A close friend and I leave each other daily voice memos. Topics range from unwanted body hair to death and dying. Recently, on the couch in the dark, I listened to her describe her upcoming evening. There would be pasta, and cleaning, and possibly a shower. She was looking forward to spending time with her husband, who had been busy all day shopping for fertilizer and installing new smoke detectors. She yawned and said, “After dinner, we’re going to pop on a program.”
I paused her message and repeated the phrase. Pop on a program. How fun to say. The words felt like a sip of sparkling water. It is a delightfully nostalgic expression, from the era of video cassettes and DVDs. Program sounds even more old fashioned than show or movie. Pop on a program is perfect.
The next morning, floating on my back in the Bay, a flock of pelicans flew overhead. The clouds were moving fast, and the sky was streaked orange. I said it over and over. Pop on a program.
Driving home, I vowed to use the phrase in a story. Or maybe in the new book I’m writing. The husband could say, “Let’s pop on a program,” and the teenager would roll his eyes. At home, I wrote it down in my little brown notebook.
That night, my husband and I watched an episode of Succession. Two minutes in, I realized I missed my chance to say, “Let’s pop on a program.” I sipped my tea loudly, regretfully. My husband will never know how clever I am.
If anyone had asked me what I did that day, I would say I went swimming, attended a work Zoom, and worked on a jigsaw puzzle with my daughters. I would not say I spent the day thinking about pop on a program. What did you think about today?
Today I’m thinking about something I noticed when I lived in Perth. If you ask an American, “How was the movie?” they will say, “It was alright,” or “Bruce Willis is handsomer than I remembered.” If you ask an Australian the same question, they might respond, “Just over two hours,” or something describing the actual structure of the film. How means something slightly different there. If you ask me what I did today, I’ll tell you all about it.