When I was in high school, pranks were a fun and playful thing that all could enjoy regardless of age or state of mind.  Nowadays, however, teenagers are of a completely different disposition altogether.   The pranks that are pulled now are of no fun, but random vandalism.  Students seem to find it humorous to destroy and partake in acts of malfeasance.  Last year, for instance, a certain group decided it would be a good idea to inject all of the doors on campus with quick drying super glue, thus destroying the lock mechanism and fouling up classes for about an hour or so.  What they didn’t realize or rather, did not care about, is that it cost the school district over $30,000 in damages.  In order to save the district anymore expenses that high, the school hirers a few of us to work four nights in a row watching surveillance cameras from ten at night until six in the morning.  For me, the overtime works out to about forty dollars an hour, so the lack of sleep is worth it.  Even though I haven’t slept for more than 3 hours for the last three days.

    The first night was long and boring indeed, with not much more to entertain us than watching a few stoned skaters breaking into the skate park to enjoy a night of debauchery.  At approximately 2 AM, while counting the cock roaches on the floor, we had an epiphany.  If we tell the ‘Powers That Be’ that we saw nothing all night, they may not see it feasible to have us return the following night and thus putting a cramp in our financial style.  We knew we needed a story.  We came up with quite a doosy that was both believable and just hazardous enough to keep our value up.  When the other two guys went home to freshen up before the day shift, I stayed in our office to welcome the administration back to work and fill them in on our story. 
    You don’t have to spend much time in any company or place of business to find out who are the gossip hounds.  I found our loudest mouths in the office and made sure the story we came up with was painted vividly in their minds.  All day long every fellow faculty member I ran into couldn’t wait to discus my night of action.  Mission accomplished.  Job security assured.  

    A little over two years ago, our teacher’s union was on the brink of a strike.  You see, the cost of living in California had gone up and thus, the state granted each school district a certain amount to pay their employees as a cost of living increase.  Our district however, squandered the money and tried to hide from us the fact that they received any pay whatsoever.  After months of mediation and squabbling, our district offered to pay us retroactive cost of living pay for past months.  We were to see this new amount on our paycheck this month.  My direct deposit goes in at midnight on the last day of the month every month, so I checked my online bank statement on the second night of security watch and almost swallowed my tongue upon seeing the balance. 

    The question was not whether or not to spend it, but how.  I know, I know, I should save it.  Put it away for a rainy day just in case I need it.  That just isn’t my style, however.  After all, our President says we need to spend money to stimulate the economy, and who am I to disagree with the leader of the free world?  So it was settled.  I was going to Costco the very next day (the few hours I could stay awake for anyway).  

    I have been living with my plasma HDTV for about two years now and am loving it.  So much in fact that I am entirely too spoiled.  I do not enjoy watching low-definition television anymore because of it.  So my choice on how to spend my retro pay was evident.  When I arrived at the store, I had quite the decision to make however.  VIZIO makes a 42″ LCD television for about a thousand bucks, but this off brand, Westinghouse, makes a 47″ LCD for the same amount.  Being a male and understanding the intricacies of ‘bigger is better’, the choice was clear.  If only I knew how frustrating the next twelve hours would be. 

    After spending an hour or so attempting to find studs in my bedroom to hang the wall mount, I then began the grueling task of manually driving four 4″ lag bolts into the wood.  The design of the wall mount prohibits any use of a ratchet and therefore you must use a simple wrench, which means bloody knuckles as they knock against the frame with every turn.  Finally around eight in the evening, I had it flush against the wall and ready to receive the television.  I mounted the brackets on the back of the set, slid the unit onto the frame, connected the cables, and fired it up.  The liquid crystal display lit up bright as can be…for about ten minutes.  With a pop, all went black.  Nothing I could do would bring the picture back.  I moved the set from outlet to outlet testing the set.  Nothing.  With frustration, went off to my third night of work at the cameras and decided to get to the store first thing in the morning to return the set.

    I arrived home from work at about six and began the process of unassembling the new TV.  I removed the mounting brackets and reinstalled the stand, slid the Styrofoam sheet over the screen and carefully placed the set back into the box and sealed the lid.  I then lifted the awkward seventy pound box using the handles and walked it down to my truck careful not to drop it or make any sudden shakes as to loosen my already waning grip.  Half awake and wreaking with body oils slowly excreted from a night of no sleep, I began the twenty mile drive to Costco to return my faulty unit.  Being there at opening time, I drove right up to the front and was able to walk right into the return area to plead my case.  I could tell the cashier had very little interest in her job let alone my return issue.  She had that blank stare you know, the one where they look right through you and you swear you know all they are thinking about is when they get to leave this dump.  Nevertheless, I got the TV exchanged and drove my new set all the way back home. 

    Getting the new box up to the apartment was just as hard, if not harder this time.  Finally, I made it up the stairs and began the slightly deja vu sequence of installing the new set.  I slid the unit from the box, careful as to not scratch the sensitive surface of the screen.  I carefully removed the stand with my screwdriver and installed the mounting brackets just as I had the night before.  I lifted the awkward set up over my head and placed it on the mounting frame, connected the cables and attempted to fire it up.  No response.  I tried again.  Still nothing.  I couldn’t believe it!  Twice in one day!  I was certain there was something I was doing that was causing this lapse in technological functionality, so I tried every troubleshooting technique I knew of.  After an hour of sweating and cursing, I gave in and faced the inevitable.  I removed the mounting brackets and reinstalled the stand.  I slid the Styrofoam sheet over the screen and placed the unit back into its box and began the agonizing walk down to my truck. 

    As I drove to the merchant, for the third time now, I couldn’t help but wonder what the purpose of all this was.  Was I being tested?  Was there some lesson to be learned here?  There had to be.  Why else was I being put through this.  I came to the conclusion that I need to not be taken in by ‘bigger is better’ and choose quality over quantity rather to be so impulsive to purchase a bigger piece of equipment that I know nothing about.  I made the decision to exchange the television for the smaller-screened VIZIO of the same price. 

    When I came to the door this time, the cashiers were a little more interested.  I had the attention of almost all the tech specialists there and I did a very good job of convincing them that Westinghouse is a waste of a brand.  I loaded up the new VIZIO set and was on my way.  I arrived home and noticed already that things were simpler.  The set was smaller this time as was its box, making it a breeze to carry.  When I got it to the apartment, I noticed it had detach clips that when removed made the top portion of the box slide right off and gave the buyer easy access to the set.  Already things were looking better.  I removed the set, uninstalled the stand, mounted the brackets, and hung the unit on the wall.  I connected the cables and while crossing my fingers, pressed the power button.  Wallah!    

    I couldn’t help but see the humor in all this.  More than just the set not powering up, the Westinghouse TV was far more difficult to carry, it gave me a much harder time removing it from the packaging, and its stand was a pain to remove.  The lesson learned here is simple.  You get what you pay for.  Things are cheap for a reason.  I think it was Murphy who said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” 

    Well I have to be off now.  Duty calls.  I have my last night shift this evening and I need to gear up for it.  I will try to post another blog tomorrow, but I cannot promise anything until I know what my temperament will be, but until next time, keep watching the skies…