TV watching can range from boring to snoring
My old friend, Professor Van Von Venn, has long argued that television sets should come with a warning label that states: "Warning: TVs have been shown to cause drowsiness, fatigue and sleep. DO NOT watch while driving a car or operating heavy machinery."
Although I have long thought that Professor Von Venn should come with his own warning label, I have to admit that his idea is a good one.
My dad used to call TV the "idiot box" as he passed through the living room on his way upstairs to read a book. While I can see the reason for his assessment of television programming, I think I will leave that for another column.
Getting back to Von Venn's idea, I have made a lifelong study of television's ability to numb your brain and relax your body to the point where you are soon watching the inside of your eyelids instead of the 72-inch screen.
(It is amazing that while TV screens have grown to the size of those found in drive-in theaters and cable brings hundreds of channels and networks into our home, we wind up watching reruns of 50-year-old shows.)
As kids, my brothers, sister and I all viewed TV viewing as getting the most interesting when it was time for us to go to bed. When the 9 p.m. bedtime rolled around, television programs suddenly got to be much more desirable. Then would begin the ritual that occurred on every school night. We kids would plead, beg and whine to stay up "just to the next commercial."
Our opponents in this nightly debate, our parents, almost always carried the day, and we were soon shuffling up the steps to bed.
On those rare occasions when we got our wish for a bit more TV and a slightly later bedtime, we discovered television's sleep-inducing power.
By the time the next commercial was shown, a few or all of us were either sleeping or about to nod off.
Few tasks in life are as difficult as waking up, getting up and going to bed. We just felt like sleeping on the living room or in the recliner.
On those days, our parents were in the unenviable position of having to struggle to get us out of bed in the morning and then back into bed in the evening.
When we were smaller, Dad could always heft us onto his shoulders, carry us up and dump us into bed. Eventually, we got too big for this method so Mother and Dad had turned into shepherds in charge of a flock of sheep that been counting themselves.
They would get us awake enough to stand up and then herd us up the stairs.
When we got older, we were allowed to stay up much later to watch TV. The problem was that TV programming pretty much shut down at 1 or 2 a.m. One channel might be showing a grade Z movie, but that was about it.
As a consequence, I would often awake in the pre-dawn hours with the test pattern on the TV screen. I would be too tired to get up and turn off the TV, so my dad would have to wake up me up and shut the TV down when he came downstairs for breakfast.
In the past decade or so, I reached the age where I wish I could get myself up to bed earlier than I usually get there. It's not so much that there is nothing of interest on TV; it is just that I need the sleep.
In short, I rarely fall asleep watching TV because I rarely watch TV.
I do almost all of my TV watching when Jo Ann and I are visiting her mom. I occasionally fall asleep there, but I usually wake up before I have to drive home.
My problem with dozing in front of the television began a few years ago when we set up a TV set in the basement. It was not one of the larger models, so we did not have to remove any walls to get down there.
Jo Ann and I soon were using the TV for our Saturday night at the movies. Thanks to Netflix, we have been through Doris Day's film catalog at least twice.
Occasionally, we will work in films by other stars. Even less occasionally, we both stay awake long enough to see the end of Doris' or other movies.
As a result, we have developed our own version of the "thumbs up-thumbs down" ratings by Siskel and Ebert.
Ours is more like "one person up and one person down." By that time of week, we are both exhausted, so a movie has to be really good to keep us both awake.
Despite good films and our determination to watch an entire movie, usually one or the other of us will start to doze early in the film. If we are both awake all the way through, the film gets our highest rating of two wide awakes.
More often than not, one of us falls asleep and has to be carried upstairs. This has me worried.
One of these Saturday nights, Jo Ann might drop me on the way up the steps.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)