Tuesday, April 16, 2013
One can achieve most tasks these days while comfortably seated in a reclining chair. With handheld electronic marvels and remote controls, one can change the television screen; turn up the thermostat; call anywhere around the world; keep an eye on the babysitter; access worldwide libraries; open the garage door — almost any task that once required getting up and performing the necessary works of life. Most remain a mystery to me.
But, herein, may be found a modern life parable. Only a generation or two ago, life was simply controlled by “off” and “on” switches. Today the possibilities are unlimited. If there is anything to this evolution business, our progeny may one day be huge in the bottom and without legs — but with large agile fingers to control the remote functions of existence. Well and good but everyone will suffer from bad cases of carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from overuse of the wrist and fingers.
Some folks believe that the television MUTE button was the premier invention of the 20th Century. But the 21st Century remote control makes the older silencer seem like something from the Stone Age.
There's very little today's television control can't do. I just got a new one from the cable company and it has 61 buttons! I'm not kidding. Sixty-one digitally controlled pressure points!
I haven't come close to figuring out what they do individually or in combination with each other. But I'm learning. I figure I can master doing just about any household chore with the new-fangled instrument — who really knows its capabilities?
I remember the first television my Dad bought. I was already in college and I think he got it just so I would visit home more often. There was no need for a remote control because there was only one station within receiving distance of our home.
One had only to turn the set on and adjust the rabbit ears to enjoy the modern miracle of electronic pictures right in your own living room. Of course there was the matter of sound level. My sister and I became the first remote controls for our household: “John, turn the sound down a little.”
When my kids came along, we had progressed to multiple available stations and the first remote control in our household simply turned the set on or off, changed channels and controlled the sound level. It seemed a blessing. But we had even more in store to brighten our lives.
The MUTE button added a new dimension to our television pleasure. One no longer was requited to endure the louder-than-life commercials. We enjoyed this new addition in our household until one day I was trying to listen to the six o'clock news when my wife kept jabbering at me about something less important than whether China should be admitted to the UN or not. She was distracting my attention from the matter at hand.
And then it happened — the pinnacle of marital discord! In a moment of foolishness, I pointed the TV control at her and forcefully punched the MUTE button. Take my word for it, guys, never, ever try to mute your wife with a TV control. It's fraught with consequences.
On most occasions, the MUTE button was indeed a blessing for the TV viewer. You no longer had to audibly endure the loudmouth jerk trying to sell you an “Only on TV” gadget providing lasting relief from the drudgeries of life. And the loud-irritating banter of the car salesman was banished forever from assaulting our ears. It was, indeed, a blessing.
But along came extended cablevision service with more options than a jet pilot faces in an emergency situation.
Like I said, my remote control now has 61 buttons. Just mash the wrong button and you can create an hour of havoc just trying to get back to what you were watching. Thank goodness for Rhonda at customer service who has untangled via telephone many seemingly insurmountable malfunctions I have gotten myself into.
Whenever the screen goes blue or blank, I pick up the phone, call Rhonda and she has me back in business — pronto. At least until the next time my wandering fingers come into contact with the wrong button.
I suppose the new-fangled controls are worth it though. I can place a live program on hold and answer the phone or doorbell with assurance that I can come back later and pick up the television program where I left off.
Better still, I take a few minutes each morning to program my Ti-Vo capabilities of my cable box. I record a lot of documentaries, PBS, History Channel, National Geographic and movies. (I am retired, you know.) I can go back later (even weeks later) and enjoy a presentation I would have otherwise missed. And the next best thing, I can hit the Fast-Forward button and skip the commercials!
I am certain that I can do a myriad of other miracles with my new remote control but I'll have to master the 61 buttons first.
Or call Rhonda.
John Brock is a retired newspaper editor/publisher and college professor. He can be reached by mail at this newspaper or by Email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.