We moved into a nice, affordable two-bedroom apartment at the beginning of 2003, coinciding with the departure of a downstairs neighbor about a month later. He was not vacating his studio apartment voluntarily, mind you, but at the firm, legal request of our mutual landlady. He hadn’t paid rent. In a while. Presumably cash-strapped, he offered to sell his lightly-used, practically brand new Samsung high-definition television–at less than half of its original price, to boot. This was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Though we, ourselves, were light on loot at the time, having just moved and all, we scraped together the five-hundred bucks our neighbor wanted for the television and a shitty TV stand that looked half put-together. We were satisfied in the feeling of having come out ahead in this particular transaction.
Until we tried to move the thing upstairs.
This television weighed four-hundred pounds, if it weighed an ounce. Why such a television would be made for the home consumer, considering it required a pair of professional weightlifters to move it, beggars explanation. Compounding the problem of relocating this appliance to our apartment was the fact that it had been designed by some Lovecraftian aficionado well-versed in non-Euclidean geometry, for though it seemed to have a number of corners and crevices, the television could not be accurately gripped or held by any being with an outstretched span less than that of an orangutan. We moved the television upstairs, step by step, taking frequent breaks to pant and curse. Several times, I considered giving up, leaving the television on the stairs, and navigating around it when entering or exiting the apartment. But we got the thing up to the second floor and somehow–I do not remember how–perched it atop its accompanying television stand.
A couple of years later, our pairing parted ways and we divvied up our belongings. I gave her my older television, a second-hand tube set with roughly a thirty-five inch screen. I took what I believed to be the better, newer television. And so began seven years of lugging this terrible behemoth from apartment to apartment, anxiously worrying whenever tasked to budge it, expelling deep relief once I’d secured it in a location from where it would not need to be shifted again, at least for a while. I actually moved only three times since 2004, which is relatively stable for dwelling in New York City. Twice, I hired movers, once I moved myself with the help of a very strong friend. Each time, the Samsung television needed to be moved, and each time it presented the biggest problems. The television became a proverbial elephant in the room, and weighed about as much by my estimation.
Over time, the television’s other limitations surfaced. For one, I had lost or had never received a remote control. More importantly, though this television claimed to have high-definition resolution, it simply did not. I don’t know if the meaning of high-definition changed from the early part of the century, or if it was a bold-faced lie, but the very year we got our massive television, I got a high-definition cable box and invited a bunch of people over to watch the Super Bowl. The total lack of a crystal clear picture was obvious and immediate, and we ultimately switched back to regular digital television before the second half started. More recently, since most newer programs are broadcast in widescreen, I was missing the extreme left and right of my picture. It was screwing up my Netflix and Hulu menus and generally soured my television addiction. Watching that Samsung television in recent years was probably akin to a junkie on methadone: it does the job, but it’s not quite the same as the uncut dope. So, I endeavored to get a new television.
Of course, the new TV is almost twice as large, screen-wise, but weighs one-fifth of the Samsung. I shoved the Samsung into a corner while setting up the new appliance, and it stayed there a week. “How are you going to get rid of it?” my knowledgeable friends and family asked. “When do you want to move the old TV?” my girlfriend gently prodded. I despaired. I didn’t know how to get rid of this television. People suggested I advertise it on craigslist, but since the thing could only be moved by two or more stalwart lumberjacks, I envisioned a stream of people trampling through my house to look at this pig in a poke, rightly decide that they couldn’t budge it, and exiting only to leave me with the monstrosity and the dirty feeling of having a stranger judge me for my Batman comics collection. I considered taking the television apart and disposing of it in pieces, but a friend advised against this as a substantial charge can remain within the recesses of older television sets. I worried, I fretted. I tried to ignore this gigantic television lying dormant right next to my seat on the couch. “Maybe I can pass it off as sculpture,” I pondered. I wondered how much trouble I’d get into for shoving the television off of my balcony, and even how I would shlep the thing four measly feet to do that much.
Then, in a fit of hopeless exuberance, my girlfriend and I got rid of it. How we did it is not important, and I don’t know that I could even describe it. The important thing is the extreme feeling of relief upon expelling the beast from my apartment, from my life. It was more than the weight and size of the physical thing, that Samsung television amounted to a quarter-ton badge of shame signifying my familiarity with shitty prime-time sitcoms and interminably boring sporting events. As with many such feelings, I wished I had gotten rid of the damned thing sooner. We all carry our impossible televisions through life, metaphorically and sometimes literally, feeling like these are our crosses to bear, the things we’re given with which we’ve got to make do. It isn’t true. I’ve got a new television, but it doesn’t carry with it the worry and discomfort of my old immovable, anxiety-laden set. Getting rid of that headache sooner would have been worth missing all of the episodes of Family Matters re-runs that I watched in the interim.