Finally I was to get my shot at talking back to the president. For years, like most other Americans, I had to sit idly by - my shouts bouncing off the front of my Sony - while Nixon told us he was innocent, while LBJ sent troops to Vietnam.
But now, through the graces of Qube (a two-way cable TV system developed by Warner Cable Corp.) and the Mork of TV news, Tom Snyder, I could talk back and know that He would be listening. Expletives deleted, of course.
And so we sat waiting, my retired colonel father, rock-ribbed conservative that he is; my mother, proud member of the silent majority; my teacher brother, a reflection of the political forces of central Ohio where John Birch is considered middle of the road, and I, lone fighter of liberal battles in our home.
It was all part of what Qube executives call "the giant step toward a wired nation." It would permit 30,000 subscribers to the Qube cable television system to push a button and answer questions asked by NBC about Carter's "crisis of the American spirit" speech.
Our Qube sat on the marble cocktail table, its dark presence at once threatening and comforting, our link with the president for our moment of participatory democracy. It was almost better than going into a voting booth.
Carter appeared, blue suit matching the color of his eyes, and a tension developed in the family room, one I hadn't felt since President Kennedy came on the screen in 1961 to tell us about the Cuban misile crisis. There was complete silence. We knew that soon our opportunity would be at hand and we wanted to be prepared. Carter was telling us that he wanted to reach out and listen to the voices of America. We were ready to comply.
Carter said "good nigh," Snyder, "Hello" and Jack Perkins, the NBC commentator in Warner's Studios, gave us the first question.
I could envision the day when millions of Americans would be able to bleep the president, governor, inane comedian, or overwrought actor off the air and into video oblivion with just a touch of their Qube response buttons. What power.
I reached out for the Qube, confident that my feelings about the president's speech would be shared by my family. But just at that moment my father took the Qube.
With a cry that surely echoed through the thousands of Columbus homes tied into Qube systems, he announced, "I paid for this, this is mine, and I'll push the button I want."
It was all downhill after that. The five questions were asked in a flash with Father hipshooting his way through the responses, most of which were opposite my own.
The five questions: Did the speech leave you optimistic, pessimistic or confused? Are you more confident now in Carter's ability to lead the nation? Are his plans to deal with the energy shortage tough enough? Did the president convince you that you'll have to make personal sacrifices? Od you think the country will pull together to solve its problems?
I sat back. So much for the wonders of electronics and Qube. I can see now that for the wired nation to work we will all have to wear electrodes attached to our bodies, instantly monitoring our reactions to the latest scheme presented through the airwaves.
Ah well, good night Marshall Mcluhan . . . It was a nice try.