Impulse TV

TV buying guide

A certain frenzied logic takes over five days before the Super Bowl: I presently have a 37" television screen. A 37" screen just will not do. Therefore, I need a bigger TV.

Powerless to argue against such an ironclad line of reasoning, I bumbled into my preferred (read closest) home electronics retailer. By the way, I do literally bumble into stores selling anything more technologically advanced than a box of Cap'n Crunch (picture Cro-Magnon man entering a bookstore). I always dread the impending sales encounter, because I know each word I say after "hi" showcases my astounding (even to me sometimes) depth of ignorance and convicts me of supreme irresponsibility.
We're not talking gumballs anymore; we're talking big-ticket technology, and I might as well be sucking my thumb.

After all, I have done zero homework. I know it, and very, very soon so does everyone within earshot. I am the adult equivalent of the child throwing a wadded up dollar bill and a few miscellaneous coins on the candy store counter and asking the proprietor, "How much can I get for this?" But now, the stakes are higher. We're not talking gumballs anymore; we're talking big-ticket technology, and I might as well be sucking my thumb.

So, there I was, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my salesman, surveying three huge walls of big, bigger, and biggest Smart TVs, perfectly aligned and stacked, each displaying the same crisp colorful images moving in flawless unison. It brought to mind one of one of those stadium-sized, choreographed-under-the-barrel-of-a-gun tributes to "Dear Leader" in North Korea. And there I stood, like Dear Leader, taking in the grand spectacle, knowing nothing of and caring little about the individual performers.

I hadn't said anything beyond "hi" to my salesman at this point, so he presumably still believed he was dealing with an informed television buyer. Then, he asked me the type of probing, qualifying question that throws me for a loop every single time I shop for anything related to home electronics—computers, printers, cell phones, stereos, you name it. "So," he asked, "What kind of TV are you looking for?"

Dammit! I knew that topic would come up, but I was inexplicably caught off guard again. Now, because I bought a new TV eight years ago I am vaguely aware of a TV-related technology term or two, so, hoping to establish some cred with this guy, I came back at him with a question of my own. "Do you have any DLPs?" To which he deadpanned, "They don't make 'em anymore." There it was; the first full sentence out of my mouth firmly established my obsolescence.

In a way, though, it was a relief. All my cards were on the table, and I didn't have to act like I knew anything anymore. Now I could unabashedly stare at what really mattered to me - the price tags - rather than linger at each model, pretending to evaluate contrast ratios, aspect ratios, and various Hz levels. All I wanted, I could now admit, was to see the Super Bowl on the biggest, prettiest screen I could get at my given price point. Imagine Cro-Magnon man in the bookstore again, but now he's bumbled into a large-format Our National Parks picture book. Both he and I are now safe in our comfort zones.

After we got that settled, it took my salesman and me about 20 minutes to sift through my options. Oh, I asked a few throwaway questions about Sony vs. Samsung vs. Panasonic, but he and I now had an unspoken understanding that the answers he gave would be unchallenged by any intelligent rejoinder. He looked mildly disgusted. I have no doubt that if this transaction had taken place in Elizabethan England, he would have cuffed me across my cheek with an empty silk glove at that point and asked rhetorically, "Have you no curiosity, man?"

At times like these - when he is fully in charge and free to steer me whichever way he wants - I am truly at my salesman's mercy. The best I can hope for is that he's kind-hearted and that there's not an irresistibly gargantuan sales spiff attached to an inferior product. Time will tell, but I think my salesman treated me with compassion; however, one can never be sure about such things. Contemplating an easy C-note bonus my Electronic Express Dalai Lama may very well have succumbed to his inner Gordon Gekko.

EPILOGUE: My new Acme Bohem-a-tron worked wonderfully as we watched the Patriots win yet another Super Bowl. We gazed in wonderment as the agony of defeat etched itself into Russell Wilson’s face in stunning detail - the technology behind that picture remaining as gloriously irrelevant to me as ever.

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