Seems the top-selling consumer electronics item on Amazon.com this past holiday season was a 52-inch high-definition TV.
I'm not surprised, really. Wall Street, the job market and our collective can-do spirit might be going to hell in a hand basket but, darn it, we still shell out big bucks to goggle at individual blades of grass on a football field.
We purchased our first HDTV last year when our old set finally shot craps. Oohing and ahhing the first time we switched it on, we marveled at our ability to see fine lines, even on the foreheads of the "Real Housewives of the O.C." (Time for another Botox party, ladies.) Tiny beads of sweat glistened clearly on our favorite basketball players' muscular arms. And the impossibly crisp produce on the Food Network made our eyes pop and mouths water.
It didn't take long, however, to realize how quickly "high-definition" can redefine the dynamics of a harmonious - or should I say, formerly harmonious family.
Here's the problem: Once you go high-def, you can never go back - especially to the suddenly substandard TVs in the rest of your house. The first time I turned on the 8-year-old set in our bedroom, post-HD, I double-checked to make sure I was wearing my glasses. Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer looked like they were sitting in a cluster of stratocumulus clouds! I squinted. I dusted the screen with a Swiffer. I wiped my lenses with lint-free cloth. Nothing would bring Matt and Mere back into focus.
"This will never do," I said to myself, and vowed then and there never to lay eyes on lowly low-def again.
My plan worked brilliantly, for a day or so, until my husband padded into the living room and brazenly announced he wanted to watch the basketball game at the same time as my beloved "House Hunters International."
"WHA ...??" I said, in disbelief. "Why, the audacity!"
"You can go to the other room," he replied. "The game's on ESPN-HD. I have to watch it in here."
"Oh, yeah?" I shot back. "Well, I have to help Linda and Malcolm find their new home in the Dominican Republic. How am I supposed to do that if I can't see the tiny cracks in the ceiling and floor tiles?"
"Newsflash!" he said, snidely. "Malcolm and Linda have already found their house. The show is taped, remember? They're probably scuba diving as we speak. You don't really get to vote. It's a gimmick. Record the show. You can watch it later. It's two minutes to tip!"
"Why should I record mine?" I huffed. "You record yours!"
His face reddened, eyes bulging ever so slightly. He took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
"Are you telling me you don't remember what happened the last time we recorded the game?" he asked in a flat, too-calm-for-comfort tone.
Did I remember? How could I forget?
It was the night of a big rivalry match-up. We set the game to record - as we were wont to do - and went out for a leisurely dinner. Our plan was to "speed watch" the contest (skipping commercials) upon our return, and finish it only a few minutes later than if we had watched it live. (Behold the DVR, best invention since the George Foreman Grill - next to the HDTV, of course.)
The game was excruciatingly close. Our boys and their boys fought head-to-head for 40 minutes regulation and a seemingly endless overtime. With less than one minute to go in OT, Coach calls for a timeout. The network cuts to commercial. My breathless husband leaps up from the edge of his seat and dashes for the bathroom. Just then, the phone rings. Hubby picks up. I detect impatience in his voice as he snaps, "Yeah, hello?"
What follows is about three seconds of silence, followed by a deafening, bone-chilling wail, "Noooooo!"
Moments later, he enters the room, his face drained of color.
"That was Wayne," he explained (as if I never would have guessed). "He called to relive the spectacular 3-point shot at the buzzer that won us the game. I didn't have time to stop him."
Poor guy was devastated. I couldn't think of a thing to do to make him feel better. (No, not even that.)
Desperate, I said, "'House Hunters International' starts in a minute, honey. Wanna watch it with me? Brexton and Gwyn are moving to Portugal and need our help!"
Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.