" Bufkins said, very pleased. "You know, I hope they don't fix the antenna for another couple of hours. There's nothing like a blackout for a man to really get to know his family."