Friday, December 9, 2011

Remote Control Hell


I’m in remote control hell.

Remember the good old days—when only toy airplanes had remotes? Now everything except the microwave comes with one, each with a minimum of fifty-seven buttons on them. As far as I’m concerned, most of those buttons are nothing more than wasted plastic which should be reported as a crime against humanity. They only exist to drive me crazy.

When I was a kid, I WAS the remote control. Anytime my dad wanted to channel boogyboard—come on, you can’t call it surfing when there are only three stations—I was the one who got up off the sofa and changed the program. I turned the knob. On the TV set. With my own hands. Watching TV used to be aerobic—for kids.

Sounds downright primitive, doesn’t it?

The sad truth today is I don’t even know where the power button IS on our TV set. Is there one? And if I ever get snowed in out here in the desert—okay, fine, if I ever get DUSTED in out here by a haboob—and run out of batteries, I’ll be stuck with a 55 inch TV and one network. ‘Cause our TV is so beautiful, it didn’t come with channel changing buttons lest we diminish its aesthetics. Which leads me to the real definition of a haboob—he who relies on electronics to run electronics.

I had to buy a special box to corral all the remotes it takes to run our house—it’s the size of a suitcase. There’s a remote for each of our three TV’s, the DVR, the two DVD players, the VHS (stop laughing), and the sound system—which is ironic because none of these devices talk to each other. There’s a remote for the ipod base, our CD player, our floor fan, my digital photo frame and our overhead light. Some people’s homes even have remotes to open and close the drapes, but I think that’s just being lazy.

Last night when my husband came home from work, he scared me by walking into the house through the front door. “Why’d you come in THAT way?” I asked with concern. He started to reply, “Because I live here,” but thought better of it. “Because the batteries died on the garage door remote,” he answered instead. I think if we staged a revolt and threw all the remotes in the trash, our whole house would deflate like one of those giant vinyl Santa’s lying face down on my neighbor’s lawn. I’m telling you, it’s a conspiracy by Duracell to take over the world.

This month we bought a new television. That changed the rules of the game completely. Our old Sony TV—the 50 inch son-of-a-gun that cost us two thousand dollars five years ago—wearied of my ineptness and went postal on us. The whole TV screen turned a pukey shade of green and couldn’t be repaired, thanks to a design flaw Sony refused to admit to until a class action lawsuit changed their minds. As one of their victims, they offered us a three hundred dollar discount if we’d spend another seven hundred on a replacement set they were trying to clear out of their warehouse in Taiwan. We politely declined in sign language.

Which forced us to take a risk on another foreign manufacturer’s version. And now I have to re-write my house/dog sitter’s book on how to survive when she stays here. Particularly how to use the, count them, THREE remotes it takes to turn on the TV and all its appendages so she can watch “Twilight, The Series”. You laugh, but with all these remotes lying around, her very survival depends on my brilliant novella. Of course, she’s nineteen and has probably been writing user manuals since she was three. I should have asked her to give ME a demo.

The other night, after pushing every conceivable button on the TV remote, I still couldn’t get Wheel of Fortune to look right. I hollered into the kitchen for some husbandly advice.

“Honey,” I whined, “you made the TV screen bigger and now Vanna looks fat. How do I make it normal again instead of freakish?”

Big sigh from the kitchen.

“Just push the menu button,” he responded.

“Which one is the menu button?” I asked.

“It’s the little gray one next to the miniscule dot marked THI.”

I squinted at the black remote with the black buttons.

“I pushed that one. Now there’s a tiny box in the upper corner of the screen and no sound.”

“Then you pushed the HTI button. That one’s next to the one you want.”

“Which one do I want again?”

I swear he aimed a remote at me and pushed something. I haven’t been able to talk for a week.

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