I bought a television. It wasn’t by choice. This purchase was in response to the constant questioning from potential au pairs while we searched for the right person to watch our son. All of the young women we interviewed, regardless of whether they came from a mud hut in Africa or whatever the heck kind of cold house they have in Greenland, all the young women wanted to know one thing, “Why don’t you have a TV?” And then came the questions after that; “Is there a reason you don’t have a TV?” “Could I have a TV at your house?”, “Could I buy a TV?”, and finally, “Are you secretly Amish?”
After this exchange happened eight separate times, I decided it was time to buy a television. The only problem was that they’re damn expensive! If I was going to buy a technological chotchke I didn’t want, you better bet your bippy I wasn’t going to pay a lot of money for it. This was how I was nearly stabbed to death.
After much searching, I found a largish TV for a smallish amount of money on Kijiji. Tex had deemed it necessary to accompany me on said errand to prevent my corpse from turning up in the local river. However, in typical baby fashion, our son fell asleep right as we drove onto the street. Hence someone had to stay in the car with him because if faced with the choice of possible death and waking a baby, one always chooses the less painful option. So there I went to knock on the door by myself.
The only problem was; I was knocking on the wrong door. I had gotten the address mixed up. Realizing my error, I hopped across and down the street and knocked on the proper door. A large well groomed man answered “Is Jules there?” I asked. “You’re looking for the boys around back” the man answered before shutting the door in my face.
Walking down the narrow dark alley, I thought to myself “And she was never seen again”. Somewhat hesitantly, I knocked on the third door of the day. A lanky, scruffy youth answered. “Is Jules there?” I asked hopefully. “Yeah he’s downstairs” gestured a youth, pointing to a dark, narrow and steep staircase. I stepped inside the grubby entranceway and descended the staircase, all the while thinking “And she was never seen again”.
At the bottom of the staircase, I was greeted by a room that must have a special place in the “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” hall of fame for being the filthiest kitchen in the world. I was shocked there weren’t roaches skittering about. Despite the grime, the youth who had let me in recommenced making lunch. “He’s in there” the scruffy young man pointed to a doorway on the opposite side of the room. “and she was actually never seen again” I thought to myself as I approached the doorway.
Jules sat in his underpants on a single mattress covered by a sheet that had once been white but now was…not. The walls were adorned with a combination of machetes, marijuana paraphernalia and breasts. There was a large, beaten up looking fish tank in the corner resting on an even more beaten up chest of drawers. The nicest item in the room was the television which Jules was still watching. Suppressing my need to gulp nervously at the machetes, I introduced myself “Hi, I’m Unwashed, I’m here to pick up a television” all the while guessing how much time would have to pass before Tex would come to look for my lifeless body.
Jules jumped up and quickly explained that he was just watching the TV until I arrived so he could demonstrate that it worked. Eager to leave, I handed him the money as Jules unplugged the television. He gallantly offered to carry the TV to my car. Given the freezing temperatures, I didn’t want this man to lose his television and his testicles to frostbite in the same day so I declined his offer.
After making my way over several snow drifts, and popping the TV into the back of the van, all without waking my son, I turned to Tex and said “I just stole that man’s television. It was the nicest thing he had in his life, and I took it for a song. I hope he manages to get enough drugs with that money to forget how awful his life is.”
The whole way home I felt terrible. I mean I have everything; a loving husband, a beautiful baby, a nice house, clean sheets, breasts of my own so I don’t need to look at images of other people’s- everything. And now I had this man’s television. I felt just awful.
Months later, after relaying this story and my lingering guilt to my sister, she said “You know that it was stolen right?”
Ever the country bumpkin I replied “Huh?”
“How big was the TV, and how much did you pay for it?” my sister asked.
Gesturing with my hands, I said “One hundred dollars.”
“Definitely stolen” she replied.
A terrible pit formed in my stomach, similar to the one that I had on the drive home from the squalid basement apartment that day because I knew Diana was right. Now, to top it off, I was in possession of stolen goods. I’m not sure whether that makes my karma better or worse.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of people who have way more machetes than necessary and my contact information.