*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
I drove past the old television set on the way to work. There was a simple cardboard sign on the television upon which someone had written my favorite word in block letters: FREE.
When I drove home from work nine hours later, the television set was still there. The lawn service had been to the house in the meantime, and the television was covered in blades of freshly mowed grass.
I pulled over to the side of the road. The television was damp to the touch; it was sticky with the aforementioned blades of grass. I heaved it into the back of my car. Free television.
I brought the old telly home and dried it off. It took forever to remove every blade of grass and I cursed myself for not picking up the television on the way to work instead of waiting until I was on the ride home. I could have saved myself some cleaning effort.
When I plugged in the television, a herd of earwigs stampeded out of the VHS slot. In my house, we call them scissor bugs. They scattered around my bedroom faster than I could stomp on them. It was horrifying. Meanwhile, my new old television was making a hissing sound.
I left the television on to see what would happen. It was screeching like a tea kettle left on the stove for too long, and a pinpoint of glowing white light was expanding in the center of the screen.
After five minutes, the television stopped screaming and the white light was replaced by an honest-to-goodness moving picture. I have never been more excited.
For the next week, every time I turned on the television, a handful of disheartened earwigs emerged into my bedroom. They weren't long for this world.
My television, on the other hand, worked swimmingly for the next five years. Eventually, the high-pitched squeal took longer and longer to abate after turning it on and the white light took longer and longer to give way to an actual television program.
When the television finally took its last breath, I felt sad. It was a fine and faithful companion for five years, and I knew I would miss it. I still do.
I've yet to own a television set with as much personality or as many earwigs.
I'd like to thank the person who left that television outside for me to find and enjoy for so long. As they say, one person's trash is another one's treasure.
Have you ever picked up a free treasure from the side of the road? I don't do it nearly enough. Comments are welcome.
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