Gadgets Like Me

In my world, the word “remote,” as in “The Remote,” was first in regard to remote controlled cars—the toy your 12-year-old brother got for Christmas. Remotes were not a ubiquitous part of our lives until a couple of decades ago, when they entered the living rooms of ordinary folks and took aim at our chunky, four channel TV sets.

Remotes quickly rose in cultural importance. They symbolize power dynamics of relationships—who controls the remote in your household? They define personality types—are you a restless surfer or a more patient watch-and-decide type? One type for each household keeps things fun.

Remotes progressed from cultural gadget to essential tool to access culture. But the impact of a remote on my daily mood? I never saw that coming.

Confessions of persons struggling with a technology that gets more complex daily are so first-world boomer. Suffice it to say, when a remote first came to my house, there was just one, and now I have four—for one TV.

I wave them around, synchronizing points, clicks and now scrolls, like an orchestral conductor privy to a secret language whose success depends on perfect adherence to cryptic directives. When I succeed, achieving my viewing goal, it’s embarrassingly satisfying, whereas if I fail (again), I’m consumed by frustration and shame. Technology inferiority complex will be a diagnosed disorder, if it isn’t already.

Years ago, my daughter sat me down on the couch for a final tutelage before she left for college. She said, “There are things you don’t know about using the remote.” I said, “Really? ’Cause I can get the TV on almost every time now.”

She then took me on a tour of the many buttons that were a mystery to me, unveiling options that amazed me. Neglecting to use those options regularly, that esoteric knowledge is now buried beneath how to pair my phone.

After all this time gazing at remote buttons, I’ve begun to identify with them:

Which remote button most closely resembles the way you navigate through life? (Facebook probably has a survey on this already.)

Is your POWER status on or off? No judgment, just askin’.

Hit TOP MENU to reveal what is currently trending in your life.

INPUT tells us your mode/mood, not to mention your communication style. Are you being heard, or would SUBTITLES be helpful? Maybe you should try listening for a change and go MUTE.

Struggling with existential angst? Find the GUIDE.

RECALL will kindly return you to the path you were on.

I have been guilty of FASTFORWARD-ing through much of my life, but now, on the back end, I find myself in a thoughtful REPLAY tendency.

But the button I most identify with is PAUSE.

Pause your life, your mind, your show, and process. Or not—just pause to pause.

But whatever button you choose, remember that some require an extra step—your engagement. Hit ENTER.

Now, put down the remote.