You know how sometimes you're cruising along in life and don't notice little snags that are actually, slowly, driving you crazy?
I realized over the weekend that I have a problem with remote controls.
First let me admit that I have an overabundance of televisions. Big ones, small ones, flat ones, fat ones. Many are old. In fact, most are. The newest TV I have I bought five years ago, a little flat screen with a shiny new remote. The oldest is a console model that once belonged to my parents, both of whom have been dead for over twenty years. At the moment the console is in the hall, covered up with a tablecloth since its picture tube blew about two years ago.
I mention the console because my earliest recollection of remote trouble started there. When he was ten, my youngest nephew thought it would be interesting to cover the remote with Silly Putty; and when I say cover, I mean jamming Silly Putty into every one of the buttons. From that day forward the remote never worked again.
Of course, as time marched on it was not only the televisions that arrived with remotes. There are cable boxes and VCR players, DVD machines and stereos. If I took an afternoon and gathered up all the remotes in the house I'm guessing there would be about thirty. And at the moment, exactly one works. How is that possible? Well, take for example the remote that goes to the TV in my office. One night I was drinking a beverage (apple juice) while at the computer. I knocked the glass over and splashed juice all over the desk, the mail, the floor, and the remote, the latter of which was transformed into a syrupy mess that I ended up throwing away. Another, the one that goes to the TV in the kitchen, has unexplained issues: only the buttons on the right side work, meaning I can only change to channels containing the numbers 3, 6, and 9. The remote in the library is missing its back. Half the time when I try to turn up the volume I have to crawl under the sofa to retrieve a missing battery. I tried to solve that problem with duct tape, which worked for awhile until I needed to change the batteries. Now I have a remote that sticks to my hand from the duct tape glue that coats both sides. And the batteries still fall out. What about the shiny remote that goes with new flat screen you ask? That one went into the washing machine with a pile of sheets last month.
So I went to the store a few weeks back and bought two universal remotes, which promised easy set-up with the click of a few buttons. I worked on this project an entire evening, mystified by the instructions to first set the TV on channel one. Of course, there is no channel one. So I tried it on channels two, three, and four. And on different televisions. No go. My sister tried to figure it out and failed. Two friends who stopped by on Friday, fine fellows who are handy with most things, insisted their efforts would result in success. After an hour or so, they gave up too. The new remotes now sit on my family room coffee table next to the not-so-easy instruction booklet and a package of new and at the moment useless batteries.
Today I was thinking I'd go back to the store and buy another universal remote because, you know, maybe the ones I bought were defective (not to mention that channel-one business). Then I remembered a universal remote I had back in 2007, which did in fact have easy set-up instructions and that worked just fine for several months. It was on the kitchen counter back then when, while not at home, I had a pipe break in an upstairs bathroom. My entire kitchen flooded, the ceiling caved in, and the large light fixture that once hung over the counter crashed down and smashed the remote into a sort of rectangular pancake.
All this to say I have finally accepted that I'm a person who isn't supposed to have a remote. I don't know why. Maybe some cosmic master has decided I'll be better off moving my body instead of my thumb to change the channel. Or maybe this master feels I should quit watching so much TV in the first place. In either case, I concede defeat. From the console and its Silly Putty situation, the crushed and unrecognizable pile of plastic on my kitchen counter, and the defective (and foreign-made I might add) universal remotes of last weekend, I get the message. From now until forever, I -- like my television-watching forebears prior to the invention of the remote control -- will pick my lazy butt up off the chair and change the channel by hand. Are you listening Cosmic Master? You win.