Why didn't I know there was such a vast supply of robots to be had?

I found that out when one of my lunch ladies mentioned she had a vacuum cleaner that ran by itself. My ears perked up. After asking her several questions I realized these things have been around for a long time, and I wondered why I was so unaware.

The answer is simple: I rarely watch television.

Being a television minimalist creates a lapse in my life. For years I was addicted to crossword puzzles but when the puzzles began asking more and more questions relating to television shows, I became frustrated. Eventually the puzzles lost their appeal.

I've run into embarrassing situations because I was unaware of many shows. Years ago at a supermarket checkout counter I noticed huge headlines on the tabloids. "Who killed J.R.?" I had no clue who J.R. was. Had one of our legislators been murdered?

Driving to work the next day, I heard a radio commentator ask the same question. Who was this J.R.? The mystery was solved in the lunchroom later that day. Several of my colleagues were having an animated conversation about who killed J.R. I asked "Who is J.R.?"

Absolute quiet. A circle of wide-eyed faces stared at me. Finally, one of them said, "Don't you watch 'Dallas?' "

"What's that?" I asked.

Convulsing in laughter, a lunchmate asked incredulously, "You've never watched 'Dallas'?"

Astounded and diminished, I left the lunchroom.

Close friends knew I had a portable 13-inch black-and-white television in my closet. One evening the phone rang. My friend Francie shouted, "Get your TV out of the closet - there's been a major earthquake in San Francisco."

Reluctantly, I retrieved the television, knowing I would feel helpless watching the chaos of this tragedy. After half an hour, the set was back in the closet.

When I'd find myself in the midst of a group discussing a television drama series as if it were real life, I'd wonder if there was something wrong with me. Bored with the conversation, my mind would wander.

Once in awhile I'd run into a kindred soul and we would commiserate about how much television has taken over everyday life.

Today, there aren't many places you can go without the television looking down at you. Airport terminals, restaurants and even taxicabs in New York City provide constant distraction.

I do enjoy a few television shows. I am addicted to "Jeopardy." Charlie Rose sometimes has noteworthy people on his nightly show. Being a lover of films, I value the Turner Classic Movies channel and eagerly record films being shown in the middle of the night.

The other night I came across a BBC production of "The Phantom of the Opera." Andrew Lloyd Webber came onstage at the end, even sang with the group and took a bow. The possibilities are slim that I would ever have seen these magnificent performers if they had not been on television.

Because I'm a mystery writer, people often suggest programs I might enjoy. When "CSI" first aired, three friends called to tell me I would love it. Perhaps I know too much about forensics from all the research I've done for my novels. Watching it a few times, it became obvious there were major errors regarding forensic facts. I was disappointed. People also thought I'd love "Dexter," but that had no appeal for me either.

Not long after I learned about the robotic vacuum cleaner, the film "Robot & Frank" came out. In that futuristic film, elderly Frank is given a robot to take care of him. The robot is irresistible. I'd love to have an all-knowing robot do the cooking and cleaning and be equally available to carry on an intelligent conversation.

Since I am not willing to watch more television, I'll have to tell my friends to let me know the minute this kind of robot is available. Maybe it could give me a synopsis of popular shows so I would be up to speed on what's au courant!

On StarNet: Read recent columns by Alexis Powers at azstarnet.com/alexispowers

Meet Alexis Powers

Northwest columnist Alexis Powers will join another local author and a local photographer to present a seminar at 2 p.m. Oct. 6 at the Oro Valley Public Library, 1305 W. Naranja Drive.

Powers will be joined by writer William Ascarza and photographer Jane McCutchen. They'll answer questions from attendees about writing and photography.

Along with writing for the Northwest Star, Powers is the author of several books, including "Kiss My Tattoo," "Madi's Dollhouse," "Don't Die Before Paris" and "Paths to Freedom."

McCutchen is the photographer of "Drifting in Beauty" and "Uncommon Thread," collections of poems and photography.

Ascarza wrote "Tucson Mountains" and "Southern Arizona Mining Towns."

The seminar is free and open to the public.

Email Alexis Powers at northwest@azstarnet.com