We have been keeping a viewing diary for the Nielsen TV ratings organization since last Thursday and while it's annoying and such a big hassle, it also tells us a lot about our viewing habits. It amused me to see that there are two columns to mark – one for when the TV is on, but another when it's off. Logic would tell us that if it isn't one it's the other, but the Nielsen people just want to be sure. Of course there isn't a lot you can view when the set is off, but I guess that's beside the point.
Full disclosure: my favorite channels are the Food Network and HGTV. I've learned a lot about cooking, even tried some of their recipes, and a lot about home decorating, and I've exercised some of those principles in redecorating my home, quite successfully, I might add. Sometimes Roger watches those shows with me, and we critique as we go. It's nice to learn, after all these years, what his tastes are in food AND home decor.
While I am one to sit down and watch specific shows, Roger tends to have the TV on ALL. THE. TIME. To him it's background music. He's a genius, of course, being able to correct papers and watch Poirot or Sherlock Holmes at the same time, and then tell you the plot, the red herrings, and who after all done it. This is amazing to me because otherwise this man has a one-track mind and is easily thrown into a heart-stopping dither when multitasking is required. But that's another story.
When he doesn't have a second task, TV dial spinning is a form of recreation. He starts at one end of the dial and channels up or down, stopping sometimes for several minutes on programs I know he doesn't care about, like baseball or a countdown of the top ten submarines on the military channel. Soon he moves on, lingering again at some other channel with an odd topic he isn't interested in. And he does all of this with the sound muted. That's right, muted. Even if it's a channel and topic he might be interested in, there's no sound. He stares at it, trying to figure out if maybe it's something he might want to watch, and doesn't turn the sound on.
He kind of does the same thing when an unexpected piece of mail comes. "Wonder who that's from," he'll frown. "Read the return address," I'll say. "Who do we know that lives in Provo," he'll puzzle. "Maybe your sister," I'll say. "Oh. Maybe it's a birthday card," he'll say. "The only way you'll know is if you open it," I'll say.
Since most of daytime TV is insanely boring, like pouring wet cement into your brain, the diary shows the TV is usually off more than 12 hours a day. If I'm suffering insomnia I might watch late shows or movies to bore myself to sleep, but there's nothing worth watching during the day before Glenn Beck comes on in the late afternoon. I'm done with the TV when that's over, but when Roger gets home, the dial spinning begins. There aren't many shows we watch in the evening, outside of cable news shows, and I have a short tolerance for those. Roger can always find something. Today it was an documentary on the history channel about the dark ages. Fascinating, but I'd seen part of it before.
From past experience, I know the TV is on much more during the day when Roger is home than when I'm here alone. I think the TV is on too much, but he is a local news junkie, especially weather reports. Local news makes me crazy. I have to leave the room. I can foresee a problem with this when he retires (in two weeks) and we're together all the time. We will have to have a discussion about this if I expect to maintain my sanity.
It's quiet now. He went to bed an hour ago and I can enjoy the silence or play music of my choice on my computer if I'm so inclined. We will mail our TV viewing diary on Friday, and the Nielsen people will probably draw the conclusion that anybody who watches Fox News that much is probably a scary freaking redneck. I'll be glad not to have to keep track anymore. But it has made me think about what I do with my time.