The house was comfortable even for the family of five who lived in it. It had four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room with a stereo system, a rarely used dining room and a family room with the central appliance: a television. That was the object of my downfall, the focus of my destruction.
It was 1983 and cable television was still a nifty idea. I had just graduated from high school and I had some time before I entered college, so I spent it watching television, for the most part, my favorite pastime. I was a little addicted to television. If it was on in the room, my eyes were glued to it, no matter how dull the video display was. When the TV Guide appeared in our mailbox every Friday, I memorized its contents for every channel from 3pm to 11pm for the next week. In this way, the rest of my family never had to consult the reference. They just consulted me. This was not a problem, or at least not yet. Rather, this only led to the fateful evening.
Mysteries weren’t my favorite genre. I preferred animation and comedy: Looney Tunes and MASH. I did a lot of reading of Science Fiction, and mysteries entered my interest through the back door of Isaac Asimov. Agatha Christie wasn’t unknown to me, but I’d not read a single one of her books. In our new version of TV Guide I noted that on one of the newer channels we’d just obtained called Home Box Office there was a showing of an Agatha Christie play, The Spider’s Web. I shrugged and decided to try it out.
It was a locked room mystery. Seven people could have committed the murder, and they all had excellent motives. One by one they are accused and they all deny. Their alibies are studied and found wanting. I am the detective, and in my mind I play with different theories. One is found wanting, so I develop another. The show is about to end, and the murder is soon to be revealed. I lean forward to see if my final theory, the gem I had been polishing for the last twenty minutes, is as priceless as I consider it to be.
And then the screen turns to snow. The cable had cut out.
The calm house is torn by a bloodcurdling screen as I rush the set. I switch channels, frantically, seeking life.
No good. Every channel had shut down. And the television remained inert, frozen for a whole hour.
Meanwhile, I sat there, stunned, staring at the white and black pattern, near comatose.