Right away what I am going to say will discredit me.
My television set was bought in 1949, a black and white RCA Entertainment Center masquerading as a piece of furniture and a 33 rpm record player. The 45 has long since quit working but the television operates fine. Its parts, say awed repairmen, are all handcrafted.
In the basement I have a second television, a portable black and white vintage 1960. I bought this because the repairman despaired of persuading my RCA to accept public broadcasting. I wanted to see "The Forsyte Saga" and occasionally now I spend a few minutes with Louis Rukeyser, but by and large I am tied into print. I know the tube offers wondrous wares, but there is only so much time and I have to choose.
Recently I met my opposite number, a woman who relies on her television to the point that she has canceled her daily newspaper. It happens that she lives alone, but for company she has Johnny Carson, Barbara Walters and Phil Donahue. This is all she needs. She said so quite firmly.
I am well aware that it is I who am out of step. I don't know how to pronounce the names of foreign revolutionaries whose names trip so knowledgeably off everyone else's tongue. I would't recognize Walter Cronkite if I were stuck in a mal-functioning elevator with him. There are platoons of TV celebrities of whose existence I am totally unaware. I don't know the names of Charlie's Angels, wouldn't even know they existed if they weren't always staring me in the face on the TV Guide as I wait to pay for my groceries. I can't even pronounce Qaddafi.
And here was my reverse image, a total television convert, obviously happy and confident in her medium. We stared at each other with barely concealed incredulity and I couldn't contain my curiosity. How did she know what was happening in her community?
A tiny frown passed over her face. The difficulty was, she admitted, that shes saw no obituaries, and notice of the death of friends came, if at all, through telephone calls from next of kin. She had not, it is true, known that a friend had died quite suddenly until two weeks later. Johnny Carson hadn't mentioned it and everyone else had assumed she knew.
But the movies, I persisted, pressing when I knew I shouldn't, how did she know what was playing? And how to vote on local matters? And where did she clip supermarket coupons? Not to mention keeping up with politics in "Doonesbury's" world and life in "Bloom" country?
She smiled at me with the smile of a woman who has put all that behind her. No one can have everything and she had made her choice. Remember, she said, looking over my head, all but thee and me are queer, and sometimes I think . . . .
And she was right, of course. I have this silly idea that bad news can wait until tomorrow and I do not have the 6 or the 11 o'clock news habit. I read my newspaper at my convenience, selecting my own topics and alloting time to those that interest me. I'm not happy with instant communication and I don't like my living room full of strangers beaming show-biz personality at me to boost their ratings. Up with print -- six hours or 150 years old between the covers of a book -- with the distance that allows for some perspective between me and it.
And please don't mention to RCA that they didn't manage to build obsolescence into my nice, good looking, mahogany-encased 1949 Entertainment Center.