Don’t Touch That Dial (Or, a brief digression about waiting room televisions, HGTV, and the reasons why the pursuit of knowledge is more fun than knowledge itself)

I was at our local hospital’s imaging center a few days ago for a couple of CT scans. I’ll spare you the reasons at this time, because that’s not the point of this post. If it becomes something worth talking about, you can rest assured that I will.

My wife and I were sitting in the center’s huge waiting room. I was sipping Sprite from a can with a straw. The soda was laced with whatever chemical they needed in my body for the scans and we had to allow it time to course through my system. I had to drink two sodas, in fact, and had to wait a long time.

Anyway, while we were sitting there, very close to a rather large television screen, my wife gave me a nudge and told me to read the printed sign posted on the television.

It read:

DO NOT CHANGE THE CHANNEL FROM HGTV

“Huh,” I said.

The television was indeed tuned to HGTV. The network’s logo was in the lower right corner of the screen. One of those home remodelling shows was playing. You know the type I mean. I thought it was Love It or List It because I recognized the British female host. It occurs to me now, however, that I never saw the little bald real estate guy who attempts to convince the owners to buy a new house rather than remodelling. Maybe it was a different show.

“Weird,” I said. Then Sharon started distracting me with an infinite series of TikToks until I was summoned by a medical professional to go do my thing.

I didn’t think about the sign on the waiting room television again until much later.

HGTV.

I then asked the question, to no one in particular, that I should have asked that morning in the imaging center.

“Why?”

Why did the staff of the imaging center want the channel left, specifically, on HGTV? I can understand discouraging channel flippers. We’ve all suffered with those in our lives already, right? But why specify leaving the channel on HGTV? Why not TV Land or the Game Show Network?

My magpie mind is mesmerized by shiny things and refuses to leave stray thoughts and observations alone. I don’t become obsessed with these little mystery boxes that seem to randomly appear in my life. But my thoughts will return to them, time and again, for me to worry the mysteries like a dog with a bone.

I hear what you’re saying. Firewater, why don’t you just ask someone at the imaging center why they want to leave the television on HGTV?

I know that seems like the logical thing to do. At least to you. That’s true only if I want to know the real answer to the question. I don’t. I prefer to speculate about the reasons. It’s something to keep my synapses firing and the mental juices flowing.

Speculative fiction is almost always more entertaining than reality.

Maybe it’s a sponsorship thing. HGTV is paying the hospital (or at least the imaging center) to keep the channel on their station. It guarantees a captive audience of people waiting for MRIs and X-rays. Maybe it somehow boosts the ratings for Property Brothers or My Lottery Dream Home.

The main advertisers on HGTV are appliance manufacturers, building materials suppliers and Sherwin-Williams. Probably Target as well. There’s no real connection to the medical field.

True, the imaging center is in a building. There’s that.

Seems like the television in my dentist’s office was tuned to HGTV as well the last time I had a checkup. This is beginning to sound like a conspiracy.

I’ve been in plenty of waiting rooms—oil change places, doctor’s offices, airports—where CNN seems to be playing constantly. That makes more sense to me. That’s the news, right? Disasters, scandals, tragedies, and weather and sports. Probably a wider appeal than finally having a place in the closet to display all of my athletic shoes or achieving my dream of having an open concept layout, ensuring that we limit the places in our house where we can have any privacy or selfish quiet contemplation.

[Editor’s note — When Firewater is allowed time and space for “quiet contemplation” he only comes up with garbage like this post about a sign on a waiting room television.]

But HGTV? It boggles the mind.

My wife suggested it was because other stations might have inconsistent volume or irritating sound effects. Or more commercials about eczema, diabetes, menstrual cycles, incontinence and erectile dysfunction. You know, medical commercials. Or more commercials about class action lawsuits or injury lawyers who’ve managed to make the leap from bus stop benches to television.

I can see where HGTV might present a less potentially offensive option than some networks. You can’t say it is overwhelmingly liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, Marvel or DC. It doesn’t really pander to any niche group. All races, religions, genders, sexual orientations and professional sports team affiliations seem welcome.

If someone switched the channel over to Fox News, that might stir up a key demographic that apparently makes up a high percentage of my adopted home state. If we switched channels to FXX, we might hear a few unwanted curse words. It would be cruel to turn the channel to the Food Network, especially for someone like me who had to fast for his CT scans. Any music channel would fail to appeal to everyone in the waiting room. Maybe the best possible choice would be a channel that appealed to no one.

I’m not saying that HGTV appeals to no one. I find myself watching the network more often than you might think I would. But what I like most about the network is that it doesn’t require me to actively watch it. Most of the shows are similar, and there’s very little drama other than the made-up kind. In many ways, it is the visual equivalent of comfort food. Only without the food.

So specifying HGTV might have been a stroke of genius. I challenge you to find anyone who has a bad thing to say about the network. I mean really bad. Even I will say the network is repetitive, derivative and mostly unoriginal (as if all three of these weren’t ways of saying the same thing), and I’ve already said I like watching HGTV shows.

Sharon and I go to sleep with the television on. I know, all of the experts say you shouldn’t do this and it ruins the quality of your sleep and all that rot. Old habits die hard. For a time, we’ve gone to sleep while our DVR recordings of Modern Family play, one after the other. However, I’ve noticed that the music that plays during each episode’s opening credit sequence is louder than the rest of the episode, and Sofia Vergara sometimes achieves a tone in her strident voice that makes my back teeth itch. We’ve recorded episodes of Bob Ross’s Joy of Painting to begin watching at a later date. We don’t have enough episodes recorded yet. We both find Bob’s voice soothing and like it when he talks about the happy little trees and clouds.

After experiencing the sign in the imaging center waiting room, I suggested going to sleep with HGTV playing. My wife is considering it.

I just thought of another reason for the sign.

There was another couple sitting about twenty feet or so away from us in the waiting room. Both were wearing their KN-95 masks like my wife and I were. The woman was also wearing wraparound sunshades, so I couldn’t pick her out of a lineup. The man was wearing a trucker’s cap with a very high peak and sported graying stubble on his sun-darkened cheeks. He looked like he had been ordered up from Central Casting. “Give me your standard older Arkansan male. A background performer, an extra, not a leading man type.”

Here’s the thought I just had. This nondescript and completely unidentifiable couple probably like HGTV a lot. One of the two could have changed the station to HGTV and then put the sign on the television to keep anyone from changing the channel.

I told Sharon what I was thinking, and she said, “Are you suggesting that this couple always carry a neatly printed, not hand-written, sign—a sign that’s also laminated, you might remember—that says DO NOT CHANGE THE CHANNEL FROM HGTV everywhere they go, just so no one will put the channel on something they don’t like to watch?”

I shrugged. “It makes as much sense as any other reason I’ve come up with.”

“I would say that this sort of thing will drive you crazy,” the love of my life said. “But that ship may have sailed.”

She gently patted the back of my hand.

My wife doesn’t understand that wave functions are more beautiful before they collapse. This will not be the last time I think about this sign.

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Touch That Dial (Or, a brief digression about waiting room televisions, HGTV, and the reasons why the pursuit of knowledge is more fun than knowledge itself)

  1. Loved this post. It’s absolutely nuts there is a sign…let alonethe fact that channel is the one which is not to be disturbed. As far as sleep disturbances, the music on Modern Family IS loud. We leave the tv on to fall asleep as well, and when Modern Family is playing I know to make sure the sound setting is on “1”…but as you know, it’s not just the opening theme…but when Gloria decides to go on a rant even “1” isn’t low enough!🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In our grim dystopian future, someone will offer the theory that WWIII began because someone switched the station from something called Beachfront Bargain Hunt. That person will immediately be branded as a witch and will be stoned to death.

      Liked by 1 person

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