Monday, June 16, 2008

Teenagers Are Idiots, Part MCMXCII

Once again my parents were out of town, and Terry and I found ourselves in sole possession of the homestead. As always, this was a glorious way to be. We were free to do whatever it was we felt like and get into any trouble we deemed appropriate. Being the juvenile reprobates we were, we tended to get into a good bit of trouble, though ultimately we never caused any "true" mayhem. But there were moments where we thought our little world would come crashing down around us.

For example, on this particular occassion, Terry and I had become bored with the entertainment afforded us by our cable provider. We had mere basic cable, with its handful of channels, and this provided little, if any, of the scantily clad and lust-filled women that teenaged boys require. And of course, this caused a serious concern for us.

Bear in mind that we are talking about 1992, here. This was the day of BBS systems with very slow connections, not the literal candy lane of voyeuristic sexuality that today's discerning kids enjoy. These were the times of tattered and faded Playboys, handed down from generation to generation. A time when terms like "scheize film" and "tentacle rape" meant nothing.

One afternoon while sitting around the house lamenting our boobless times, an idea popped forth in our brains. My parents had recently had a cable box put in their bedroom so that they could receive the "Encore" movie channel. It occurred to us that if we were able to open and infiltrate this box, perhaps we could somehow supercharge it to receive the Playboy channel FREE OF CHARGE! The brilliance of this plan was sublime, and at once we set to task to crack the mysteries of the box so that we might enjoy some of its 40D goodness.

Mere seconds into the operation, however, we discovered our first major stumbling block; the screws. These puppies were designed so that lust-filled teenagers would not be able to open them. They required a very specific and special type of screwdriver bit to be turned, incorporating the star shape we are familiar with, with a recessed area in the screw head. All in all, no such tool was to be found in my parents' basement.

Fortunately, however, Terry happened to be a regular MacGyver. He was one of the types you could run to in a pinch and his standard response would be, "Get me an apple, 7 inches of string and a paper clip". I was always more of a defeatist and the second I saw the screws I started commenting that this was futile.

Terry would have none of it, though, and in short order had used a dremmel tool to forge the necessary components to get the case open. And open it we did, confident in our ability to rewire it.

The first thing we noticed after getting it open was the little tab that separated from the mainboard to let the cable company KNOW you had just popped it open. We were smart enough to recognize that this could very well be our ultimate undoing, but desperate enough for mammary glands that we pressed ever onwards.

Now that the thing was open, we realized our next dilemma. What the hell do you do with a circuit board? It's not like we could really rewire anything. We just stared blankly at the thing for awhile, aware that we had just screwed ourselves by opening the unit, but having not achieved our ultimate goal. Despondent that we were unable to procure free jibblies, we slapped the machine back together and proceeded to rewire it to the tv.

But there was a problem. A big problem. An, "OH SHIT" problem. Once turned on, the box would now display NOTHING but the TV Guide channel. NOTHING. You could try every single channel, but this was the only one you could get.

So now we've broken into the box, left the trail obvious, AND destroyed it. We knew that something had to be done or we'd end up in a world of trouble, so it was time to go for the obvious and destroy that box somehow.

However, we were not entirely certain that our actions would go unnoticed by the cable company. Being young and frightened, we were unable to determine if cable was a one-way or two-way medium. The big question was, could the cable company ALREADY KNOW that we'd monkeyed with this thing? If so, had authorities already been dispatched?

Within minutes we had the machine unhooked and had made our way up to Flint to discuss our situation with the ever helpful staff of Best Buy. We struggled to maintain an air of maturity and approached the associate there with one of our world famous "hypothetical questions".

"Hypothetically speaking," I began, attempting to come off as Basil Rathbonesque as possible, "if one were to open a cable box and said box were to accidentally cease to function as a result, would the cable company be able to infer this via the cable line?"

Of course, we thought we were pretty suave, but the truth is we were blatantly obvious about what shenanigans we had gotten into. Luckily, the salesperson was able to recognize WHY we were asking and gave us reassurances that cable is a one-way medium. They can transmit the signal, but that little box has no way of reporting back to them.

Somewhat calmed by this information, we made our way back to my place to begin phase two of the operation, namely the destruction of the box.

We knew that whatever methods we used to destroy it, its destruction had to be "invisible". (ie, no crushing destruction or any other methods that just could not have happened.) Before long we had narrowed the death of the box down to two choices: electrocution and immersion.

For electrocution, we decided that the best and easiest means would be to hook it up to a car battery and just give it a power surge. The immersion was Terry's preferred option, but one I could not get behind.

This is his honest to god idea for immersion:

"Okay, we'll go to the cable store together and I'll wear a helmet. You can introduce me as your retarded brother, Mongo, who peed all over the cable box because he didn't know any better."

I shit you not, that was his idea. And believe it or not, he was incensed that I was deadset against it.

"I'm not going to pretend that you're my retarded brother, Terry," I would protest, only to have him redouble his efforts to convince me.

"What if I drooled more?" he would ask, or, "What if I REALLY pissed on the box?"

I knew that convincing him otherwise would not work, so I simply set to work on electrocuting the box. If I just got started, he would acquiese and start to help me out. We got the thing outside and in almost no time had it wired up to my car battery.

I hopped in my car, turned it on and gave it several strong revs. The box didn't seem to be affected one way or the other, so just to be certain I gave it a few more revs. We took it back inside, plugged it in, and lo and behold...Nothing had changed, the TV Guide channel still taunted me with its knowledge of our upcoming schedule.

Resolute that this matter be resolved immediately, we moved into phase two of the immersion. For this phase simply filled a bucket with water, dumped the stupid box in and turned it on. We let it run in that water for a good five minutes or so and then took it back in the house. No change.

We knew SOMETHING had to be done, so we moved to phase three, electro-immersion. For this phase we hooked it up to my car battery, turned it on AND submerged it in a bucket of water, then sat there and revved the car for another five minutes or so.

This one HAD to have taken care of the problem, so we turned it off, unhooked it and then drained the remaining water out. We took it back into the house and...NO CHANGE.

I have to admit, at this point we just gave up. We were defeated. There was no Playboy channel and no way we would escape this unscathed. We settled on a final story to give to the parental units upon their return home. As always, this story involved placing all of the blame on Terry.

The excuse was thus, Terry had gone into the room to watch some television, tripped, and managed to dump his glass of water all over the box. In retrospect, this was about the dumbest and most translucent excuse we could have given, but hey, we were like 16 and that was all we had.

The beautiful thing is, they bought it! My dad was even happy in the end because he didn't like the fact that they charged him extra for that box. We got away with it and never saw an ounce of punishment for our actions.

Of course, later in life I confessed the truth of the story to my father, who was ultimately amused by our actions, even though we were, in his words "Idiots".

Oh well, I guess we deserved the label.

In all fairness, I feel I should give a sentence or two worth of credit here. I had been considering doing another piece on the infamous Terry, when I noticed that one of my friends from the good old days in Michigan, C, posted on his blog another entertaining story about Terry. (For the record, I believe that C's entry was the better of the two, but hey...) Please do yourself a favor and see C's side of another Terry story...


GeologyJoe said...

Sometimes things just work out.

E said...

Even when we don't deserve it. ;)