[I must warn you: this is going to be a bit of a rant. I don't even have a photo; I just need to get this off my chest. Perhaps by writing this and engaging with readers, I'll be able to come to terms with it and rationalize it, or maybe you will agree with me, and we can all advocate for public spaces without TVs...]
I'm starting to feel as if there are TVs everywhere the chicks and I go. Is this happening where you live? I'm not talking about people's houses; many of the houses we frequent either don't have TVs or have a TV in a subtle place, always off when visitors are in the home.
No, I'm talking about public places. I recently got into the habit of grabbing something quick and cheap for the chicks' dinner on the way home from a late swimming lesson (bad, I know.) Most of the places we went had TVs. Our dinners at home are admittedly not always riveting in their conversation given that we have one adult and two (tired by that time of day) small children. But at least we have some conversation. When the chicks sit down to eat in a cafe, and there's a TV on the wall, they can't help but stare. Of course--this is why the TV is there, right?
I just can't bear to sit across from my two children and have dinner while they are zombified. Even Ninna, at just-barely-turned-five, knows this is weird. She laughs about how she can't move her eyes away from the screen, and she has recently asked me, more than once, why there are TVs in all these places.
I remember, before our car-free days began, that there were even TVs at some of the gas stations. Can we really not pump gas for five minutes without a TV? I'm assuming this is entirely ad-driven and not consumer-driven. When we're pumping gas, there's nowhere to go but right in that spot...next to the TV. We're the perfect captive audience.
I've been bothered by this for awhile, but I finally came to a point of exasperation the other day when the chicks and I walked into the Y for Ninna's swimming lesson, and lo and behold...they had installed a huge flat-screen TV in the formerly peaceful lobby/cafe area--and it was on, of course. I momentarily felt vindicated when the man next to me asked the receptionist why they had added a TV. It's exciting to hear some sanity once in awhile. But my brain exploded when she responded with "well, it's because that area is a cafe!" That's the answer? If we're sitting at tables with each other eating a muffin and drinking tea, we must therefore be in the presence of a TV? I don't understand.
Days after Osama Bin Laden was killed, we stopped in at one of those by-the-slice pizza places after swimming lessons. It was a tiny little place, with just a few tables, and we were the only patrons. The requisite TV was on the wall, blaring the newscaster's commentary about Bin Laden's life and death.
My not-quite-three year old and just-turned-five year old don't need a play-by-play of Bin Laden's death, with thorough details. And when the time comes that I do think they are ready for this kind of information, they won't be getting it from corporate news, I can tell you that. So I did what apparently no one has ever done before in this establishment; I asked the owner if we could turn off the TV. He looked shocked, laughed when I told him why, and then, thankfully, turned it off.
I'm not trying to demonize TV as a whole. I know many wonderful people with TVs in their homes (I guess that would be almost everyone I know, right?) What we do or don't do with TV in the privacy of our homes is no one's business. And I'm not even suggesting that there are no uses whatsoever for TVs outside of the home; sports bars come to mind immediately. I loved watching Michigan State basketball games at a sports bar full of Spartans. But why is TV forced on my children every time we leave the house? Even in museums, you see video loops running on TVs about this subject or that. No one really ever sits down and watches them, but they are there, in our (public) space.
So tell me, dear readers, am I crazy? Does this bother anyone else? Will TV in public spaces one day go the way of smoking in restaurants, or are we headed for an Orwellian screen-in-every-room scenario? Or neither, and I'm just a little dramatic?
[Edited to add: I knew I was forgetting some more scenarios. I've already written about the movie forced on Bojey at the children's hair salon. And there are also walls full of flat-screen TVs in some of the metro stations here. Descending the escalator, you see throngs of people, each of whom is staring at the wall, blankly, watching the TVs. And you can include my children among these throngs, as well.]