I don’t know how you feel about it; but I am puzzled by our fascination with remote controls, and I am starting to feel overwhelmed by them.
I am old enough to remember the days when remote controls first started to appear (see ID photo and cringe.) Way back then we thought they were cool – and perhaps they were, especially for those who liked to relax watching TV after a hard day’s work, often falling asleep on the couch or in their chair. They could now change channels without getting up and walking across the room, thereby enabling them to quickly doze off again and resume “watching” their favorite shows.
Soon after that, the term “couch potato” was coined. I anticipate the day when family sofa units will come equipped with refrigerator, microwave, Internet access and toilet so that we never have to leave its comfort. Enough said.
Soon we had VCR’s, then DVD players, BluRay disc players, and surround sound systems, each with their own remote. This gave rise to the universal remote industry which endeavored to allow us to control all remotes from one convenient locale. But by then it was too late. Pandora’s box had been opened. Every device now had to have its own remote or run the risk of being labeled “antiquated” or even worse, “not cool.”
Peer pressure has pounded us into lockstep conformity: we must make everything remote-controlled or face society’s ridicule, the ultimate penalty for the shame of walking across the room to do something or (dare I say it) doing something by hand.
Home heating units, microwaves, coffee makers, music systems and even toothbrushes and toilets (good for laughs at parties and large gatherings when you unsuspectingly prank someone with a surprise flush) all bow down to the gentle application of thumb to touchpad. I can lower my heat from China, dim my lights from Denmark, and take my dog for a walk on its automated treadmill all the way from London. What could be better?
The problem is that when the remotes band together (and sometimes I swear they are in cahoots with each other: see “Colossus: The Forbin Project”) they wreak havoc upon my simple, panic-riddled life. I often cannot locate the correct one, sometimes with tragic consequences (Coming soon: When I Accidentally Flushed Our Schnauzer”.) If I pick up the wrong one, I am taunted by demeaning on-screen display messages to the delight of my tech-savvy family.
My cable box is stuck on the Latvian News Channel, and my sound systems plays only polka music non-stop. Maybe it’s time I headed to the lake to watch the birds soaring over the calm waters and listen to the gentle lapping of the water against the rocky shore.
No, wait. I can’t. I’m not sure which remote controls them.