Not sure who unplugged the TV, honey

Anthony is taking the week off, so we’re rerunning a column of his from 2006.

When the boys were little, my family was the victim of a terrorist attack. Not many people know this—it was too painful at the time. After years of thought, I’ve decided to lay the blame at the feet of the Television Avenger, so the healing can begin.

One morning our 4-year-old discovered to his horror that some miscreant had cut the plug off the power cord of our only television. Having two freelance parents at home, he and his brother took it in stride and turned to my wife and me for entertainment.

My wife said, “Did you cut the cord to the TV?”

“I’m shocked that you think me capable of such a thing,” I said. “Children need exposure to as many marketing efforts as possible, and I’m suitably alarmed. Joe alone will miss upward of a jillion commercials a day. When he gets those multiple-choice questionnaires from people who would like nothing better than for him to mortgage the two of us in order to buy out their warehouse, he’ll fall short. In the part about major appliances, his score will suffer. He will have no large purchases planned for the next three, six, or 12 months,” I replied.

“You cut it! I knew it!”

“I want to talk to my lawyer. I think it’s the Fifth Amendment. ‘Take the Fifth,’ is what I’ve heard. Or maybe stand on the Fifth. So that’s what I’m doing, taking or standing on the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of this great nation.

“Your efforts to force a confession from me will avail you nothing. This isn’t some place where a person can go to jail without evidence of wrongdoing. Don’t forget, I could drag this out for years in the courts; by then, that television will have pooped out anyway.” This last was a telling point.

“This is a very bad time for this! Why would you just do that without discussing it with me?”

Because we’d still be discussing it. That’s what I was thinking.

What I said was, “As Bill Clinton said in some context or other, I’m sure you won’t find any evidence against me. And as the alpha male here I feel keenly that I have failed you all. Our perimeter has been breached. My scent marking has meant nothing.”

“Where is the plug?”

“What plug would that be, dear?”

“Never mind! I’ll fix it myself!”

And she did.

When I got back after my meeting, the boys greeted me with great excitement, because the replacement plug had set off the smoke alarm. I gave up, but even as I trimmed off the burned insulation and prepared to swallow my principles whole, I felt in my bones that our television would never be safe again. We must be ceaselessly vigilant, lest we forget that the American Dream is mostly shopping.