CHAPEL HILL, NC–Area resident Jonathan Green does not own a television, a fact he repeatedly points out to friends, family, and coworkers–as well as to his mailman, neighborhood convenience-store clerks, and the man who cleans the hallways in his apartment building.
"I, personally, would rather spend my time doing something useful than watch television," Green told a random woman Monday at the Suds 'N' Duds Laundromat, noticing the establishment's wall-mounted TV. "I don't even own one."
According to Melinda Elkins, a coworker of Green's at The Frame Job, a Chapel Hill picture-frame shop, Green steers the conversation toward television whenever possible, just so he can mention not owning one.
"A few days ago, [store manager] Annette [Haig] was saying her new contacts were bothering her," Elkins said. "The second she said that, I knew Jonathan would pounce. He was like, 'I didn't know you had contacts, Annette. Are your eyes bad? That a shame. I'm really lucky to have almost perfect vision. I'm guessing it's because I don't watch TV. In fact, I don't even own one."
According to Elkins, "idiot box" is Green's favorite derogatory term for television.
"He uses that one a lot," she said. "But he's got other ones, too, like 'boob tube' and 'electronic babysitter.'"
Elkins said Green always makes sure to read the copies of Entertainment Weekly and People lying around the shop's break room, "just so he can point out all the stars and shows he's never heard of."
"Last week, in one of the magazines, there was a picture of Calista Flockhart," Elkins said, "and Jonathan announced, 'I have absolutely no idea who this woman is. Calista who? Am I supposed to have heard of her? I'm sorry, but I haven't.'"
Tony Gerela, who lives in the apartment directly below Green's and occasionally chats with the 37-year-old by the mailboxes, is well aware of his neighbor's disdain for television.
"About a week after I met him, we were talking, and I made some kind of Simpsons reference," Gerela said. "He asked me what I was talking about, and when I told him it was from a TV show, he just went off, saying how the last show he watched was some episode of Cheers, and even then, he could only watch for about two minutes before having to shut it off because it insulted his intelligence so terribly."
Added Gerela: "Once, I made the mistake of saying I saw something on the news, and he started in with, 'Saw the news? I don't know about you, but I read the news."
Green has lived without television since 1989, when his then-girlfriend moved out and took her set with her.
"When Claudia went, the TV went with her," Green said. "But instead of just going out and buying another one–which I certainly could have afforded, that wasn't the issue–I decided to stand up to the glass teat."
"I'm not an elitist," Green said. "It's just that I'd much rather sculpt or write in my journal or read Proust than sit there passively staring at some phosphorescent screen."
"If I need a fix of passive audio-visual stimulation, I'll go to catch a Bergman or Truffaut film down at the university," Green said. "I certainly wouldn't waste my time watching the so-called Learning Channel or, God forbid, any of the mind sewage the major networks pump out."
Continued Green: "People don't realize just how much time their TV-watching habit–or, shall I say, addiction–eats up. Four hours of television a day, over the course of a month, adds up to 120 hours. That's five entire days! Why not spend that time living your own life, instead of watching fictional people live theirs? I can't begin to tell you how happy I am not to own a television."