Television Tube Tester


The TV Closet

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My dad was adamant.

Television rotted your brain.

He never said it exactly like that, it was more like “it’s a boob tube, Janet. The more you sit in front of it, the less you are going to be able to think for yourself.”

I hated, absolutely hated, when he said stuff like that. I have no recollection of what our television cost, but what I DO remember is that it was always breaking on not working right. Televisions back then had tubes (sort of various odd shaped light bulbs) and there was always, I mean ALWAYS an issue with the “horizontal control”.

Now for reasons that are somewhat unclear to me, in the middle of our living room was a closet and dad, always ahead of his time, decided to make a built in TV set. He cut a whole in the wall of the closet that faced the living room, framed it with some old lumber, created a platform inside the closet and seated the TV so that it’s grainy, not-nearly-the resolution- you-are accustomed-too picture could be seen if you sat in the living room. I thought this was very progressive of my dad and I was proud of him, it however created some issues.

Back then even shade tree mechanics, of which my dad was one, worked on anything around the house and that included television sets. To fix our ever-breaking TV set, you had to get into the closet. Once in the closet you couldn’t see what your adjustments were doing to the picture, which was important, actually critical, for diagnostic purposes.

Dad’s innovation had created a two man repair call, or should I say a child and dad repair call.

I would sit outside the closet, one eye on the picture and one eye on his ministrations. He would have me hold a mirror, angled just right, so he could see the effects he was having on the picture as he was his fiddling in the back of the TV.

I loved my Dad with all my heart and I wanted to make him happy but that was HARD. Once I had the right angle, I tried to ignore the imaginary bug bites that were itching, a bladder that needed to pee, or my leg, crossed, that had tingled and pings with pain from falling asleep. My constant questions seemed to be derailing to the process as well.

The two reoccurring issues with the TV were the afore mentioned bad tubes and the horizontal control. If it was the horizontal control then Dad had to finesse the knob in the back, delicately balancing between the blasted picture rolling fast one way, then just as rapidly, rolling the other way, the whole time watching the effect in the mirror. I have no idea what the technical complexities of this fix were, but I do know that it was tantamount to a miracle when we a got TV set that didn’t even require a horizontal control button. It was hard for me to imagine.

The other issue was tubes. When Dad removed the back of the television the few times I snuck in there to peek, it looked like a dangerous and confusing mass of glass and wires. Once Dad determined which tubes were the likely culprit for whatever diagnosis he had made, it was my job to cradle them carefully along with the estimated money the replacements might cost, and make a trip on my bike to the hardware store.

There among all the nails and barrels, was the tube checking machine and in the metal housing below it, were the tubes that you could buy as replacements.

I would bicycle back, hand Dad the new tubes or the news that they weren’t bad.

It felt good when he would praise me for not losing the change on the way back or for remembering how much we owed the next time I went back because we had underestimated the tube cost.

I learned an awful lot from Dad as I think about it.

I learned about patience and logic, money and time. I learned about two people working together to accomplish a task and I learned about finesse in problem solving. I learned that innovation can have its drawbacks and I learned how to do business in a hardware store where everything seemed much bigger than me. But the biggest thing I learned though is that most of what we have in this life isn’t really bad inherently, it’s what we as humans do with it that turns it into something negative or harmful. Even a boob tube, in the right hands and with the right heart can work magic of the heart. If you are doing something that would rot your brain, just stop doing it and find the occasion instead, to make a memory, to make a difference with someone today. I am not sure what else matters.  Happy Monday.

My dad would be floored with the television sets of today. Heck I am floored with them. I am certain he would still maintain that they are boob tubes (I am pretty sure he was right). But, for me, here in 2008 while I watch the world news and instant message a son who serves in a land that I hadn’t even heard of when my dad and I fixed TVs, I relish those times I shared with my dad. I relish the time I have watched special movies, spent quality TV time, with each of my sons. I relish the few times I tried to mentor them in fixing or making things. 

Happy Monday today. Take a minute to sit and think and remember a time that someone gave you a memory that warms your heart. If you are doing something that would rot your brain, just stop doing it and find the occasion to create one for another this week. 

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