Deb Eleanor’s Moral Dilemma

The Weird Sisters, by Eleanor BrownIf you’ve read The Weird Sisters you know that one of the major themes is the ways in which books and reading influence our lives.  My parents always taught me to take something to read wherever I went, because you never know when you are going to be stuck somewhere and need a little diversion. Frankly, I find unexpected delays delightful, because I get to sneak in a few more pages.

But lately I’ve noticed a serious intrusion into these beautifully unexpected respites of reading time.


I noticed this first at the doctor’s office, where once we had all sat happily reading our out-of-date magazines, a television appeared.  And a loud one at that.  During the day.  When the talk shows are on.

And now I feel like they’re everywhere (I think the lowest point was at the pump at the gas station). If I’m the only person in the room, I’ll figure out how to turn the volume down or ask if I can turn it off so I can read in peace.  But if there are other people there, I feel like it has to stay on.

TV Be Gone remote controlExcept it doesn’t.  Have you seen these devices? The TV-B-Gone is advertised as a way to turn off virtually any television.  It looks like a car’s remote control and you can ostensibly click it and give you (and everyone around you, whether they want it or not) a little peace and quiet.

The readerly part of me is oh-so-tempted. One click, and, ah, beautiful silence. After all, if the television weren’t on, maybe everyone else around me would go back to reading too.

But the polite part of me is uncomfortable. What if someone really does want to watch that talk show? Do I have the right to decide how other people spend their time?

So should I buy one and give myself a chance at a few more moments of peace? Or should I let it be and just tell the people wherever I am that I really wish they wouldn’t have one?

What would you do?

33 Replies to “Deb Eleanor’s Moral Dilemma”

  1. I bought your book and started reading it last night–I’m loving it!

    Now, the TV. I would totally get one and click whenever possible. I don’t think people should be forced to listen to the obnoxious TV babble of someone else’s choosing. That is why people have TV’s at home! We should be afforded the luxury of no TV at places like doctor’s offices and the gas station. In my opinion, at least. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Penelope! I hope it continues to make it happy.

      Good point re: having TVs at home. I’d always thought of it as a private activity – then again, talking on the phone used to be private, too!

  2. I’ve noticed the annoying televisions in many of my doctor/dentist/hair salon waiting areas but often it is turned on mute. And usually tuned to game shows or Fox news. The funny thing is, most people are still watching it with no sound and no real interest, just staring, their eyes glazed over. Others are engrossed in their phones. Few pick up one of the complementary magazines scattered around. I’m usually the only one with a book in hand. So sad.

    One of my friends bought the TV-B-Gone with divine aspirations of ridding the world of the constant brainless clatter. Alas, it didn’t work on most televisions unless he was very close.

    I finished The Weird Sisters last week and I loved it. Though it did make me realize how unacceptably long it has been since I have picked up one of the Bard’s works. Thank you for hours of reading delight.

    1. I wish more of the ones I encountered were on mute – I wouldn’t mind that so much, though you are right that even the images can turn us into zombies.

      Sad to know the TV-B-Gone isn’t as reliable as advertised.

      And thank you for your kind words about The Weird Sisters – I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, and hope you’re inspired to go see an amazing Shakespeare production soon!

  3. My doctor has FOX News on in his waiting room – my blood pressure is through the roof by the time I get into the examining room. I ignore it – and look at the giantm ess of magazines on the waiting room tables. Yesterday at the pediatrician (3 kids with strep today, yay!) the TV was off – in fact, I’ve never seen it ON, and my Gianna noticed. The quiet waiting room was lovely.

    1. I am not a fan of having any news channel on in a public place – if for no other reason than those channels have an inordinate amount of yelling!

      Ugh – hope the girls are feeling better today, and hurray to your doctor’s office for keeping the tv off and silent!

  4. I would find it very tempting! My one doctor has a loop show of “educational” viewing that always plays over and over. Would love to see it off! Some have news on mute with captions. That’s OK since I can read in peace. I always carry a book. That said, I think it would be great fun to have one and give it a try! You could practice in a Best Buy or store selling tvs!

    1. Oh, I’ve seen those, too – the loop is so annoying, especially if it’s short and your wait is long. I appreciate the idea, but I don’t think they’re interesting or informative enough to make it worthwhile.

      I’ve read reviews of the TV-B-Gone where people did exactly that – walk through a large electronics store and turn them all off at once. Makes me feel for the employees who have to turn them all back on, but must be an interesting sight!

  5. I think the diplomatic approach would be to stand up, meekly clear your throat, and kindly ask if anyone is watching the television, regardless of how many people are present. More than likely, no one is going to say, “Yes, I’m watching this drivel.” But if that fails, turn the television off with your TV-B-Gone, insist you know what you’re doing to calm the naysayers, and start reading your favorite passage from THE WEIRD SISTERS aloud to the group. Not only will you soon have a captive audience, but your prose will make the television explode, right there, in the waiting room. Applause will erupt, and you’ll be lauded a hero.

    You, combined with the TV-B-Gone, hold much power, Ms. Brown.

  6. I read TWS on Kindle as soon as it came out and loved it. I think you should use the TV-B-Gone early and often. Especially during a basketball game.

    1. Thanks, Steve – I’m thrilled to hear that you liked it!

      I can just see people’s faces if the tv went off right at the end of one of the Final 4 games…too cruel!

  7. I just came from the dentist where there’s no TV in the waiting room but there are giant screen TVs up near the ceiling in the individual exam rooms. It’s usually off or today mine was on but low/close captioned. I was sitting there so long one of those People’s Court type shows came on after a morning show and I finally asked someone to just shut if off. Even if I’m not reading, I enjoy the quiet and being with my thoughts (such as they are!)

    1. I listen to my iPod at the dentist – it makes me a much calmer patient. My old dentist had TVs in the exam rooms turned to a news station – I just asked them to turn down the sound. My new one has educational videos with closed captions on. I don’t know which is stranger!

    1. It looks like a car remote control, so it would be easy enough to sneak it by people and confuse the heck out of them!

    1. I am fairly good about tuning them out, but it depends on what’s on and how loud they are. The one at my former doctor’s office was LOUD and impossible to ignore. Hello, Jerry Springer Show!

    1. That’s so funny – I was in an airport the other day with the loudest and most aggressive muzak I’ve ever heard. It was kind of creepy, actually. The tv might have been less intrusive!

  8. I’m not a television fan myself (I do own one, but I’m not sure how to operate it) but I’ve noticed how many people feel the need to have a TV turned on whenever they’re home. They’re not sitting there watching it, but it must be on. I don’t know why, but the sound drives me bonkers. Oh, and the sound of televised sports is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Hate it, hate it, HATE IT.

    I’m done now.


  9. Eleanor, I am really noise-sensitive–don’t like listening to anything in the background when I’m reading or writing. My solution? Ear plugs. But now that I know about this device, I might have to invest in it. 🙂

    1. Ooh, ear plugs are a good one. That said, I shouldn’t have to carry them everywhere (remembering now that my last bank branch also had a financial channel on in line). Grrr…

  10. I kind of love this TV-B-gone idea. Although I have to say I have a rare ability to tune out all noise when I’m reading–TV, phone, husband, kids…

    I agree with the post though. What’s wrong with people that they can’t read? Or sit in silence for 5 minutes??

    1. Weirdly, I can tune out anything at home, but if I’m in a waiting room or something, I find it much more difficult. I also don’t understand why they can’t sit in peace for a while – I think we’re getting worse and worse about not being entertained every second.

  11. I love the advice of taking a book with you wherever you go. Fantastic!!! These days too many kids are glued to their iTouch or iPhone. Ick.

    You should patent the idea of TV-B-gone!

    1. I’m guessing they already have it patented, but it’s definitely one of those, “Why didn’t I think of that?” ideas!

      I have an e-reader app on my phone, which definitely helps if I’ve forgotten to bring something with me.

  12. I honestly hate television. I only own one to occasionally play games or watch movies. I generally have three things in my bag at all times (and they are the only reasons I carry a bag, really): book, notebook, and sketchbook. Sometimes I read, sometimes I write, sometimes I draw. And while I can do most of those just fine and tune out everything once I’m going, when I first begin ever little noise and movement distracts me. I will zombie out to the TV even when it’s muted, simply because the moving picture is distracting.

    I think this little device is something of a godsend. Turn ’em all off and leave people to their imaginations instead, I say! :3

    1. I only buy handbags big enough to carry a hardcover book in. It’s definitely distracting to have a tv on even if the sound is off – they really are hypnotic. I wonder what we’d all dream up if we weren’t watching tv!

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