When Televisions Attack
As printed in Proteus, the Journal of the Delaware Valley Mensa (Sep 2009)

            In the days when I trained small groups of prospective employees for a company that I love, so it shall remain nameless, I would start a typical evening by gathering booklet and video materials from the designated “Trainers” area. Here I would usually find a television waiting for me, comfortably seated, if slightly dusty, on an enormous rolling apparatus that was never without a sticker featuring a screaming cartoon silhouette about to die, evidently, from reckless misuse of a television cart. One new center had not yet purchased such a cart, so we Trainers adapted by heaving the television from its inventory room shelf onto a flat, wheeled classroom podium before each session. As the podium differed from a television cart in that it lacked A) a suitable center of gravity for transporting heavy objects and B) a warning of impending death, we knew to move it carefully: face the television, pull the podium backwards, tango-like, guide it slowly into the classroom and off to the side until needed.

             The time had come for one session’s video segments, which I’d cued up in advance. All that remained was to bring forth the television, plug it in, make the introduction, and press play. I had just begun the podium tango from the side wall to the center when Trainee #1 asked a question from his seat. I made the mistake of glancing at him, ever so slightly to my left, to reply. I heard Trainee #2 gasp and saw an alarmed look form on Trainee #1’s face as his eyes shifted from me to the television. His mouth was open but mute, as though it wanted to say something but couldn’t. Somewhere, a switch had been flipped, transporting me to The Land of Slow Motion.

            I followed Trainee #1’s gaze and noticed that the podium was tilting towards me just enough to be unsettling, but not yet panic-inducing. “Hmm,” I thought. “The TV must be falling.” The heavy, chest-high, 27” TV/VCR. Even if I could have stopped its imminent descent, I knew that the wheeled podium would continue to fall, hitting me in the legs and knocking me over backwards with a heavy television in my arms. More likely, though, the TV would push me over and land on top of me, followed closely by the podium. Finding neither of these scenarios the least bit appealing, I opted to duck.

            I turned completely to my left and bent at the waist, my spine now parallel to the screen. I crouched to get my back (I hoped) lower than the podium surface so that the TV would (I hoped) slide and fall over me rather than directly onto me. That way the worst that could happen (I hoped) would be the podium hitting my side. Due to the whole time-warp situation, I enjoyed some relaxed humming and thumb-twiddling time while I waited. Dum-de-dum-de-dum, I wonder if it will hit me… dum-de-dum… hmm, maybe television really is bad for you… dum-diddly-dummy-dum…. Finally I felt the TV bump the right side of my back before it tumbled over me, crashing fantastically to the floor. The podium leaned on me, but righted itself once it realized that it was free of its burdensome coworker.

            The young woman working at reception down the hall jumped over the front desk’s low swinging door Dukes of Hazzard style and sprinted to the classroom to see what on earth had just happened. So I guess what I’m saying is that it was a really, really loud crash. The sound marked the end of my time-warp and all was normal again. Except for the large television on its side in the middle of the floor.

            In my world about ten seconds had passed. I smiled at the trainees, opened my arms, and said, “OK, ready to move on?” I wondered why no one smiled back. As I examined the faces of my beloved trainees for joy and relief that I was still three-dimensional and among the living, only then did I realize that no one had moved. At all. The four of them were still frozen in their pre-television fall positions down to the perfect “O” of Trainee #1’s mouth. It crossed my mind that people outside of my family generally do not maintain entertaining facial expressions for this long. My next thought was that 27” TV/VCRs at chest level generally do not take ten seconds to fall.

            I rubbed my back and took a moment to envision what the chain of events might have looked like to the class. A large, heavy television is about to fall on the instructor, who notices just in time to duck as it somersaults over her, careening to the floor with a vicious smash. She looks at it, smiles calmly and says, “OK, ready to move on?” Oh, God. That all had to have happened in just a second. I must look crazy.

            I cracked a few workman's comp jokes to try to lighten the mood, but the trainees were noticeably shaken. No less so the television, which I had to roll with some effort back into an upright position. It thudded into place, frame askew but screen in-tact. I crossed my fingers, hoping nothing would explode when I plugged it in, and made mental note of the location of the nearest fire extinguisher as I ordered the trainees to back away. We braced ourselves.

            Nothing. I pressed play. To everyone’s relief, Trainer Bob’s exuberant face and voice shone through as they always had. I stopped the video to offer the introduction, but rather than reenact my impersonation of an industrial warning sticker, and in lieu of offering the podium another opportunity to kill me out of spite for the television, I decided to let Bob educate us from the floor. The trainees seemed to understand.

            So, kids, the moral of the story is: buy Toshiba.

            Postscript, 9:08am, the following day: Center Director places order for television cart.

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