Saturday, March 17, 2007

And now for something completely superficial. A few weeks ago, we got a satellite on top of our apartment building, there to join the bountiful garden of satellites that serve as a status symbol in this town. Two guys knocked on our door around 9pm, climbed on the roof, drilled a hole through our balcony wall, hoisted a long thick cable from a truck on the street to our seventh floor, and, voila, satellite TV on a cute used set with a teeny screen. TV! TV! We’ve moved the furniture in the living room so that it all points toward that charismatic screen.

Here’s some stuff we get on satellite. The length of this list, which is only a sampling of what I watch, makes me ashamed: an Arabic version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire (good language practice), The Comeback, Prison Break, 24, Fat Actress, The Sopranos, Seinfeld, The Larry Sanders Show, Crocodile Hunter, Boomerang, Cartoon Network, Saturday Night Live, ESPN, the History Channel, Animal Planet…wait a minute, you say, art thou in Egypt? Why, yes, still in Egypt. We also get radio and television stations from every country in the Middle East – besides our English-language channels, there are hundreds of Arabic channels. And hardly any commercials, though one can argue that 24 is one giant commercial anyway.

Before we got the TV up and running, I was buzzing through 2-3 books a week. I’m not trying to brag, I’m just saying now it’s taken me a week and a half to get through my latest read. This gives me a good reason to mention it: Dreams From My Father – Barack Obama’s first book. The thing I like about this guy is that he shows an evolution in the way he thinks. He is complex. He understands other viewpoints even if he disagrees with them. He has visited and lived in some of the poorest parts of the world. He positively impacted the south side of Chicago. And, most importantly, he is a reasonable human being. I think it would be nice to have somebody like this as our President. OK, not just nice. Essential.

Oh, wait. Wasn’t I talking about our TV? OK, finally, for Bryan’s sake, a “bribe” story. It rained on Thursday. The rain came after a week in which we’ve had some mild dust storms – dust in your lungs, grit in your eyes – apparently it can get much worse. Anyway, as it began to rain, the girls at the school across the street screeched and ran about and slammed windows shut. I threw the windows open and, after a few minutes of acidic odor, fresh air poured in, and it felt like spring.

In the meantime, just as I was watching the dumbest flick ever, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (now that I think about it, though, the movie How High, which I saw at a dollar theatre in Ames, is probably much dumber, since the protagonists end up digging up the body of John Quincy Adams and smoking his corpse finger like a joint for plot reasons that are, as you can guess, stupid)…anyway, just as I was watching C.A. and listening to the pouring rain, the satellite went out. Now, it’s true that the satellite went out during a scene in which Cameron Diaz ditzily flings herself around on a mechanical bull while wearing a white fuzzy outfit meant to paste viewers’ eyes to her thigh, and I was cringing at myself and thinking about how it would be better for my soul to continue to read that Obama book. But it was my day off, and I wanted to watch TV. Out it went, though. No signal.

I spent a few hours reading to celebrate my victory over myself. Then I retreated and called Orbit, my Magical Provider of TV. I was instructed to “refresh” the “decoder.” This meant unplug and re-plug the fantastical cable box. Nothing happened. I was told that a technician would call to arrange an appointment. Forgetting that I am in Egypt, I figured that would happen in a few hours. When J came home from work several hours later, he called Orbit. He was told a technician would call on Sunday to arrange the appointment. All those days without TV, and I had just started watching the first season of Prison Break! Alas. J got off the phone all “Uh-uh, no way.” I’m like, “Way!”

J gets back on the phone. I’m sitting there smugly, thinking, Good luck with that. Me? I’ll just read something.

Then he’s talking to the woman who set us up with the satellite in the first place. She had told him that we should call at any time if we needed something, wink, wink – give me some extra cash and you’ll get through the bureaucratic b.s. Sure enough, within an hour, the guy who climbed on our roof in the first place was here and had our precious entertainment up and running, and we paid him about $8. I realize, of course, that there are people for whom this happens in the U.S., but I’ve never been in that position before. I’ve always felt as if I’m at the butthole bottom of bureaucracy when it comes to dealing with companies. But here – have I become that asshole I’ve always hated? Oh, I fear for myself.

Ah, but why linger? Surely there’s something good on TV right now.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Anonymous said...

This made me laugh, chuckle, and laugh again. Gotta go, a rerun of I Love Lucy is on TV Land that I haven't seen for a couple of weeks! Happy St P Day! Love, mom

Sari said...

Yay TV!

But alas Miss Politician, you're still skirting the issue about how the bribe went down. Did you pay the lady who sent the dude? Did you mention the bribe to her? Did you just pay the dude? Did you all pretend it was a tip? These are questions and we demand to know.

K said...

I've been really, really busy the past few weeks and I've noticed that means that I still watch PTi (Pardon The interruption on ESPN) and Scrubs, despite the fact that they've made like four episodes (although the Journey-cover air guitar band never fails to slay me. I don't, however, read for pleasure.

Karen said...

You know, I've noticed that the first few months I move some place and wait for someone to donate a TV to me (I never buy 'em), I'm reading a LOT. I love it, but it's possible to get too drunk on words.

Also, here's an interesting article that was in Salon about Barack's political evolution:

Josef Assad said...

Bittorrent + the fast connection at the Coffee Bean + a TV out jack on your laptop. Never need satellite telly again.