Recently my TV, internet and telephone service, all provided by one supplier via coaxial cable, went out. I called the company in Norwalk countless times, only to be greeted by a robot who first informed that our ‘conversation’ would be recorded and then kept asking me to press “number one” if I wanted to talk in English. Finally, when I was able to tell the automaton (in English) that NOTHING (!!) in my house was working – I freely admit that I was screaming – he (she?) just dismissed me and, despite my repeatedly pressing the zero (operator) button, summarily hung up on me. “Thank you for being patient, you are a valued customer,” the android processor had reassured me, “ and then clicked to disconnect in spite of my indignant yelling.

(Digression/Detour Rant) There used to be a time, in more pastoral days, when pressing the damn “O” on the dial would succeed in gaining access to a conversation with someone with real chromosomes and protoplasm. Not anymore! Nowadays, these fricken robots treat you like you’re a lowlife – a mere ‘basic cable’ subscriber. I wonder how I would be treated if I had ordered HBO or something extra like that. I’ll bet you the algorithm for the shmoes who pay for Disney, ESPN and MTV is much more respectful. (End of Digression/Detour Rant. Kindly resume below.)

Anyway, so here was my plight. I’d gotten so used to watching TV while I ate my breakfast and lunch that my gastrointestinal system frankly does not function without the cable news channels. I just can’t eat without the Wolf Man (Wolf Blitzer) and Andrea Mitchell. So what to do?

Turns out, I feed the birds in the morning. I’ve done this for more than 25 years and, if you don’t mind me saying this, the tufted titmice, the red breasted nuthatches and the juncos (I feed the latter with seeds on the ground) all love me. True, it’s tantamount to buying their affection, but they do really adore me – especially on bitter cold days and when there’s snow on the ground. But the thing is, after I load up the feeders I usually don’t pay much attention to them. I retire to my den where I watch the cable news. However, with my service outage, suddenly my life changed. I basically was forced to eat in the kitchen where I have a table and a large picture window that provides me with a panoramic view of the birds and squirrels. And then it occurred to me while crunching my Special K that this was quite relaxing. Tranquil, actually. And guess what? I liked it! It dawned on me that peace and quiet had strayed from my life and that it had happened so gradually and insidiously as to have gone undetected through the years. But, now, with the birds pecking away at the black oil sunflower seeds, and me sipping my Chinese tea, my blood pressure was going down. Was it the cardinals, jays and woodpeckers before me? Or, was it not listening to the Trump news? Maybe it was both.

Look, our lives have become hectic. The buses, subways and roads are clogged. The lines at Costco are enough to prompt even sane people to pull out their hair and slit their wrists. And then the property taxes, the emission test for my car the state is now demanding, the unconscionable prices of tomatoes, the sponge paddles with long pips … the junk they call music on the radio. I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

When I was a kid, there was actually a working farm nearby (owned by the Borden company). Now, at the very location there are strip malls instead of green pastures with the Holstein cows. Don’t tell me that with the advent of Netflix and telephones that take photos, that this is a moment of time with a better quality of life. Don’t tell me that. It’s time to return to Thoreau and Walden Pond. Simplify, ol’ Henry David said. Simplify! And watch the birds while you sip Chinese tea. Lao Du