A while back, I wrote about my mother’s 20-year-old TV – a Sony Color Rear Video Projector, model KP-41EXR96 – and how it outlived her and how I felt compelled to keep it going, in her memory. It has been eleven years, almost exactly, since she left this mortal coil and, now, the television has decided to join her. It finally flatlined; the three color lines of red, blue and green overlapping into a kind of bow tie formation: crossing in the center and separating fanlike at the outer edges; a butterfly with no membrane left between filaments in its wings, only the skeletal remains. In its last gasps, the image would try to expand and go to a black screen with the word “VIDEO” in green appearing in the upper right-hand corner. You could see its jittery struggle and then, when it could sustain it no longer, the picture would collapse back down into the three lines: the green one, although a mere eighth of an inch thick, still visibly sporting the now distorted “video” in its condensed, narrow space.
Looking like some sort of other-worldly typography, I thought it was attempting to communicate something. Or was it, like “Hal” in 2001, A Space Odyssey, just deconstructing and returning to its most rudimentary programming? VIDEO, hmm. It was all about video, it was created for video, its mere existence was for the purpose of video, its lifeblood was video. Was it crying, “Mama?” Was I crying, “Mama?”
Then, click, it powered itself off. So, there it was: big blank screen, hulking carcass, weighing probably 200 pounds. I was reminded of that time, years ago, when our cat Matthew died in our house. Matthew was a cat whom we had inherited from someone else, so I called that former roommate of Matthew to let him know. He was sorry, but he had just recently lost his dog, and we talked about our losses. My recollection of that conversation is that, although we both were truly sad, there was the reality of life changing to death, instantly, and then leaving this physical thing – sometimes a largish thing, this body – to deal with. A practical matter of disposal (for want of a better term) that needed to be addressed. This set was the 200 pound dead elephant in the room.
Understandably, the TV set was not a living thing, so the absence of a personality was not being felt here. Nevertheless, there was a long history and a sense of duty and stewardship to get beyond. But, suddenly there was this corpse, and the room could use some breathing space (if you know what I mean), so, go it must. But how? I mean, it was big enough for the two of us to be buried in it, maybe with a little adjusting and bending, but it was large, larger than a Coupe de Ville trunk (if you know what I mean). And compounding this issue was that we wanted to do the right thing in disposing of it. I wasn’t thinking about a military send-off, but, instead, a responsible and ecological solution to our predicament; in other words, not a landfill. Heck, this thing could poison and pollute the Earth for generations to come. (This concept is something which I struggle with daily on a very small scale, like with a screw-top on a bottle.) Did I mention that this set was a behemoth?
So, the place of waste is a conundrum. I have always been of two minds: waste not, want not; and leave the smallest footprint possible. And there you have it – I am drowning in stuff, a) because I like it or can use it (sometime, somewhere) and b) because I want to get rid of it carefully and meaningfully – mindfully. I assume that someone made this item carefully and meaningfully and, having taken it in, I have the responsibility to move it along in the same manner. What to do?
Well, like a bolt from the blue, an email arrived from an area co-op that occasionally offers an organized effort for mindful disposal of electronics. We have been there before with numerous generations of now-defunct new technology. During that visit the items were weighed and we paid a reasonable per-pound price. Gulp! – the weight issue was scary this time. But this email said nothing about weighing, only that a donation to the recycler was expected. So, the new problem was, how does a two-person operation (us who live with this monster TV set) get it down from the second floor and out to our vehicle? Well, with some strategizing and a largish piece of cardboard, we managed to toboggan it down the long, thankfully straight stairway. It was unexpectedly and surprisingly easy!
We arrived at the recycling lot, fearful that we would be rejected; but, no, some eager young men met us with quizzical looks on their faces. What kind of television is that? they asked. How old is it? they marveled. Yes, it was made before they were born, but in surveying the assorted boneyard of old sets standing around, forsaken, in the parking lot, we spied some in wood furniture-style cabinets that were much older than ours. It must have been the size and bulk of the thing that startled the boys. I am sure they thought that they were surrounded by some old sci-fi movie props. Painful to admit, it all looked very familiar to me. As I pointed out to the young’ns, heck, the car we brought it in is way older than the television set. Anyway, they took it, bemusedly, to be recycled. A happier ending could not have been asked for.
I know I am a little on the wacko end of the spectrum about some of this stuff, although I do have a clear conscience. My sense is, though, that many people have no conscience at all, so they are probably happier and healthier than I am. Lucky, soulless beings that they are. But the issue of this dead device had me reeling and had put forth a new challenge for me (as if there weren’t enough already): of finding a place for its final resting place and finding placeness in the disposition of property. My mission was to balance the right combination of “out it goes” and it having absolutely no impact on anyone else, born or unborn. New term: the placeness of misplacelessness, matter into anti-matter. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. “VIDEO.”
Epilogue: We have replaced the old warhorse with a successor, really a predecessor – a still functioning 1980 17-inch tube TV set – the first purchase we made together in our newfound relationship. No remote control on this one but a still-perfect picture after 30 years. So much for age.