When a headhunter friend told me about a new job that had just come across his desk, it sounded too good to be true. Watch television professionally?
I was 23 years old, just out of college, and, for the most part, unemployed. At that time in my life, there wasn't much else I could do well -- but watch TV? For money? THAT I could surely do!
I was already doing it pretty well unpaid. More often than not, I spent my days alone in my crappy Hoboken apartment, watching TV. "The Sopranos," "The Wire" and "Six Feet Under" were the critically-acclaimed shows of the time, and I watched plenty of reality TV and schlocky stuff too. I wasn't that picky.
Thus, I wasn't really surprised when the Museum of Television hired me for the job. I was perfect for it. Until I realized...
A fun job is still a job
It was my first desk job. Yes, even though I'd get to watch TV for eight hours a day, I had to be at a desk -- sitting in an uncomfortable desk chair -- while doing it. That didn't seem too great. I also had to wear dress clothes, a button-up shirt, a tie and slacks. Not how I usually watched television, cramped in a pathetic cubicle and wearing some Men's Warehouse gear, but I figured I could deal for a weekly paycheck.
It's too much of a good thing
At first it wasn't so bad. Each day I arrived at work, my boss assigned me a day's worth of TV shows to watch and then catalog for the museum's computer system, so visitors would be able to find particular programming they were looking for. Easy.
When you watch TV for a living, though, you quickly learn there's a lot of it. I mean, there's a s--t ton of it.
You'll never watch most of the thousands of channels that come with your cable package, but I had to watch all of them. And all of those terrible shows. Two-hour Italian operas, documentaries on terrible diseases, the world's most boring news programs...it was never-ending. Very quickly I started dreading coming to work.
You become weirdly isolated
I had to wear bulky headphones while watching the Shakespearean adaptations and crummy sitcoms on the tiny TV monitor on my desk, so as to not bother my coworkers in nearby cubicles. You ever try to watch TV with headphones on? It's not fun. And, after an eight hour day, your ears are ringing and you begin to miss actual human interaction.
By watching so many programs that I didn't want to watch, I became quite knowledgeable about things I never wanted to be knowledgeable about. I'd find myself at bars talking about "Live from Lincoln Center" ballet productions or 1950s-era variety shows. No wonder I wasn't getting lucky a lot. TV was making me into a total weirdo.
You no longer enjoy watching TV in your free time
They say TV rots the brain, but at least it's usually a fun rot, like eating too much Halloween candy.
But watching TV you have absolutely no interest in watching rots your brain in a completely different way. It makes you go crazy. With each new day of work, I felt more and more like Alex from "A Clockwork Orange" during the famous Ludovico Technique scene.
Yes, watching TV for a living completely ruined watching TV for me.
When you come home from a tough day at work, you kick up your feet to watch your favorite shows. That's what I used to do, too. But suddenly I came home...and read books. It was like living in the 1800s again. At least I didn't have to read by candlelight.
It destroys your vision
Although, perhaps I should have read by candlelight. Eight hours a day of looking at a bright monitor inches away from my face scorched my retinas. I even had to get special prescription TV-watching glasses. Was I the first person to ever ask a doctor for such a thing?
For my health and my sanity, I had to quit. So one day I told my boss, "I'm sorry, but I no longer want to get paid to watch TV all day." He was probably as shocked as I was to hear those words come out of my mouth.
Now I write things like this for a living, which means I don't want to spend my free time with the written word. Thus, I'm reading fewer books than I used to, back when I worked at the Museum of Television.
But I'm back to watching a lot more TV at home. It's a nice tradeoff.