By Dave Lazer
There is a hip ask in a cupboard in my kitchen that has, at some point, become completely fused shut. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve tried in vain to prise it open, break the lid off or stab it open with a kitchen knife (it’s usually around this time I realise that no matter how worldly and grown up me and my friends allege to be, we still can’t successfully pull off a ‘soirée’ – no matter how fancy the olives).
The reason I’m telling you this is not because this column is going to be about hip asks. I know very little about hip asks; the self-welding one in the cupboard is pretty much the alpha and omega of my hip ask expertise. The reason I’m telling you this is that up until about an hour and a half ago, that hip ask was easily the most exasperating and inadequate article that had ever taken the trouble to fuck with me.
For reasons I shan’t bore you with, I am currently sat in a hotel room, in the quiet (read deserted) Lancashire village of Adlington. The room is freezing cold. There’s no wi-fi and the kettle doesn’t work. These are minor inconveniences; what has really got me riled is the television.
If I had opened the door to my hotel room (though in all fairness, it’s only really a hotel room in the manner a newspaper is an umbrella) and seen an old, wooden panelled relic, I would have promptly relinquished all hope of watching television. But it wasn’t too old or too Chinese looking. It appeared perfectly adequate.
What I have now decided to refer to as my ‘chamber of discontent’ is situated above a pub. Had it not turned out to be the worst pub in the world, I would have probably forgotten all about the television and would, in all likelihood, not be sat here typing furiously in the dark. I had intended to write about my mock GCSE religion exam (granted, it wasn’t the topic I’d been asked to write about) and I had planned to write it from the relative comfort of my South Acton at. But right now I couldn’t possibly write about anything but this television. It has utterly consumed me. What you are reading is the literary equivalent of a cheated housewife frantically hurling golf clubs out on to the lawn. And for that, I apologise.
About half an hour ago, in an attempt to distract myself, I ventured downstairs in search of company. I sat at the bar with my enormous book about Chinese propaganda posters, ordered a Diet Coke, started messing around with my electronic cigarette and instantly felt every bit the ostentatious Londoner that I immediately assumed they took me for. As I glanced round at what I was quickly realising were not going to be my new friends, I suddenly became very aware of the fact I was wearing a dangly earring and pink socks.
Four or five gruff looking, weathered (both literally and metaphorically) men, well past their prime, were giving me the same disdainful look I give Italians in shiny Puffa jackets and Rude Girls accidentally wearing Ramones T-shirts. I then began to think about Sir Phillip Green and became mildly incensed. I glanced round again – although they clearly weren’t happy either, their dulled melancholy easily bested my pedantic ire and had, almost certainly, nothing to do with Topshop.
As I headed back to my room to face the object of my frustration, taking solace from the fact I hadn’t used the term ‘chamber of discontent’ in front of the locals, my thoughts turned back to the malfunctioning television. I realise that for a piece of writing that is essentially about a malfunctioning television, I have taken a rather long time to mention the malfunction. This is partly because I am, to all intents and purposes, an absolutely awful journalist and partly because even thinking about it makes me want to simultaneously destroy both it and the entire world.
OK. Listen to this:
There is a button on most television remotes that enables you to switch between (the now obsolete) analogue signal and the digital signal. As I said before, this isn’t a particularly old television. It’s got a digital setting.
When I first turned on the set, it automatically went to analogue. “No need to panic though, my telly at home does that”; you just need to switch it to digital. Just press the ‘tv/dtv’ button – easy.
Or at least it should be. When you press said button, what this particular 19 inch, waste-of-the-fucking-universe television does, is turn from analogue to digital (wow, Dave! That’s great, that’s what you wanted, right? Why you so angry, Dave? – LET ME FUCKING FINISH) and then, within about three quarters of a second, it switches back, allowing you to watch 0.75 seconds of programming before returning to a screen of static.
Like the indeterminable alcohol in the hip ask in my kitchen, there are channels and channels of television, mere feet away, with absolutely no way of obtaining them.
You may well be reading this thinking “oh, mine does that sometimes, you have to be delicate with it”, trust me – I’ve tried everything. I even managed to ease the rubber button out and press the actual internal part of the button with a pair of tweezers – exactly the same thing. I’m pretty sure I’ve pushed this one button more than any other button I’ve ever pressed in my entire life.
After surrendering to impotent technology, I lay face down on the bed, shaking (like an Eskimo who’s just been punched in the face) from a mixture of indignation and possible hypothermia. After about fifteen minutes of silent, motionless tantruming I suddenly leapt to my feet. “I’m such an idiot, why didn’t I think of this immediately? The telly probably has buttons on it.” I rushed over and with feverish excitement checked the sides, ran my hand across the back and peered on top – there is was: ‘tv/dtv’.
For two or three seconds, I no longer felt like an Eskimo who’d been punched in the face. The icy chill of the un-radiated room temporarily ceased to affect me as my heart began to race. As I reached to press the button it felt as if all the stress in my life would instantly evaporate. With a comforting ‘click’ it was pressed and I stood back to behold its majesty.
‘137’. I pressed it again – 138; again – 139 – “what the fuck is it?” Instead of switching to digital, the button just brings up a box with a number in it. What does this even mean? It’s not the channel, it’s not the volume, and it’s just a box with numbers in that increase by one every time you press it. 140,141,142… I gave up on 233. It was no good. My emergency parachute had failed to open and I was now plummeting towards earth, resigned to my fate. Thwarted, I turned it off and marched to the toilet to take an angry shit.
Needless to say, there was no toilet paper.