WESTFIELD, N.J. (AP) -- I just knew there was a pony somewhere.
Like the optimistic boy who found manure in his Christmas stocking, I was certain that the switchover to digital television would somehow work to my advantage.
Sure, the digital switchover was just a scheme to make money for the government and the communications industry. Of course, the poor and the elderly would be hurt disproportionately. Yes, I was too cheap to avoid the whole business by signing up for cable television.
But I had confidence that we were entering a brave new digital world, and that jetpacks would not be far behind. I applied for the federal coupons for digital converters; I would be an early adopter, a heady experience for someone who has never downloaded a ring tone (or even felt the need).
Herewith, some notes from the giddy digital frontier:
1. The coupons came in the mail, as promised, because I applied before supplies ran out. The converters were easily purchased, as promised. The installation was not unduly difficult, as promised (but only because I prevailed upon my son, an 18-year-old technophile, to do it).
2. The rabbit ears on our sets did not suffice. They would be replaced by amplified antennae at what might be considered a reasonable cost, except by those of us who are too poor or too cheap to pay for cable television.
3. For the most part, the picture is crystal clear, a great improvement.
4. Except when it's not, and the cast of "The Office" goes all Jackson Pollock on us, freezing on the screen and becoming pixelated, Dwight Shrute included.
5. We lost a couple of channels along the way. Goodbye, New Jersey Network!
6. We gained a bunch of really, really peculiar new channels.
You may not know this, but in exchange for their old analog channels, broadcasters are being allowed to transmit more digital channels, which use less space on the spectrum.
Some of them have taken the opportunity to provide programming to underserved communities; I now can watch Korean soap operas, and there are numerous Spanish channels that are of little use to those of us who endured French in high school.
But that's not all!
I'm thinking now of WABC in New York, which in addition to its home channel and a 24-hour weather channel, offers a third channel that seems to be reserved for infomercials — in particular, one for a piece of cooking equipment called the FlavorWave.
It is flogged relentlessly by Mr. T, who makes his entrance by knocking down a door, much to the delight of the studio audience. Mr. T is looking a bit more portly than he did in his days on "The A-Team," perhaps because he has spent a little too much time with his FlavorWave.
WNBC also transmits on three channels — classic WNBC, WNBC weather and a third channel that specializes in sports I do not want to watch. These days, I'm flipping past downhill skiing.
Rupert Murdoch owns two channels in New York, channels 5 and 9. Each has two digital channels. What does channel 5 transmit on its second channel? Channel 9.
So ... what does channel 9 transmit on its second channel? Want to take a wild guess?
(I've come to think of this as the lazy man's digital dividend — you need no longer expend the energy to press the remote to go up or down the dial to reach the other Murdoch channel.)
New York City's municipal station goes for something entirely different. For its second channel, it has plugged into the city's network of traffic cameras.
This isn't very useful — most of the time, you just can't figure out what roads you're watching, especially at night — but ultimately, the effect is hypnotic, like the Yule Log.
But the true fountain of digital delights can be found on the Ion network's four channels.
Ion already is a little flaky — you never know whether you'll find a "Boston Legal" marathon or an infomercial for Time-Life's "Romancing the '70s" when you tune in. Ion's extra channels include one devoted to devotion (Ion Worship) and another, qubo, devoted to children's shows. I note that many of these shows originally appeared in Canada.
The real fun is on Ion Life, a channel devoted to lifestyles. This is where you find "The Weekend Guy," a show about ... a guy who likes weekends. He likes doing stuff on the weekends. He has a little song which he sings about how much he likes weekends.
I'm not making this up.
There's another show called "Girls Gone Fishin.'" It's about girls who go fishing.
But the best show is "Get Out!" It features three beautiful women who have adventures, like bungee jumping. They wear bikinis almost all the time. One of them is named Misty.
Why pay for cable?