I’m sitting in a medical facility waiting room. I’m not afraid of dying, but medical stuff terrifies me. To calm me down, inane daytime television is on. I may be one of the very few who brings a book to such places, but I can’t read with the insipid chatter going on. This time, since I’m waiting for someone else, I brought my laptop. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think of Ray Bradbury at times like this. Many people think Fahrenheit 451 is about burning books. Bradbury did write about burning books in his short stories, and it does happen in Fahrenheit 451, but that’s not what the book is about. In interviews he said that he intended, as is pretty obvious from a straightforward reading of the text, to warn about the invasive nature of television. It was, metaphorically, burning books.
Waiting rooms always bring that to mind. Not only that, but it’s Valentine’s Day and all the talk shows are going on about how it’s “the day of love” (every day should be). It’s not a day off work; I had to cash in a sick day to be here. The word “holiday” keeps cropping up on the television, to which I have my back. Ever since leaving Nashotah House I haven’t watched television. On our recent move to Pennsylvania our cable company didn’t offer a non-television option. It was unthinkable. We pay for something we don’t use. Burning books. I don’t have time for television. I see shows that have proven their worth via DVD well after they’re off the air. And that only when I can read or write no more in a day. I guess I’m a Bradbury disciple.
Like any disciple, I have changed certain teachings of my leader. Bradburyism is a religion objecting to ubiquitous television. At the same time, I grew up watching the tube, and to this day I’ll stop just about anything to watch DVDs of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling, however, selected stories and teleplays that were well written. This was a literate show. Besides, my daily life often feels like the Twilight Zone. Like Valentine’s Day in a waiting room. The book beside me remains unopened. It’s the same when I take the car to the garage, or go in for an oil change. You can’t escape it, even though everyone else is paying attention to their phones. How long until we learn to switch off? Of course, medical waiting rooms are the places where I may need brainless distraction the most.