Sunday, October 10, 2010

Change The Channel

I've explained about my Dad's, shall we shall, overexcited behavior in several of my earlier stories. Here I am going to share another example of Dad loosing his cool, blowing his top, flipping his wig, whatever analogy you want to use really. I also hope to use it as an opportunity to show that Dad was often provoked into doing whatever it was he did. In fact, Dad often just did what most people would have done had they not been afraid of social stigma, financial loss or jail time. So, a lot of the things that look like the actions of a complete crazy person could be construed as rather misguided courage instead.

It all started with Dad very calmly doing one of the things he loves to do. He was watching TV while laying on the couch in the living room. There may have been an empty milk glass with a banana peel in it around there somewhere, I can't remember. (Dad used to drink a glass of milk while eating a banana then stick the peel in the empty glass and stick the glass somewhere. It drove Mom nuts.) Either way, Dad was watching some murder mystery show that had been on for what seemed like hours. It may have been part of a mini-series or have had far too many commercials in it or both.

Whatever the cause Dad had been watching it for a long while. The entire time it had been on Mom had been sitting there quietly reading a magazine. Here I have to take a moment and say that Mom and I hated these kind of shows. Mom has a gentle spirit and certainly doesn't want to see anyone get brutally murdered on TV. As for myself I was set down to watch 'An American Werewolf in London' at age five. Some friends of Mom and Dad said it was kid safe. I ran into the room where Mom and Dad were bleached white after one of the gore scenes and never liked those kind of movies again. However, this movie wasn't a gore fest it was low key murder mystery where the villain was sure to get his in the end. I still didn't like it, but it was squarely in the “ignorable” category.

Both Mom and I had been ignoring the show the entire time it had been on. After hours of suspense and mystery the show had finally culminated in a chase scene. The heroine was running from the villain having finally put it together that he was the common denominator behind all the deaths. The music picked up to help set every nerve on edge as the camera flashed back and forth between the running damsel and the pursuing monster. Tension was crackling in the air. Would the police arrive in the nick of time? Would she find an old shotgun and blast him through the door? Would he catch her and her unsolved murder be the setup for the sequel? We'll never know...

At the moment of truth Mom looked up at the TV and for the first time in hours her pupils focused on something other than her magazine. For a moment she sat there in silence. Her brain was slowly changing gears from “What a lovely fabric!” to “Why is that girl running through that building? And who is that man?” I blame the change in music myself. I think she could have sat there quietly until the end if her nerves hadn't started to warn her. “You hear that? Something's wrong!” Those composers are amazing. Little did that guy know that he had betrayed my dad when he wrote that piece. He was just trying to play up the drama of the scene. Oh well... Once Mom's mind had locked onto what was going on she decided to put a stop to it.

“Change the channel!” She said in a nervous voice that expressed how badly she wanted the young girl to get away.

“Hold on! This is the very end of the movie.” Dad replied, not daring to look away from the screen.

“Change the channel!”

“No. It's almost over.”

“I don't care. Change the channel!”

“Barbara, be quiet. It's the very end and I want to hear it.”

“I don't! Change the channel!”

“I've been watching this for hours with you in here!”

“I don't care. Change the channel!”

“Just go in the other room. It'll be over in ten minutes!”

“No! Change the channel!”

At this point Dad decided to stare at the TV and do his best to hear it over Mom or at least read the actor's lips. He had gotten down to the last five minutes and he was missing it arguing with her. When Dad stopped replying Mom realized she would have to use another approach. Unless something happened immediately she was going to inadvertently see the end of the movie. Why didn't she just get up and leave the room you ask? Good question! Moving on! She decided to take a more direct approach.

“Change the Channel! Change the Channel! Change the Channel!” She said over and over as fast as she could.

Dad sat there for a moment waving his hand back at her as if he were trying to knock the sound away from his ear before it reached him. This just made Mom get faster and louder.

“Change the Channel! Change the Channel! Change the Channel!”

I wish that I had gotten a video recording of the whole thing. I am sure we would have been able to go through it frame by frame until we reached the moment when it happened. “There! Right there!” I would be able to say pointing triumphantly at the frozen frame of video focused on my Dad's face. “That's the moment where he snapped!”

Sadly we have no video, no slow motion, no freeze frame. A great opportunity for scientific study in psychology has been lost. All we have to record the event is the human memory which is very useful for telling a story, but a bit short on the scientific necessities. For example if they were to ask me “How big did your Dad's eyes get in millimeters?” I could only say “Big!” “Could you be more precise?” “Real big!” It's all very well for amusement, but not much for the science of the thing.

In any event, even though the moment wasn't caught on video it had arrived. Dad snapped! He leaped up off the couch with the speed of a ninja (keep in mind it was the eighties) and jerked the TV up over his head. (This wasn't a small TV, it was our main living room TV.) He held it there just long enough for me to think to myself “Whoa! Seriously?” Then Dad threw it down on the living room floor with everything he had and, with Dad, that was quite a bit. The set exploded in a shower of golden sparks. I can still see the scene in my imagination. It was really awesome. They should put a scene like that in a movie one day.

Having completely destroyed the TV Dad glared at Mom and screamed at the top of his lungs:

“There! It's changed now ain't it!”

Mom looked up from the magazine she had immediately gone back to reading to reply:

“What do I care if you smashed your TV, I've still got my radio.”

“Is that so?” Dad said and walked out of the room heading for the back door.

Here again, I have to take moment to give you a little additional information. Mom didn't just have a radio. She had a house wide radio with speakers strewn everywhere. Whatever housework she had to do could be done while listening to whatever she liked on the radio. It was very nice and one of the things that sold them on the particular double wide model they selected. It was this radio that Mom was so happy to still have.

“With all do respect, that was the stupidest thing I have ever heard come out of your mouth.” I said starting at Mom in disbelief.

“Why? I do still have my radio.”

“You really think that don't you?” I said with a slight sad smile.

At that moment the back door flew open and Dad ran into the house. He had a hammer in his hand and as he came into the room he shook it with a “Hahahahah!” (I'm not making this up, he seriously did that.) He then proceeded to beat the radio out of the wall. When he was finished he turned to address us all.

“And we will never have another TV in this house as long as I live!” He screamed before collapsing on the couch.

The next day Josh and I were standing outside of school waiting for Mom to pick us up and discussing the entire affair.

“How long do you think Dad will make it?” I asked.

“I don't know. He was pretty upset.” Josh replied.

“A month, do you think?”

“A month! No, no. I mean he couldn't make it a month. I figure a week on the outside.”

“Yea, I hope it's not that long.”

As I said that the car pulled up. Mom was sitting in the passenger seat and Dad was driving. As we got in Dad spoke.

“We're going to town to get a new TV.” Dad said as we were buckling up.

“And a radio.” Mom added.

It may be that some of you think my Dad's behavior was inexcusable, but none of you were there. I was and I am here to tell you that you need to walk a mile in a man's shoes before you say too much about his actions. In truth the TV was very old anyway and Dad had been talking about replacing it for years. He just chose a dramatic way to get rid of the old one. What he did may not have seemed sane, but I'll tell you this, it was the last time he was ever pelted with “Change the channel!”

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