Don’t worry ’bout your laundry
Forget about your job
Just crank up the volume
And yank off the knob
—Weird Al Yankovic, “UHF”
I know it’s not quite what Al had in mind, but whenever I think of this lyric, I’m reminded of the television my Mom and I had when I was in early high school.
It was a small color TV, maybe a 12-incher, circa 1982 (or before). This was the last TV we owned that had actual knobs to change channels, and a smaller knob below the channel selectors, labeled “Pull On / Vol.” This was how you turned on your television in the days before remotes, kiddies: grab the knob and pull. (Unless it was a twist-knob instead of a pull-knob, in which case you clicked it to the right to turn the TV on and then adjusted the volume, like the black-and-white TV we had when I was little. But I digress.)
The only problem was, by the time I was in high school — actually, long before that, now that I think about it — the power knob had made a break for it. All that was left was a small, black post with one flat side, barely protruding from a round hole in its wood-grain housing. To turn the TV off, we simply unplugged it. To adjust the volume, we carefully pinched the post with our fingertips and turned it, usually levering against the flat side of the post to make for easier and more precise adjustments. If we accidentally pushed the post back into its housing, into the “off” position, that meant getting the tweezers out of the bathroom and spending
a few minutes way too long coaxing the post back out of its home.
Eventually, one of Mom’s boyfriends visited our apartment and was aghast at the outdated television we were watching. He bought us (among other things) a brand new twenty-some-inch newfangled TV with a remote, and we finally entered into the 1990s with the rest of society.
I think it’s funny, though, how I never really thought about how ghetto our old TV was. I mean, I didn’t really care that it wasn’t new or fancy; I was just glad that it served its purpose, like my bed (a frame salvaged from a discarded sleeper sofa) or my desk (an old sewing machine table).
We just made do with what we had.