Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A TV in Every Bar - Except Mine

I’ve had a great bar in my basement for about four years.  It’s got lots of décor, a music system, and 12 taps of homemade beer.  One thing it does not have is a TV.  I’ve often wondered why so many people feel the need to watch TV at bars.  There seems to be a national obsession with watching sports, music videos, or pretty much anything as long as it distracts people from what’s actually happening around them.  Remember the old days when men and women used to hook up at bars?  Now they all but ignore each other as they gaze at TVs and smart phones.  Why waste time talking with an actual human being when you want a date?  That’s what Tinder is for.

Two of my neighborhood friends, George and Tom, have been telling me for years that if I put a TV in my bar, more people will visit.  Whenever I ask them why not having a TV would keep people from coming over, they say, “Because no one likes you.”

The reason my friends want me to install a TV in my bar is that they want to watch sports there.  Apparently the bar in and of itself is not enough to keep their interest, even with all the free beer and meth.

I have no desire for a TV in my bar because I already have a 51-inch plasma in the living room with about 53,650 cable channels (4 of which I actually watch).  George and Tom don’t see it that way.  In their view, a TV has to be inside a bar in order for it to be of any use, for the same reason that a toilet has to be inside a bathroom.

Shortly before the holidays George convinced me to look into buying a “smart” TV for my bar.  Smart TVs, he told me, can pick up cable channels without a cable box.  I know nothing about any technology that came out after 1983, so I took his word for it.  Not wanting to install and pay monthly fees for another cable box was one reason I was against having a TV in my bar, so with that hurdle out of the way, I agreed to consider getting a TV.  I measured a space above the bar and determined that a 40-inch screen would fit nicely.  My friends then chauffeured me to Best Buy.  Now, for those of you who don’t usually read this blog (which would be all of you), I endured a fiasco in 2007 when I tried to buy a TV at Best Buy and had an unpleasant encounter with a salesperson.  Fortunately the charge was reduced to manslaughter.

After looking at several models, we asked a helpful salesperson which ones had a cable app.  He assured us that the Samsung models did.  Being the trusting sort of idiot that I am, I believed him.  I bought a 40-inch Samsung “smart” TV, a wall mount, and a powerline network adapter, then headed home with my friends, who installed the wall mount because my last attempt at that sort of project resulted in a two-hour meeting with my insurance agent.

About an hour and three beers later we (meaning they) had successfully mounted the TV on the wall.  They powered it on and started fiddling with various information screens, apps, and God knows what else, while I stared at the TV with the same sort of comprehension that every dog I have ever owned used to have when I’d explain why they shouldn’t dig.  My friends managed to get access to the Internet so I could read e-mail and watch YouTube, which was fine except I can already do those things with my laptop.  What we wanted were cable channels such as ESPN.  Actually they wanted ESPN; I just wanted to enjoy my bar in peace.

We couldn't get cable channels because the TV did not have the app that the salesperson told us it had.  Oh sure, there were plenty of other apps that would enable me to get all sorts of Internet “channels” that I had absolutely no use for.  Well, I already have plenty of useless channels.  I pay Verizon for 53,646 of them every month.

With no sports to watch, George and Tom decided that the next best thing was to go home to their wives, which they did while I fiddled with the remote and watched a few videos.  Then I called Samsung to see whether they could help me get the cable app.  No luck.  Then I called Verizon.  No luck with them either.  They said that Samsung used to deliver traffic via "SSL", whatever that is, but now uses "TLS", again whatever that is, and many of their TVs cannot handle TLS, so now Verizon's FiOS app won’t work.  Or something like that.  Please read this and explain it to me.

So there I was with a brand new $350 TV, but everything else was the same as before I’d bought it: I was alone, I couldn’t get cable in my bar, and nobody liked me.

The next day I packed up the TV and returned it to Best Buy, suppressing the urge, as I had in 2007, to commit bodily harm to salespeople.  I told them about the nonexistent cable app.  They told me that it is possible to watch cable channels on a smart TV without a cable box, but it requires receiving the signal on another smart device such as an iPhone or iPad, then sending the signal to the TV, which is kind of like driving a car by putting a blind person behind the wheel and telling them when to turn.

I kept the wall mount and powerline network adapter in case the cable app issue ever gets resolved and I decide to put a TV in my bar.  In the meantime the wall mount supports my bar’s latest artistic addition:


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