Carroll County Times
Carroll County

Pushed to limit by daunting array of handheld devices

I'd spent 10 minutes pressing buttons on the TV remote to no avail. The channel would not change.

I didn't want to go channel surfing; I only wanted to turn on the public broadcasting network and watch a documentary on the three-toed tree sloth. I'd been looking forward to it all week.


I was about to give up and call Doug when the phone rang. "Hello?" I said, holding the phone to my ear. "Hello?" Nothing. Not even heavy breathing or bleep-blop-bloop computer noises. No dial tone. Nothing.

I tossed the phone onto the bed and tried the remote again. I'm going to miss the beginning of the program, I thought desperately. If I miss the beginning, I may as well not even watch it at all!


Two minutes before three-toed-tree-sloth time, I threw in the towel. "DOUG!" I bellowed. "THE TV CONTROLLER WON'T WORK!"

Hearing his footfall on the stairs, I thought, Yes! Three-toed tree sloths, here I come!

Doug walked into the bedroom. "You're trying to change channels with the phone again, aren't you?" he said. It wasn't a question.

"And I'm guessing you 'answered' the TV remote when it rang. Am I right?"

"You are right, sir," I confessed. "But in my defense, the TV remote and the phone look a whole lot alike."

"No, they don't," Doug stated unequivocally. "I'll bet you tried making a call with the adjustable bed remote, instead of your cellphone," he piled on.

Hmmm, that would explain why I couldn't get any bars. He placed the genuine TV remote in my hand. "Feel it," he said. "Become one with it."

It was last Friday night all over again. We were downstairs in "the man cave," where "the big TV" abides, preparing to watch a movie. On the table before me were five remote controls: one for the TV; one for the DVD player; one for the sound system; one for cable; and one mystery remote, the purpose of which neither of us has ever ascertained.


Across the room, Doug popped in the DVD. "Hit play," he said optimistically.

I froze, clueless. Which remote controlled what? Finally, I took a stab at it and reached for the gray one. "Uh-uh," Doug hinted. I reached for another one. "That one's for sound system."

Settled on the loveseat, a bowl of popcorn in his lap, "Hit play," he said, again.

There were two remotes left. I had a 50-50 chance of choosing correctly. I didn't. "That one might be the garage-door opener for the old house," Doug speculated.

Carroll County Daily Headlines

Carroll County Daily Headlines


Get the day's top news and sports headlines.

I grabbed the remaining remote and aimed it at the DVD player. It had at least 100 buttons in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. (I'd swear some were dummy buttons and didn't do anything.) "Which one do I push?" I asked finally.

"Give it to me," said Doug impatiently. "You've got to learn to use this stuff. What are you gonna do if I die?"


"I'll get a tech tutor," I replied confidently. "I hear funeral directors arrange that now, too. For the newly widowed." Doug hit play.

It was a mystery drama, appropriate under the circumstances. About 20 minutes in, I whispered, "I'm going to get my Chapstick."

Doug craned his neck to see around me as I scooted past the screen.

Long story short, somehow I mistook a gluestick for my lip balm.

It wasn't pretty.