Losing My Free Cable

My parents want their cable box back

Illustration by Breanna Cooke

I’ve been committing what is akin to cinema fraud. Where you go to the movies, pay for one movie and stay for a second. Rarely a third. Never a fourth. I’ll blame that on a bad boyfriend.

My home-version of said fraud is cable. DIRECTTV. It’s not “stolen,” in that the service is being paid for. Just at another location — 17.2 miles from my home. Free cable.

Again, not my idea. This courtesy of bad brother, who was the beneficiary until he got himself a fancy TV that needed an upgraded receiver. Sister became the recipient of said service. Happy sister. Life in the land of free cable is lovely.

We Need the Cable Box Back

Until my parents — thee of the DIRECTV account — notified me they would be switching to Frontier, which isn’t available in my area.

“We’re getting older — we really need to cut back and start saving money.”

Please. There is no response.

Brother is thrilled with delight. He’s tried to nab the box back several times.

I think I’ll be okay for a bit because I’ve always stuffed my TiVo to the brim with binge-worthy shows and dozens of movies. I figured I’ve got months of watching on that bad boy. I settle in for a marathon night of “Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.” Bravo’s first scripted show is really good, even if they didn’t bother to mention the lead character’s obvious eating disorder until season two. On the sofa with a pile of guilty pleasure magazines, I turn the TV on.

Nasty message: “This TiVo service is only available with a DIRECTV subscription.”

They stole my content!

Dismay. Magazines untouched. I’m stuck. I can’t call to renew a service that isn’t mine.

I start recording shows at my boyfriend’s house. “The Real Housewives.” Yes, I have vapid taste in television. “Elementary.” “Girls.” “The Affair.” “Blackish.” “Major Crimes.”

Pop Culture Panic

“When will you watch all of these shows?” he wants to know. I’m in a pop culture panic and he’s concerned about the space on the DVR recorder. Because he doesn’t delete shows after watching.

“I might want to watch it again.” Really? You think you’re going to go back and re-watch a week’s worth of “The Rachel Maddow Show” when you’ve got a new episode every night? No.

Cable. So many options. Or at least it feels that way. I try to do some research while I get my nails done. In desperate need, they’d turned into claws practically overnight, getting stuck in my computer keyboard. Stuff gets under them, and not good stuff. No extra icing to eat with cake. Random stuff. Dirt. Hair dye. I always seem to get an itch when my hair is being colored. It’s hard to get that off a finger nail.

Google’s YouTube is launching a new live Internet service with 44 channels. Hulu is expected to announce a similar service. These so-called “skinny bundles” are aimed at “cord cutters” who want to ditch cable. Cord cutting is all the rage, but not mine. I’m fine with the cord. And who are we kidding? I’ve never been considered skinny in my life. Why start now?

A bit more digging and … I realize I really don’t have options. I only can get AT&T’s DIRECTV where I live. So much for choice. I try on my phone — with service from AT&T itself — to learn about cable service from AT&T’s DIRECTV.

The task is impossible. I attempt to enter my zip code and home address. Multiple times. In different ways. Then with another browser. All to no avail. The website keeps showing me information for Pennsylvania and won’t let me proceed.

I can’t complain to my therapist. She’s on vacation. But she wouldn’t approve. Another way in which I’ve stayed entangled with my family of origin. Even financially. Like when I had my auto insurance as part of their policy. I paid for it, but it was significantly cheaper, based on their zip code and years of being a client. Is that insurance fraud? I hope not. That’s serious.

I now have my own auto policy. But I do still use their rewards card at the grocery store, something else figured out by bad brother. Clearly, he’s a slippery one. I love my senior citizen discount! Especially on tampons.

Column originally appeared in the Katy Trail Weekly.
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