We’re a nation of procrastinators. We love putting stuff off. Gotta get the car serviced? Wait until it breaks down. Gotta get everything organized for tax time? Wait until the night before or just file for an extension. Gotta go to the dentist? Wait until you have a killer toothache at 2am.
Yes, we love to fret and stress about all the horrible things we have to do—and then proceed to put them off, hoping that they will somehow go away or magically become easier to deal with at some future point. That’s pretty much what Congress did this week when they postponed the DTV transition until June 12. CableFAX columnist Steve Effros got it right in his latest column when he opined that the transition is going to cause at least some turmoil no matter when we do it and no matter how much we prepare for it. He compared it to ripping off a Band-Aid. Just do it and get it over with. That’s a good analogy, but I think all of this consternation really has its roots deeper within America’s collective psyche, which has been coddled into a state of constant and intoxicatingly comfortable procrastination.
Unfortunately for our country, and as this week’s DTV back-and-forth proves, this tendency goes beyond putting off personal tasks. Procrastination has become a national habit, applying itself to even the most pressing national issues. We could have increased airport security years before the 9/11 attacks, but it was too hard and expensive. We could have fixed the healthcare system two decades ago when experts first started warning us it was unsustainable, but it was too hard and expensive. We could have cracked down years ago on sleazy hedge funds, unscrupulous lending and clueless consumers running up massive debts with no way to pay them off (thanks to equally clueless credit-card companies), but it would have been too hard and expensive. And gee… some of us might have had to actually sacrifice. Oh, the horror. Now, our economy is in shambles, the healthcare system is a mess and terrorists exploited a weakness that should have never existed.
Of course, we can’t blame every calamity on procrastination. These problems are complicated and tough to fix (and terrorists will always find a way). But our put-it-off-until-tomorrow mindset is part of why we often wait for disaster to strike rather than take pro-active steps to prevent it from happening. To be sure, the DTV transition doesn’t rank up there in importance with healthcare reform, the economy or national security. But the fact that we got so close to the Feb 17 deadline and then just completely wimped out like a bunch of terrified weaklings—well, it’s telling. This is TV, after all. All the coupons and PSAs in the world won’t stop at least some major disruptions—whether this whole thing happens on Feb. 12, June 12 or years from now.
Change is tough. It’s uncomfortable. But putting it off just prolongs the pain and stress. Industries that were about to put all these PSAs and other resource drains related to the DTV transition behind them now have four more months of this albatross slung around their necks. Just another To-Do List item that won’t go away. Of course, look on the bright side. At least the new transition date is over the summer. Maybe some of the country’s couch potatoes—unable to watch their favorite shows—will actually go outdoors for a change.