A Single Remote, a Single Remote, My Queendom for a Single Remote
by Debra DeAngelo
“The problem with your generation,” said my son, “is that you don’t understand ‘input’.”
This nugget of wisdom offered as he listened to me lament about my cute little basket that holds five – count ‘em, five – remote controls, each with about seven jazillion buttons each, that I must navigate in order to switch from cable TV to the DVD player or VCR. It wasn’t like this when I had my trusty old RCA in its wooden cabinet. Oh, how I miss it.
My kids hated that TV and begged for a new one for years (they said my TV was embarrassing), but it worked great. All I wanted it do was turn on and off, and let me play the VCR. Ah, VHS tapes. Remember those? I particularly liked that I didn’t have to use a remote to play the VCR. Just push “power,” stick in a tape, and press play. It can’t get much simpler than that.
Then came the DVD player, a gift from The Cutest Man In The World (now moonlighting as my husbie) and I managed to hide from him the fact that I had no clue how to operate it for years. One day, the gig was up. He handed me a DVD and said, “Hey, let’s watch this” and I just stood there and grinned, and then yelled to my daughter that I needed her to make the bad machine go. She stomped out, snatched the remote and DVD from me, pushed this and that button, smacked the remote down on the table and said, “Don’t touch it.” And stomped back out again.
“That’s how I work the DVD player,” I confessed.
He just sighed and patiently gave me a lesson on the spot, in terms I could understand: It’s just like a CD player. All the buttons mean something.
Aha…. No wonder no matter how many times I push the big round button, nothing happens. It’s not “point and shoot” anymore.
My daughter went off to college, and eventually I mastered that DVD remote, and even a DVR remote that is now my best friend. I haven’t seen a commercial in years. And then came the day that I upgraded my last name to TCMITW’s and he upgraded from “visitor” to “resident,” and one of the first things he expressed an interest in was getting a new TV.
He’s very cute. I gave in.
Off went my big, clunky hunk of junk (I actually shed a tear and took its picture) and in its place was one very sexy digital flat screen HD TV that came with (you guessed it) another remote. I had no idea how to work it. I was flummoxed by the remote. After relentless whimpering, my husbie rigged the DVR remote to run the TV too. It’s all so easy. Unless I want to play a DVD.
This is my routine for playing a DVD: Turn TV on with DVR remote; turn DVD player on with DVD remote; point TV remote at TV and press “input” and then “video”; turn TV to “mute” with DVR remote; turn sound system on with sound system remote; press “play” on DVD remote; wait with fingers crossed to see if something other than a black screen with sound will appear. And if it does, hopefully I will not have accidentally touched the sound system button that turns it to “Vienna Concert Hall,” which is a fancy way of saying “echo chamber,” and at that point, it’s easier to just shut it all off and go read a book.
Four remotes, just to watch a movie. And here’s the kicker: TCMITW, a software engineer who’s fascinated with all things technical (I call his Blackberry the Other Woman), does not see a problem with this rigamorole.
So. That’s the DVD ritual. And the VCR? I haven’t yet mastered the magical sequence to make it work. It’s back to my old method – handing the remote to my husbie and asking him to make the bad machine go. Which is fine when he’s home. But he works in the Silicon Valley during the week (Hey, does anybody need a really cute software engineer manager locally? Call me. This dual-home lifestyle is malarkey) and what that all boils down to is… dang, Billy Blanks, I really miss you. But not bad enough to upgrade you to DVDs.
I was venting my frustration over my Basket O’ Remotes with my son, and my hit and miss success with making all the bad machines play nicely together at the same time, and as I mentioned, he said “input” is the key.
My son is one of those computer geeks who comes to your house and makes that other bad machine go, and while explaining to his technologically handicapped clients that the problem with their computer is learning to master the “minimize” function on Windows, he also hears their tales of woe about their TV remotes. And it’s all about “input.”
I don’t like to press input, I told him. It sounds like it’s connected to one of the 700 wires inputting to the back of the TV, and I suspect I shouldn’t monkey with those.
No, Mom, he replied. Like my husbie with the DVD player, he put it in terms I could grasp: The input button is just like changing the channel. You’re turning the TV to the DVD channel, or the VHS channel, or the cable channel.
Oh. My. God.
I get it!
As soon as I got home, I fanned out my remotes and went through my little routine, this time actually understanding what I was doing, and… Voila! Picture and sound!
Unfortunately, from inside an echo chamber.
And I can’t find the Vienna Concert Hall channel.
God, I love books.