My husband and I belong to a minority of 2 percent in the United States. We don't own a TV. A working one, that is.
A year ago we acquired a TV that has no sound, on which we watch sports if we can get the game on the radio. For big games we sometimes invite our friends who have a TV with sound -- but no picture -- to join us. The two sets work beautifully together.
Apart from that, we have watched virtually no TV for four years. We have never seen a moving image of Mork, Mindy, Farrah or Suzanne; we have missed the fissions and fusions of the Walton family; we haven't suffered Chara in ages; and we don't care if Johnny retires.
But don't get us wrong. Not having a TV does not necessarily mean we play Vivaldi on the stereo every night, delve boldly into Joyce and Nabokov, spend hours on gourmet cookery and weekends singing around the old camp fire. Only people on TV who don't have a TV do things like that. In most respects we are more like the 98 percent who own a set.
Allow me to disabuse you of a few of the more popular notions of the TV-less family:
The quality of our reading has not changed significantly. My husband and I both like to read, and our jobs require that we do a lot of it. When we come home from the office we do not immediately plunge into the fourth and fifth volumes of Proust's "Remembrance of Things Past." It is more likely that we dive through the front door in a mutual effort to get the Newsweek first. (My brother and his girlfriend, who also don't have a TV, cut their Time magazine in half and pin it with paper clips so they can read it simultaneously).
Whoever doesn't get Newsweek has to content himself or herself with a methodical study of the newspaper, including Hints From Heloise, Ann Landers, the daily Jumble and the lost and found section of the classified ads. And although we have never ogled Chrissy and her various roommates, our assiduous reading of the gossip columns allows us to pinpoint at any time the current status of Caroline's marriage to Phillippe and Lee's non-marriage to Newt. It is only when our brains have decompressed sufficiently from a day at the office that we turn to our books, which is probably about the time people with TVs do.
Our conversation is no more scintillating than it used to be. We do talk, of course. We comment on news in the paper, what room needs painting next, what my mother had to say on the phone and what scuttlebutt we can extract from our offices. If we're feeling especially perky, we talk about politics.
The rest of the time we cook dinner, do the laundry, nap on the coach. In short, just because we don't have Dick Cavett in our living room doesn't mean we've turned into him.
Unlike the nonwatching zealot, we do occasionally miss TV. We miss, for instance, the coziness of watching Mary Tyler Moore on a Saturday night (so does everybody else). Our latent snobbishness suffered a blow when the complete works of Shakespeare were produced for TV. Every now and then we long for an old movie, a new movie, a rerun of "Leave It to Beaver."
Most of all we miss the news. We saw neither Daley's funeral nor Jane Byrne's triumph, the Shah of Iran's flight into exile or Nixon's tentative steps out of it. Although we see all the pictures and read all the words, sometimes we'd like to see lips move with sounds coming out.
Now let me tell you the advantages. Our house is wonderfully quiet. We don't have to endure the canned cackling of somebody else's laughter, or the chirpy voices of housewives and hubbies shilling soap, or the mortifying perversions of "The Newlywed Game."
One of us doesn't have to grit our teeth while the other chortles over "Laverne and Shirley." We are not on a television-prescribed schedule, which means that we never have to rush through dinner, interrupt a phone call or have Thanksgiving on Wednesday. And we will never have to worry about TV's effect on our intellect, our libido or our pocketbook, all of which have other fish to fry.
We do have a few circumstances that make living without a TV easier. For one thing -- and it's a major one -- we don't have children, and thus we don't have the temptation to plop them in front of the set when they're cranky or we're tired. We also don't have to break the news to babysitters that they will actually have to do the three hours' worth of homework they brought along unless, of course, they want to read a good book.
And it is not our unhappy task to explain to our kids that they are social pariahs because they've never even heard of Miss Piggy.
So who knows, maybe we'll change. We hope not, since we'd just as soon not expose any children we have to more violence, commercialism and banality than the three-dimensional world already provides. And we know that once a TV is in the house it's damned hard to get it out.
So for the time being we'll remain as we are; dropouts of the TV generation, expatriates of the vast wasteland.