Living without cable TV: the first 7 days

This weekend marks 107 days of the Trump “administration”. Perhaps more significantly, it’s now one week since I cancelled our cable TV contract. (As it happens, I also cancelled our landline number because, you know, when was the last time your house tried to call my house for a chat?)

So, what has been the impact so far on the household of the lack of cable TV?

Here are three things that have changed, all of them for the better.

  1. Cancelling both TV and phone and sticking to internet only has saved me around $85 a month. Or, if you prefer, $21 a week. Not a huge amount of money, perhaps, but it would buy a coffee at Starbucks every single morning. If you won free coffee every day at Starbucks, you’d be so pleased that you’d tell everyone you know. You’d probably start buying coffee for other people, just because you could. But the chances of winning free Starbucks are tiny. The chances that you could save a big bunch of money by killing off 200 channels that you never watch are 100%.
  2. More importantly, my cunning no-cable plan strikes at the very heart of “president” Trump’s pathetic claim that he’s going to bypass the mainstream media and deliver his rancid messages directly to the American people. Let’s leave aside for now the fact that the majority of people do not want to hear these messages; as recently as last month, a Quinnipiac poll reported that 52% are embarrassed that Trump is their president, compared with only 27% who are proud about it. The fact is, the Orange Menace has realistically only two ways to get his festering, authoritarian, reductionist bile to you, or me, directly: Twitter and TV. If you use Twitter, please follow me @jon7payne. If you follow Trump, it’s your own fault. And that leaves only cable TV. Shame on news channels across the spectrum for assisting in the election of this twisted, racist, misogynistic buffoon by giving him, for much of 2016, endless hours of unwarranted coverage that money couldn’t buy, whilst hardly ever holding him to account in a serious, persistent way for his constant lies and hate speech. Some of the news networks are trying to do that now, roughly a year too late. Well, now they’ve lost my patronage and my viewing figure. Four figures, if you count everyone in my household who’s now not watching. And that means, of course, that when the hideous, spray-tanned, incompetent reality TV star tries to deliver one of his amateurish, spiteful, middle-school monologues, we are not receiving. And we’re never going to be receiving, until he retreats back into the gilded Manhattan penthouse where he belongs. In other words, if I may be permitted to misquote the great Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, we have disengaged from the cathode ray nipple.
  3. On a more positive note, my experience so far is that, when you don’t waste your time watching 200 channels that you don’t enjoy, you have a lot more time to do what you do enjoy. I have spent a lot more time reading, and a lot more time writing. In a handful of days since killing cable, I have finished the debut novel by Kazuo Ishiguro (A Pale View of Hills) and read most of the debut novel by Ian McEwan (The Cement Garden). I have written more. I have corresponded with friends more. I have submitted a completed novel to an agent, and produced a synopsis for the next one. If reading and writing are not your thing, of course, then never fear: not watching TV will also create additional time for paintballing, macrame, country dancing and scrapbooking (whatever that is).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I have not banished screens altogether. We subscribe to a couple of the well-known streaming services and, within the limits of their catalog, the members of my household can and do choose to watch movies and TV shows. But they have much more control over their viewing: no hate speech and no commercials. After all, when was the last time you started a plane journey by turning off the personalized TV in your seat and longing for the good old days when you could wait for the big screen at the front of the cabin to start showing a vacuous romantic comedy that you’d never heard of? To me, it makes no sense to expect control over what’s playing on a plane journey, but allow any old codswallop to stream directly into my living room. No more.

So, there it is. I was planning to list here the disbenefits of getting rid of cable, but there aren’t any. All of it is better. I’m saving money, I’m keeping SCROTUS out of our living room, and I’m spending more time doing the things I love.

You know it makes sense.

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