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September 2, 2012 

As tragic as tornadoes, wildfires, floods and tropical weather systems can be, they do serve as reminders of just how small other emergencies can be in our lives today.

I thought about this earlier this week as two cable guys and my wife were looking at the television trying to see if the occasional, tiny signal disruptions that caused a little garbled stretch of digital squares were continuing to appear even after a call to the cable guy, a cable guy's call for reinforcement, a pulling out of a 14-ton entertainment center to examine the connection behind it, two guys crawling through the attic and a call to NASA to see if the Mars rover Curiosity was messing with the signal.

Now, I had no problem with these occasional disruptions that I saw as tiny. Of course, I'm a man, and a man generally can't see small things like dirt unless it's a pile of it big enough to be considered part of a mountain chain. Besides, I remember far worse television-related emergencies. Like when Dad let loose that shrill whistle for me to bound down the stairs and see what was on fire only to find out he'd dropped the remote control and needed me to change the channel. Or I needed to wrap the antennas of my 13-inch black-and-white TV to find out what the warden just said to Cool Hand Luke on the Sunday afternoon movie.

"What we have here is a failure to ..." SNOW.

"What? A failure to what?!" I guess I'll never know. I hope Cool Hand Luke got out on probation or something.

What struck me as utterly ironic was that these three folks were staring at the TV just looking for a little glitch or hiccup to get frustrated about. And what was on TV? The Weather Channel, which was dedicated at that point to 24-hour coverage of Isaac, a real emergency.

(That's right, it takes a hurricane to get The Weather Channel to show weather these days instead of some show like "It Could Happen Tomorrow" or "When Weather Changed Snooki." Yes, kids, there was a time when Headline News showed news, MTV showed music videos and The Weather Channel showed the weather.)

On this TV were images of hurricane watch areas, storm surge projections, oil companies bailing from platforms, Louisiana residents clearing store shelves and flooding in Haiti, and these three folks were going, "There! I saw a little blip!"

In a world where you can watch TV shows on your computer, your smart phone, the bar, the restaurant, the hospital, the school, and a four-story-high screen at the stadium, a few blips on your living room screen aren't too big of a deal and certainly not an emergency - not even a TV emergency.

A TV emergency is when you get digital blips during the Super Bowl. Or when this rerun of "The Dukes of Hazzard" is one with those stupid replacement cousins Coy and Vance. Or when Andy Griffith dies. Those are TV emergencies.

Of course, perhaps the real tragedy is that we can't seem to live without TV anymore. And that prevents us from paying closer attention to the real tragedies that happen every day in our world.

You know, like dropping your iPhone in the toilet.

Chris Johnson is an independent correspondent. Follow him at

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