When I was about ten years old (maybe a little older, maybe a little younger – it’s hard to be sure without doing a lot of mental math and remember, and if I did that I would digress a LOT from the story I want to tell), my mother got a job as a bookseller at Barnes and Noble. I was very happy. This meant that we would have money coming in, and that she would get a discount on books. Also (unbeknownst to me) we would be getting all the books that could not be sold, after the covers were torn off. which is pretty freaking awesome. Yes, when a bookstore cannot sell a paperback book (or a magazine) by a certain date, they tear off the cover and send the covers back to the publisher to get a refund. The booksellers at the bookstore then generally get a pick of the books that they want from a stack on a first-come-first-serve basis.
With my mom off at work for four-plus hour shifts, I often stayed at home and did my schoolwork, or read, or something like that. After awhile, I realized that while she was at work, she was not going to be returning home at all, until she was done with her shift. At first I used this time productively, walking around our neighborhood (and some sketchy railroad tracks) collecting cans and bottles. I remember one time, I took a shopping cart and managed to collect all the bottles from behind a Mexican restaurant. Turns out they do not like 10 year old boys taking all their empty bottles very much. It only happened once. I managed to make a significant amount of money collecting bottles from hither and thither. After several months, I was stopped by a Sheriff Officer. He asked me what I was doing and why, and where my parents were. Let us just say that mommy was not too happy when she found out – as I was not supposed to be leaving the house at all.
At this point in time, she started giving me extra chores to complete while she was at work. At first, I did my best to complete my assigned tasks. After several weeks, I noticed that we had a TV/Radio unit with a screen that was approximately 5ish inches. I was very much aware that we had not used it in years — TV just was not a thing that was watched in our apartment. I decided to turn it on and fiddle with it a bit. After some time tinkering, I managed to get it to work. After this, for quite awhile, I would watch TV while my mom was at work. It entertained me when she had late night shifts where she would not be home til almost 11 or later. It was fun in the afternoon when Star Trek:Voyager would play. It was just a generally good way to keep me out of too much trouble, while potentially getting into trouble.
A month or two after I discovered this, we found a TV by the dumpster in front of our apartment. With my mother’s permission, I moved the 20+inch behemoth of a machine up the stairs. Ever rolled around before? yeah. Didn’t think so. After half an hour of work to get it near an electric outlet, we learned that it did not work. We put it behind the couch and out of our minds. That is, she put it out of her mind. I decided one day when she was at work to try THAT TV. Yes, we had already determined that it did not work. But have you not heard that thing about “try try again” or whatever? Yeah. so I did. And it worked out for awhile. Then one night my mom was returning from a shift that ended at 10pm. I heard her key in the lock, so as fast as I could, I unplugged the TV, moved the couch back, turned the light out, and ran to my room. As I lay there shaking in fear, I heard silence from the front room as my mother meandered about. Then I heard her moving towards the back of the apartment, where the bedrooms were. She stood in my doorway and said something along the lines of “I know you were watching television. The living room light was on when I walked into the complex, and I can hear the TV powering down. We will talk about it in the morning.”
Guess who barely slept that night?
Guess who got to take the TV down to the dumpster that day?
But there was still the 5 inch screen TV! Until my mother decided that she wanted to get rid of a bunch of stuff and rearrange the entire front of the apartment. So all that stuff went outside, and Goodwill was called. Goodbye 5 inch TV. But wait! there was a solution! Goodwill was supposed to come pick up the stuff on a day she was at work. And there was no way she would know whether or not something was there. So I took the TV out of the pile after she left, and moved it to my room. I hid it where any sane, logical 10-year old would hide anything.
Under my bunk bed.
Which actually worked very successfully for months. Until my mother decided that it was time for my room to undergo an overhaul, and since I was not going to clean my stuff effectively enough, she had to do it. And I had to leave the house that day. Poor, sad 11-year old me found a way to sneak the TV out of the house (this was after she got laid off from Barnes and Noble, so it was MUCH more challenging) before the date of the room rearangement.
and as I hurled it into the trash, that ended the era of the contraband TV.