‘Pressing All The Wrong Buttons’ by Patrick Macke

sc june 18

I typically don’t listen to the sound on the TV because I almost exclusively watch sports and dudes like Chris Collinsworth can inspire fits of rage and anger that can lead to health problems. But at one point in this particular game, I wanted to hear a rules explanation so I unmuted the TV. The audio was in Spanish. For the first few seconds, I thought maybe a Mexican dude had made a great play and they had switched to the Mexico City feed so we could all hear how the play sounded south of the border, but when the commercials were also in Spanish I knew there was a situation. So I did what we all do when there is a bilingual mixup or when we just need help finding answers to life’s big question – I stared at the remote.

I was looking for a button that said, Spanish Off. For some reason my remote didn’t have one, but it had at least fifty others that were the perfect size for the finger of a newborn. It’s really not possible for even a skinny guy to hit just one button on the typical remote, he’d need to have the accuracy and hand-eye coordination of an Army Ranger Sharpshooter. So when a normal adult tries to zero in on a single button, he hits two or three others simultaneously which, apparently, results in a TV that only speaks in Spanish or German or sign language.

My remote has a button that says SWAP so I figured that must be it, I wanted to SWAP out the habla and SWAP in the English. I hit it over and over again, nothing happened. There’s also a button with what appears to be an icon of a lightbulb. Okay, I thought, this should do the trick, this is the button that will give me ideas on how to hear the TV in my native tongue. No luck. I pointed the remote at the TV and hit the lightbulb button. I did it again, nothing. Then I did it a third time and I looked down and the lightbulb button was making the remote light up. The “lightbulb” wasn’t about “ideas” at all. Why would I need a light-up-the-remote button? If it was dark, how would I find this button?

My remote also has a button that says LAST. Fascinating. LAST what? Is it the LAST button you should ever press? Is it the button to press right before you get a new remote? I wanted it to take me back to the LAST language I could understand, but it didn’t. There are four buttons on my remote that are labeled A B C D, they are contained in different colored shapes. They remind you of the building blocks you give to toddlers. Maybe they’re language-selection buttons? The letters didn’t seem to have any logical language association, except for I figured the “D” must stand for Deutsch. The letter “C” was in a red colored circle, so using my best racial profiling, I figured this must take you to programming with some sort of Native American dialect. It didn’t really matter because I pressed all of them in hundreds of combinations over the course of twenty-five minutes and nothing seem to happen – no German, no Comanche, no English. I imagined all my button pressing was probably changing the channel at my neighbor’s house.

Remember when TV channels were 2, 4, 5 & 7? Now they’re like 1,876 or 1,054. It defeats the entire concept of the remote control. Not only do you have to remember multi-digit combinations but you need the dexterity of a concert pianist. For example, the station I want is 1-0-1-5. I point the remote over my head at the TV and blindly try to hit those numbers in sequence, but for some reason, only two buttons register and now I’m watching channel 1-0. If I look at the remote to ensure that I press the right button then the signal doesn’t hit the TV and if I make sure the remote is pointed precisely at the TV I can’t type in the right numbers. I type in 1-1-0-5, 1-5-0-1, 1-1-1-5. My hand starts to cramp. I decide to use the UP arrow and toggle to 1-0-1-5 starting from 3. After one hundred UP arrow pushes, I’m suicidal, despondent. I go back to the keypad, 1-0-1-1, 1-0-0-5, 1-5-1-5, 1-5-5-1, 1-0-1-4, 1-0-1-1 … I’m an idiot and the remote control is turning me into a bigger idiot.

People used to change the channel by hand … “Hey, you little bastard, change the channel while you’re up!” My grandpa always had to have the latest technology. He had some of the first TV’s with “remote control.” One big button changed the channel. It actually physically moved the knob and made a loud ka-chunk sound so that you knew you were accomplishing something. The knob only turned one way, so if you got a little trigger happy with the remote you could miss your station and have to go around again. Those were the days – one five-pound remote with five buttons, channels that only went up to the number thirteen and TVs that always spoke your language.

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