I'll never forget the spark of excitement I felt one day last summer when I saw the cable TV crew stringing wire on North Chevy Chase Street.
I ran out the door and gleefully asked one of the crew, "Is this it? Is this the cable TV line?" He smiled proudly and told me, "Yes, it is, sir. It's what I call the support cable. Any day now the real cable will be laid on top of the support cable, and then the salesman will call to sign you up."
I was thrilled. Finally, after waiting for years, I would have cable. Just to make sure I wasn't hallucinating, I spent 20 irritating minutes trying to get through to Tribune-United, the company that has the Montgomery County cable franchise. The line was busy, but that made me even more excited. It showed ol' Tribune-United was on the job, signing up subscribers like crazy.
When I got through, a woman told me that, yes, stringing the support cable was the first step. She confirmed that by September, and certainly no later than October, I would be wired and could sign up for all the goodies.
Oh, was I excited. I would read the cable listings in The Post's TV guide and dream of all those superstation programs I would watch, all those sporting events I could see. Just the idea of having 24 hours of Ted Turner's TV news coming into my house was too much to handle.
I started shopping for a new TV and VCR. I wanted the best for my cable -- hi-tech looks, stereo sound, big screen, major cable compatibility, the works. Nothing was too good.
Well, my new TV set and hi-fi VCR are in place. And outside my house, strung between the telephone poles, is that aluminum support cable -- still as bare as the day it was strung. And now I'm reading all these stories about how the promise of cable television coming to my house was noth that. Boy, did the residents of Montgomery County get taken for a ride.
Chicago has cable, and so does New York and Miami and Philly and all those other places where pols know how to wheel and deal and get the job done with good old-fashioned machine politics.
But no, not out here in clean-cut, good-government Montgomery County. The honest council members believed it would look too much like a conflict of interest to give the contract to a local franchise, such as the one Abe Pollin wanted to put together. So the council gave it to this bunch of unknowns from the Windy City who blew in and out of the county like carpetbaggers, leaving the old cable dangling for most of us.
It was a big mistake.