'm sitting in front of a box that I've been told will change my life. The box is called TiVo, and it's a device that can record a gazillion television programs. A friend talked me into purchasing TiVo earlier this week when I was considering replacing my broken VCR with another VCR.
'Oh, honey, they don't even make VCRs anymore,' he said with a rude chuckle meant to make me feel tragically unhip. 'Get TiVo. It will change your life.'
In the following days, I would be told by dozens of people that TiVo would change my life. At the mere mention of the product's name, their eyes would grow large and glassy as they touted TiVo's charms. Their beatific expressions reminded me of the carefully dressed members of fringe religious groups who would knock on my college dorm door at moments when I was feeling particularly vulnerable. If you made the mistake of letting them in, they'd spend the next three hours railing against premarital sex and telling you how the lyrics to 'Sympathy for the Devil' prove that Mick Jagger is Satan. And for weeks afterward, I'd sleep with the light on because I was scared that Mick was going to jump off the poster hanging above my roommate's desk, slither into my bed and force me into an adulterous affair.
At first I resisted the TiVo cult because a. ) I don't watch TV very often; and b. ) I'm generally opposed to cults, mainly because I love Kool-aid and if someone asked me to drink a glass, I'd do so happily and without hesitation. Plus, it seems like most cult members—at least this is true of the ones who live in my neighborhood—spend an awful lot of time dancing in circles and chanting nonsense. And, as regular readers of this column ( are there any? ) know, I don't like to dance. Now, if it was a cult that was devoted to singing showtunes, well... . But, then, I've already been denied membership to that cult by a couple of bitchy sopranos in the Gay Men's Chorus.
My attitude toward TiVo changed when a mean man at work overheard me discussing my refusal to buy the machine. 'It will change your life,' the mean man said. The mean man actually reached out and stroked my wrist when he said this. He's not usually the touchy-feely type. In fact, I have long suspected that he has some form of autism. ( Most of my colleagues disagree. The consensus is that he's not autistic; rather he's just a big jerk. However, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. )
I figured that if TiVo had the power to transform the mean man into a guy who no longer feared human contact it might be worth a shot. So, I placed the order and as I waited for it to arrive, I thought about all the other things that had been guaranteed to change my life over the years: that stupid haircut I got last summer; a job at a major newspaper where my boss turned out to be a sociopath who wore Laura Ashley jumpers and orthopedic shoes and wouldn't let me drink coffee at my desk, not to mention every goddamned one of my ex-girlfriends.
When you think that something is going to change your life, you rarely stop to consider whether it will change it for the better or the worse. The jury is still out on TiVo. But if my sad experience with the George Forman Grill is any indication, I think I already know the answer.