Herald-Journal Herald and Journal, June 22, 1998

Channel changing roulette


There have been many inventions since the dawn of civilization that have improved our lives.

Some inventions have been made not out of necessity, but for the sake of convenience. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the remote control.

In the hands of a normal person, one with an attention span longer than a nano-second, this can be a useful tool. Give it to a person who has a need to watch seven channels at once and you have an instrument of pure evil.

Back in the olden days, before we had a TV with a remote, our kids used to change the channels. They were a remote of sorts, I suppose. When they switched the channels, it was usually by spinning the dial as fast as they could while you tried to figure out what was on.

"Stop at Channel 4, no 9! Hey! What was that on 11?"

When I think of that now I have to chuckle. Tom and I used to tell them they were going to wear the dial out spinning it like that. It was TV roulette.

Now we have a much easier and quicker method to change channels. Tom points the remote at the TV at about 8 p.m. and doesn't stop until 10 p.m. Maybe I am exaggerating a little. He probably does stop occasionally to go get something to eat.

Can you tell there may be a difference of opinion at the Fink household over the remote control? I don't sit in the living room at night unless I'm not interested in watching TV.

I like to watch one show at a time. I even, God forbid, leave it on the same channel during commercials. I usually read the newspaper or a magazine until the show comes back on. Yes, I confess, I do check around the channels occasionally, but I watch one show at a time.

A few years ago, Tom's mother bought one of these little remote keepers to help him keep track of his remote control. It has a duck head and pockets to stick the remote and maybe your TV Guide in. The trouble is, he has one remote for the TV and one for the VCR. There are also smaller remotes for the satellite dish and the closed captioner that we seldom use. There really isn't room in the duck for all these remotes.

The king of remotes, the one that controls both the TV and the VCR sits at the ready on the arm of Tom's chair. He sits with his index finger poised over the keypad waiting to click if boredom or a commercial should strike. He reminds me somewhat of a gunslinger from the wild west stepping out into the street, ready to draw. Or maybe the image should be one of Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry, sneering at the TV and daring it to go to a commercial, saying, "Go ahead, make my day!"

There is also one mini-remote that I like to keep by the recliner in the living room. If I am reading and reclining in the living room, and Tom falls asleep while watching TV, I can use my remote to turn the TV down. Sometimes I will get really bold and change the channel. This usually wakes him up.

What is there about a woman being in charge of the TV that sends a man into a panic?

Once I played a little trick on him, and changed the channel back after he had clicked it. I did this a couple of times. At first he thought his remote wasn't working, and then he realized what I was doing. I guess the fiendish smile on my face was a dead giveaway. It was great fun while it lasted.

One of the most frenzied times at the Fink household was when the master remote was lost. Tom thought we had hidden it from him. Of course, the girls and I denied it. We looked under every cushion in the sofa, under the chairs, in the end table and everywhere imaginable. No remote.

We figured someone had carried it off somewhere without thinking and it would eventually turn up. It never has yet. Possibly some irate guest, with eyes spinning in their head, took it home "by mistake."

Eventually, we gave up the search and ordered a new one from Sears. The price was obscene but, after all, it is a convenience, isn't it?

My favorite remote story that I like to tell about Tom is one that happened a few years ago around Christmas time. I was sitting on the floor in the living room, wrapping Christmas presents. Tom had fallen asleep in his chair watching TV. When I noticed that, I went over and got my handy dandy little remote, and changed the channel.

For a while I watched 20-20 in uninterrupted bliss. Suddenly the channel changed with Barbara Walters in mid-sentence. I looked over at the guilty party. He had fallen asleep with his finger poised over the remote buttons, and had changed the channel in his sleep.

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