“Oh, I don’t watch television,” he laughed, taking a sip of his Australian wine. He turned to the waitress, a short Mexican woman in her sixties.”What, exactly, is in this salad?” he asked her. As she listed off the ingredients he requested she repeat herself several times, sighing audibly at her thick accent.
I shifted nervously and rubbed my temples wondering if I should apologize for his rude behavior right now, or privately under the pretense of using the bathroom. She looked embarrassed enough so I opted for privacy. Later, in the tan-tiled hallway she would shake her head nonchalantly as I told her what an ass he was.
“Your husband?” she asked.
“Oh God, no.” I laughed, “Just a really fucking awful date.”
“You are too pretty to swear.” she admonished.
“Sorry.” I said, suddenly ashamed in the presence of her maternal scolding. She reminded me of my grandmother. A woman who had worked into her late 70s so her blisters could help make ends meet.
I walked back to the table suddenly filled with more fury than shame. That woman ought to be sitting at home right now, relaxing and eating something delicious her grandchildren cooked her. Instead she was on her feet, shuffling around to one WASPy ingrate after another, who, as she rolled her “˜R’s and thickly drawled her “˜H’s, raised their eyebrows as though this were the first accent they ever had the displeasure of hearing.
Suddenly my date’s voice sliced into my anger. “So while I sometimes use Hulu or other online sites to stream really interesting shows, I find most television toxic. More wine?” He was still smiling pleasantly at me. I stared at him blankly, as though an electrical storm weren’t snaking its way around my brain. For a moment I almost felt bad for him. Then I saw the grandmother out of the corner of my eye.
“So what is the difference,” I asked him, “between watching actual television and watching television shows on a computer?” He tilted his head quizzically, but I was on a roll. Somewhere in the background, I could hear the roar of the avalanche. Bright neon lights began flashing through my cerebral cortex and they had only one message: Take Him Down.
When I was younger, my mother used to yell at me for deliberately boxing people into corners to prove a point. “If you’re going to be so disagreeable, become a lawyer so at least you can get paid for it,” she’d tell me. Yet law school proved far too competitive for me. I was more of a single agent on the move looking for proper inspiration to unleash upon. And there was no stopping me now. I could sense his reaction and I carefully chose my words so he’d spring neatly into my trap. This, I told myself, was for exhausted abuelas everywhere.
“Furthermore,” I continued, “what is it about television that makes it so worthy of your disdain? Isn’t is just another medium in which artists present ideas and work? How is it different than, say, books?” I inflected innocuously.
He snort-laughed. “What do you mean, how is it different than a book? Certainly you cannot be serious. Books are works of art and you’re comparing that to Rock of Love?”
“Oh, I assure you I am.” I began, feeling a chill go up my spine. “But what I mean is, books come in all forms, like television programs. Some shows are well-produced, sourced, and thought-out like, say, an award-winning documentary on the Discovery Channel. Others are trash that are put together quickly and with little thought. Well, how is the publishing industry all that different? Some books are awful, with terrible premises, bullshit morals, failing logic, and yet just because they are made of paper and ink they are somehow superior? Because if that’s what you’re saying, you should realize you’re positing that The Carol Burnett Show has less social worth than, say, Ann Coulter’s latest book. Do you even realize the skill it takes to write something that will translate into visual comedy? Have you ever tried? Because you cannot sit there and tell me that The X-Files or Arrested Development ain’t got nothing on the No Spin Zone or Steve Harvey’s latest masterpiece because of the simple fact that one medium is always superior to the other. Because that is some lofty pretentious bullshit to peddle. Unless that isn’t truly what you are saying. To me. Right now. At this table.”
I realized my voice had risen considerably during my diatribe. Patrons were hushed around me but the horrified look on his face soothed any shame I might have felt. He was flustered, gobsmacked, and had grown a tad pale. The low roar of the dining room returned, and he stared at me in silence for what seemed like forever. Finally he took a sip of wine to ease the recovery.
“I like that you think,” he said unconvincingly. “I also think you’re beautiful, although clearly a bit full of herself. So hey, I have [indie band] tickets for next week. What do you think? Do you want to go?”
“I would totally go, but I’m afraid I only watch music on my TV. I don’t believe in the live music medium.” I snorted and threw down some bills. “I’ve got to run.” He protested as I grabbed my things and got away from that table as fast as I could. I turned around as I hit the door just to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. From the saloon-style double doors that partitioned the kitchen from the dining room the abuela stood, watching me go, slight smile playing on her lips.
“Goodnight!” she called as I hustled out and into the night.