• Learning to Type While My Elbows Jiggle

    by Debra DeAngelo

    Oh, Judy T., you made my day, week, month, and possibly my whole year last week, and it’s only February. That means everything else that happens in 2011 is just a bonus.

    Judy, one of my two fans, read my column last week about my multi-remote woes, and sent me a card. Not one of those e-cards that nobody reads anymore because they might be filthy with computer viruses. No, this was a real paper card that she went out and bought, and wrote inside with real handwriting (how I miss seeing handwriting) and mailed it to me in a good old-fashioned mailbox.

    By today’s standards, that’s a lot of effort to go through for someone you only know through newsprint. And while I always appreciate the handwritten notes and cards I receive (don’t get me wrong, I like emails too) this card was simply outstanding. And it needed to be shared.

    You’ll have to engage the right side of your brain and picture this: The card says “How Grandma Sees the Remote” at the top, and underneath in the top left-hand corner, a little bubble with a terrified-looking grandma. In the bottom right hand corner is another bubble with an evil television, with the DVD player resting on top, and it’s emitting little electrical waves that make a sound: “dzzt… dzzt… dzzt.”

    Diagonally across the middle is a typical TV remote, with the seven gazillion buttons I mentioned, and each little button is labeled how Grandma reads them. All of the little ones simply have question marks. But the big meaty ones down the middle, where all the serious business happens – those are priceless.

    Tight at the very top, a big square button says “TV Explodes.” (Honest to God, I’m chuckling while I’m typing this). Below it, a big oval button that reads, “Cause Nationwide Blackout,” flanked by two smaller oval buttons that just say “Forgot.”

    The next row of buttons down reads, “Lose Sound,” “Tidal Wave Starter,” and “Lose Picture.” Below that, the row reads, “No Clue,” “Never Saw This One Before” and “Utter Mystery.” Then we have the big round point and shoot button in the middle, which of course will cause Grandma to “Launch Rocketship.”

    As we work our way down the remote, where we find many clusters of question-marked buttons, a row of buttons says “Emit Sparks,” “House Blows Up” and “Ominous Smell.” (It’s hard to type when you’re chuckling… your ribs jiggle your elbows!)

    At the very bottom, are buttons numbered zero through nine, and of course they lead to another big square button that says, “Drop the Big One.”

    The reason this literally made me laugh out loud and still giggle every time I look at it is not simply that the buttons are funny but because I actually understand the level of anxiety that comes with pushing the buttons on the remote. I dread pushing any button I don’t thoroughly understand (read: more complicated than on, off, forward and rewind), particularly if I’m alone in the house without anyone to undo whatever disaster I caused. Seriously. I know that anxiety. I’m certain that before my son explained the “input” button to me, that it used to say “TV Explodes.”


    And of course, I realize that when you reach the point in life where your learning curve flattens and magnified, irrational fear and mistrust of anything unfamiliar escalates, it means (how do I say this nicely so as not to crush my self-esteem) that you’ve, errr…. “crested” on life’s timeline.

    Crested. That’s a nice, gentle word and it reminds me of peacocks, and peacocks are lovely, colorful and exotic. I’d much rather view myself as lovely, colorful and exotic at this stage in life than slowing sinking into stagnation and senility.

    OK, I know I’m supposed to be aging gracefully, but frankly, I’ve never done anything gracefully in my life, so why change my shtick now.

    But in the midst of digging in my heels whilst life drags me over the crest against my will, Judy T.’s card showed me something — it takes the sting out of packing on the years when you can laugh at yourself.

    Judy already understands this, because inside the card, she wrote, “After reading your column today, I felt that you might benefit from knowing that you are not alone!”

    I do, Judy. More than you could possibly know. I mean, I’m aware that other people are getting older too, but it’s very easy to feel like sometimes you’re the only one.

    So, as I navigate my way down the other side of the hill, and life presents new and improved challenges at every turn, I suspect it’ll be a lot more pleasant if I laugh, rather than cry, over each little bump and bobble in the road.

    I think I’ll keep Judy’s card on my desk forever to remind me of that. I already have a little quote from Sophie Tucker on the wall that says, “Keep breathing.” But I think I can do better. Judy’s card be a reminder that the difference between merely surviving and really living is to “Keep laughing.” I think that’ll be my new goal. And if I master it, I’ll have a new skill too: typing while my elbows jiggle.

    • My son literally printed out the instructions to his big screen and how to switch from the Wii games to the DVD to the television and every time I stay with my grandkids we all laugh to see how long it will take me and when I do it the first time everyone cheers. I so identify with your story, Debra.

      • Judy

      • February 27, 2011 at 10:46 am
      • Reply

      This is hilarious. It isn’t far off from my own relation to remotes and, alas, to the unexplored complexities of my own computer.

    • Judy – are you THE Judy????

    • Yes, we have about 10 remotes. One of them, that came with the TV has buttons that will disrupt the tv for hours until Therese comes home and fixes it. I don’t have to tell you how awful it is not to be able to watch the Military channel all afternoon. Enjoyed this piece. Mien Editor!!

      • Kelvin

      • February 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm
      • Reply

      Very funny. I have a slightly different take as I’m the guy (geek) everyone calls to undo the TV explosion. When my phone rings and I see that it’s my sister in law calling, I KNOW a computer problem awaits. Although sitting here now looking at my remote control I can see at least three buttons that are a mystery to ME. I’m afraid if I push one another Middle Eastern country will go up in flames. Great job, Debra.

      • Judy

      • March 2, 2011 at 9:54 am
      • Reply

      Debra, No, I’m not THE Judy. I have to send this column to my daughter, though, because this is just how she sees my relation to most technologies.

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