The West Ring

by Tina Blue
May 25, 2006

           I don't watch a lot of television. In fact, I watch it seldom enough that it isn't worth paying for cable, so I don't, which means that I get only three channels, and the reception on them is often pretty lousy.

          But that doesn't really matter, since I am not a big TV fan.

          A few months ago, however, I became interested in NBC's
The West Wing
. I am a political junkie, and the show's story line for the past few months revolved around a presidential campaign. I tuned in for the live debate between Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits) and Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda) and was immediately hooked. It is an awfully good show--or at least it was, since its last episode aired on May 14.  I knew it was supposed to be good, and that is why I had never watched it before. I try not to get hooked on good shows, because they can end up eating up hours of my time if I don't avoid them altogether.  Besides, even with the volume up full blast and the closed captioning turned on, it is still a strain for me to follow the dialogue on TV, and a smart, well-written show like The West Wing does require that you follow clever, rapid-fire repartee.

          But since that televised live debate, I have watched The West Wing religiously. Just as I suspected it would, it hooked me.

          Unfortunately, though, The West Wing is a kind of show that gives me particular trouble. Most of the action takes place in busy offices where telephones are constantly ringing. Under the best of circumstances I have trouble telling whether the ringing phone I hear is my phone or one on TV, and since a television scene doesn't always show the phone that is ringing (in fact, seldom is the phone shown while ringing--usually it's shown only when someone picks it up), all I have is a sound that may or may not be a ringing phone, but probably is.

          Is it real, or is it Memorex? Who can tell? 

          In a show like The West Wing, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the offices are just full of telephones, so there are often several ringing simultaneously or over the course of a given scene, and most of them are never shown, nor do we see when a staffer picks one up.

          It drives me quite mad, I tell you. 

         The first few times I watched the show I was jumping up constantly to answer my phone, which wasn't ringing at all.  After a while I calmed down, and learned to ignore the ringing--well, sort of. You never do quite get past the feeling that you should answer it.

          But then I started getting complaints from my kids and my friends about how they tried calling at a time when they were sure I was home, but the phone would ring and ring and I never picked up. 

          I finally solved that problem by hooking up to the Internet whenever I watched The West Wing. I have a dial-up connection, so if I am hooked to the Net, my phone doesn't ring, and the caller just gets a busy signal.  People have learned that if my phone is busy for long periods of time, then I am on the Net. Of course, my computer can be on the Net without my actually being on the Net, so when they would try to leave me urgent messages to get off the Net because they were trying to call me, I wouldn't see them, because I was watching The West Wing.

          Well, that show is gone for good now, so I don't need to worry about the constant ringing of the telephones. Now all I have to worry about is distinguishing my tinnitus from my telephone.

          Of course, the tinnitus show is one that will never get cancelled.


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