An 85-year-old woman was saved by a neighbor from the home fire that started when her television burst into flames. Because of Facebook, I got to read this online story in a local south Devon newspaper from England. The Facebook “friend” who posted it added the quite sensible comment “Beware the TV.”
Small world. Something like this happened to my parents. It was much later than their neighbors when they finally achieved the social triumph of becoming owners of a color television. My father was a wall coverings salesman and the wholesale company held an annual contest. For selling more rolls of grass cloth and fake linen and vinyl wallpaper than any of his colleagues that year he was awarded with a big (well, what passed for big in those days) color television.
This helped to cement the habits of this aging couple: my mother fell asleep somewhere around 9:00 face down on the couch, dribbling from the mouth and “passing wind” as she liked to say with her usual delicacy; and my father nodded out and in, sitting in his big “daddy chair” with his feet crossed at the ankles on the foot rest. His half-reading-glasses slid down his nose, his chin rested on his chest and the open newspaper draped over his torso like a crinkly blanket. Somehow, immediately after the 11:00 news they would rouse themselves, turn off the TV and stagger to their bed on the second floor.
These couch potato habits day in and day out saved their lives twice. The first time they had just settled into bed when they heard a god-awful crash. The living room ceiling had entirely collapsed from a hidden leak in a second floor pipe. His chair and her couch were covered in plaster dust and crumbs. The rest of the loosened ceiling was actually being restrained by the vinyl wall covering on the ceiling, giving my parents time to throw on clothes, call for help and get out of there.
The second near-fatal crisis happened well into the night a year or two later, when the TV spontaneously exploded, according to the conclusion of the firefighters who came to put out the flames. When I heard about it, I had two immediate thoughts. It recalled for me the very funny incident in Dicken’s “Bleak House” of human spontaneous combustion. And then it reminded me that even the “prizes” of the bosses are dangerous to the health of the workers.
Now I see that it is an absolute trend, not an aberration. Even though this recent incident happened across a sea and a handful of decades later, clearly our elders are in danger from their televisions, and not just because of Fox News.