Sunday, October 16, 2016

Puzzling Over Remote Controls

Every once in a while I decide I might want to conduct a maneuver on the TV. For instance, I might want to turn it on, find a channel, or increase the volume. These simple tasks used to be obvious (back in the last century) and did not require the use of remote controls. I think they can perhaps still be accomplished without a remote control, but not in my house, where I have been instructed never to touch any button directly on the TV. Perhaps I suffer from a little bit of remote phobia. I would be willing to admit that. Ron is a patient teacher and he repeatedly explains to me step by step how to complete actions on the TV using a remote. He even writes things down for me. I am still hopeless. Problem number one is recognizing which of the remotes I’m supposed to use. We have a lot of them in our house, especially to control electronic devices. We probably have more remotes than kitchen appliances at this point. We don’t have a remote for the blender, but we have a remote for the gas fire in the family room. I like that one. I can recognize it and when I press the button on it the fire starts. I suspect we have a remote that will make a pot of soup, but I haven’t pursued that avenue. I kind of like making soup myself.

I rarely watch TV without my husband. I don’t watch any actual TV shows; in fact, do they still have those? Isn’t commercial TV all reality shows where the audience watches people go shopping or watches them complete an obstacle course involving water, spiders, spandex, and climbing walls? I know they have lots of cooking shows and talent shows where people try to win at singing, dancing, and grooming poodles. There may even still be a few shows with a storyline and characters, but is must be hard to remember what’s going on in the show from one barrage of commercials to the next. TV is all about advertising and the shows have diminished while the advertising has increased. I’m not sure I could tell the difference between a TV show and a commercial anymore. Maybe you can tell the TV shows because they have more guns in them?

Although I don’t watch any TV shows, Ron and I sometimes watch a web series made for Netflix. We also watch movies (both on disc and streamed). That’s the main thing I use the TV for. Ron watches a lot of movies on it (especially old ones) all day long, but he’s retired so he has an excuse. The other thing we watch on the TV is sports. Ron watches baseball and basketball. We both watch football. Usually Ron is here with me and he decides which games we watch, which are usually the ones I want to watch too so it’s all good. The difficulty arises when Ron is not going to be here and I want to watch football. This requires Ron to spend several hours helping me memorize which remotes I will need to use, which buttons I need to press on them, and what to do if something goes wrong. My general plan for what to do when something goes wrong is to panic and burst into tears. Like if I accidentally change the channel, or, worse yet, switch the TV into a different mode. You would be surprised about the modes. There are lots of them and they have fancy numbers and letters to define them. I wonder who names the modes and how much that person gets paid to do it.

Ron has tried putting colorful tape on the remotes to help me distinguish one from another. Then he writes a key. He has drawn careful diagrams to identify the buttons to press. You would think I could at least follow these careful directions. But more often than you would imagine I somehow press the wrong button and the screen turns to snow with a mode designation flashing in the corner, something like HDMT26HAHAYOUIDIOT. That’s when I have to call Ron on his cell phone and urgently interrupt whatever he is doing to get assistance, because I really can’t have the TV laughing at me. It’s not even human.

Ron says I don’t even try. But I really do. When I press the volume button (like he showed me) on a Raiders game and the TV spontaneously switches to a nature show about snakes, I am convinced that the TV is simply having a laugh at my expense. It knows when Ron leaves the house. I can be innocently sitting on the couch, with my two labeled remotes and my twelve pages of diagrams and clear instructions, and I can wave bye-bye to Ron, who has just spent six hours briefing me on how to use the remotes to watch the game, and the minute the door closes behind him the TV jumps to an archived episode of Bewitched. I swear, I don’t have to touch anything. The TV just does it. I have actually resorted to driving to a sports bar to watch a game because I lost the game on my own TV while Ron was out.

I appreciate my husband’s infinite patience with me. He once wrote in a job application letter that he has the patience of a man who has been stuck inside of a whale. It’s true, and he actually landed that job. He has also stuck with the job of helping Amy use a remote correctly. I don’t appreciate the random and downright mean actions of our TV. I do not find them funny and I don’t understand how that TV can get away with these shenanigans. Sadly, I am not even allowed to best the TV by pressing the “off” button and saying “so there.” I have to figure out which remote to use to power the system down correctly. I am so bad with remote controls that I could conceivably press the wrong button on a remote and cause the Coyote Valley Dam to release all the water in Lake Mendocino into the Russian River. Life is getting too complicated for me. I should stick to reading books.

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