I don’t watch a lot of TV. I quit Dancing With the Stars and American Idol cold turkey several seasons ago, and joyously said goodbye to Lost (and five seasons of insomnia induced by this show’s maddening twists) this spring. I currently watch only two shows, of which Glee is a guilty pleasure and The Office is an admittable one. Though Glee’s saccharine life lessons annoy me, as well as the boy-band-tendencies of Mr. Schuester, I’ve found a bright spot in Sue Sylvester, or at least the version of her that interacts with her sister (disclosure: her conversation with her sister in the God episode actually made me cry). As far as The Office goes, I’ve heard a lot of people say that the Michael Scott character is ridiculous and not believable. I congratulate those people on never having had a Michael Scott as a boss. But believe me when I say that there’s an entire class of graduates of the Michael Scott School of Low Level Management and Improv, people who are now mediocre bosses at various locations throughout the United States.
I used to enjoy watching the news but I’ve largely given up on it. The 24-hour news channels just about destroyed news, having turned a lot of things that are not even remotely newsworthy into “news.” An event has to be major to get me to tune in, and there have been only a handful of times in my life when I have been “glued” to the TV. The first time I can remember was when Princess Diana died. I was 20 years old, living in my first apartment. I turned on the TV to discover the mangled black car and the news that Princess Diana had been a passenger in it. Her death began a news-watching marathon for me. I watched for days, and I can still remember those boys walking with their mother’s coffin and her brother’s powerful eulogy. My heart broke for the motherless sons.
The next event that glued me was the attacks on September 11, 2001. We lived in Germany at the time. I was at work and had gone down to the mailroom where Howard, the mailman, had a radio he listened to. He told me a plane had struck a World Trade Center building. It didn’t mean much to me at the time. I had no idea, in those initial minutes or hours, of the quantities of people that would be involved or the vast scope of the horror. As information trickled in, we all got sent home from work. I listened to the towers fall on the radio as I drove home. The TV went on the minute I walked in the door. I watched the smouldering rubble for days, just waiting for the rescues that never came.
The tsunami was my next overdose of news. I was very pregnant at the time and not working. I had a lot of time to tune in and did so. Nature’s savagery was startling, though it was good preparation for Hurricane Katrina, which followed eight months later. The storm made landfall at the end of August and I can remember still watching the coverage in mid-September as Grace recovered from a major surgery and we didn’t leave the hospital for six days. Of course, by this time, I was distracted and losing interest in the plights of others, when seven-month-old Grace had so many issues of her own.
I followed the Sago mine disaster pretty closely. It was Mike’s birthday, 2006. I still remember the heartbreak that followed the announcement that they’d made a mistake and it wasn’t that one miner had died, but that only one had lived. And so it was with the Sago outcome in mind that I tuned in two nights ago to watch the Chilean attempt to rescue those men who had been trapped in the mountain-mine for more than two months.
I hadn’t been following the story too closely…I knew they were down there and alive, but that was about the sum total of my knowledge. Yet when they hoisted that rescue cage up and a miner emerged, I wept. As I watched the child that I assumed to be the miner’s son weep with relief, I cried some more. Though I’d planned on going to bed early, I watched the capsule descend and then waited for it to come back up. The second miner came up and his exuberance was inspiring. He hammed it up and his sheer joy was infectious. I thought, “Here’s a group of people who probably know what’s important in life. And won’t forget any time soon.” I went to sleep overjoyed. As soon as I woke up, the TV went back on. The number rescued had risen to nine and I tuned in to the tenth rescue and cried again. I hoped for the best as the rescue efforts continued. I couldn’t tune in because kids needed to get herded to school and we had some stuff to do. I had a dentist appointment at 11, and never have I so looked forward to going to a teeth cleaning. At my dentist’s, there are TVs in the ceiling, they recline you, stick a pair of headphones on and pass you a remote. I turned on CNN and told everyone to take their time, that I’d be happy to wait if anyone was running late. As Emmy scraped and cleaned my teeth, I sat there with tears streaming, overcome with joy for the families that had waited so long. I dictated to Emmy the personal stories and the amazing details and reported the miners’ surfacing. After the cleaning was over and the dentist had finished with me, I asked if I could stay in the chair for a few more minutes because the next miner was almost up and I didn’t want to miss it. They all went to lunch and left me there. I was high on happiness when I left after another miner was extracted. I tuned in and out a few times throughout the day, as the events of the day allowed, and tuned in again with Mike after the kids were in bed, just in time to see the final miner emerge from the capsule. I cried tears of joy for every miner I saw exit the capsule, and have wracked my brain all day, trying to remember when, if ever, there was such captivating, good news on TV. Finally…something worth watching.
One of my favorite things is airport voyeurism. I love checking out the reunions – people brought back together after having been apart for who knows how long. I can’t leave an airport without tears. It’s one of my favorite places – assuming I’m not actually flying – because it’s so often filled with happiness. Yesterday, the mine in Chile was an airport on the world’s stage. And the world got a good look into the hopes and joy of 33 families reunited after 69 days apart. I absolutely loved yesterday, knowing that something wonderful was happening for so many people – not just the miners and their families, but for the entire nation of Chile, and beyond…to all of us voyeurs sharing joy vicariously, for all of us who finally had something on TV worth watching.