I recently held myself hostage in front of the TV during a bout of the flu, and after a few days of watching C-Span and the Home Shopping Network, I stumbled upon a theory that could revolutionize our political system.

For those of you living in the dark ages without cable, let me explain. C-Span takes you inside the House and Senate, live, where our lawmakers are busy dreaming up ways to spend our money. Home Shopping lets you do the same, only without the middle man. Between blowing my nose, downing medications and clicking the remote, I began to notice startling similarities between the two.It all started at Home Shopping, where an 8-piece cookware set for $99.85 was just starting its 2-minute run. "Ultrex never burns! We cut this frying pan in half just to show you how thick it is! Ultrex never warps! Ultrex is endorsed by a professional cookbook writer, and who would know better? And did we mention, Ultrex never burns!"

Big deal, I thought, moving on to C-Span, where a representative from North Dakota extolled the virtues of ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act) for $181 billion. "This is a wonderful piece of legislation," he proclaimed, and for the next few minutes enumerated its glories, flinging exclamation points just like the salesman on the other channel: "For just $7.22 billion, you get Congestion Management and Air Quality! For only $35.7 billion, you get Mass Transit! Wondering what to get the Indian reservations and federal highways this year? For $3.2 billion, you can make their day! Just say yes to ISTEA!"

It sounded great, especially the part about congestion management, which I could have used just then, but since it was way beyond my budget I clicked back to Home Shopping in time for G-3489, a flannel sheet set for $112.67. The sales lady was chatting with a satisfied customer: "Have you ever tried flannel sheets before, Reginald? I see you got the Hunter Green; that's a great color, it goes with everything! I know you'll love them; there's nothing like flannel for that cozy feeling!"

Ensconced in flannel sheets at the time, I passed, returning to C-Span in time to catch the "bill of the day," HR 2460 - The Theft of Cellular Telephones Bill, at an undisclosed cost. A gentleman from Texas was promoting it on the floor of the U.S. House like a preacher at a revival meeting. "This is a great bill! It will insure the right of all Americans to use their cellular telephones without fear!" Caught up in the spirit, I jotted it down as a possible birthday gift for my husband.

Back at Home Shopping, item 730-114, a pair of gold earrings for $68.75 caught my eye. Maintaining a fever pitch, which worked quite nicely with my flu, the salesman shouted excitedly, "This is the best buy of the day! Already thousands have been sold! These are only available for the next 2 minutes, so act fast! Travel the globe, you'll never find an earring like it! It's very chic, plus it doesn't dangle too much! It captures the essence of our philosophy here at Home Shopping Network!" I was impressed, although I realized later it was probably due to overlapping doses of Comtrex and Ny-Quil

Meanwhile, on C-Span, a Colorado senator was now pitching The Sand Creek Preservation Act of 1998. He was allotted seven minutes in which to propose this "monumental piece of legislature," stressing it would give people "full access to the site of this horrendous massacre." He spent most of his time describing the horrendous massacre in horrendous detail. Horrified, I decided against it.

Since everyone on both channels kept shouting, "don't wait, time is running out," I figured I'd better hurry up and call the number flashing on the screen. "Send me a pair of those gold earrings and one of those bills protecting my cellular phone from theft!" The lady on the other end said the earrings were sold out and she didn't know anything about a cellular phone offer that day.

Disappointed, I turned off the TV and started brainstorming about how combining the two networks might better Mankind. Maybe there could be a Home Voting Network! No more trudging through the snow to the polls! You could get a new set of dishes and a new politician at the same time, just by picking up the phone!

Of course, everyone would need cable! (And a lot of exclamation points!)