Monday, February 1, 2010

Handling the Remote (by Billy Coffey)

Photo courtesy of

Sexist I'm not, though I must admit I believe there are a few things men have a firmer handle on than women. Just a few, mind you.

Chief among these is the proper handling of the television remote control. This is most likely due to an almost childlike ignorance concerning its proper function on the part of the female. The remote is not used to simply turn the channel or adjust the volume. It's purpose is much more intricate--to obtain an overall grasp of station selections, striking an elegant balance between quality viewing and commercial evasion. Or, in more simplistic terms, to channel surf.

My wife has long abandoned any hope of holding the remote control. Not that I do not trust her with it. But watching her use it is painful to me in the way that a composer would be pained by watching a hillbilly use a Stradivarius. It is a skill, the handling of a remote. Something that cannot be taught but must be inborn.

Over the past few weeks, however, an insurrection has begun over our family's remote control. One led not by my wife. Not even by my son.

By my daughter.

It began innocently enough. I walked into the living room one evening and found her on the sofa and the remote on the ottoman. During a commercial break on her favorite cartoon, I decided to see what else was on. When I reached for the remote, however, I found a hand already there. Hers.

The ensuing standoff was both temporary and bloodless, and my Alpha role within the family remained intact. But as these remote control battles increased in frequency, I began to lose a bit of face. The last one, yesterday, ended in a tickle fight that was only broken up with my son whopping me with a pillow.

I'll be honest here. I really don't understand the whole remote control thing. I don't really know why it must be in my hands and no one else's. I am not a callous snob. I will gladly watch what my family wants. But I must be the one to turn the channel.

True, there is a certain amount of power involved in the remote. Those buttons are alluring. I have a control over the television that is not offered in my life. Possibilities that are difficult at least and impossible at best.

Zoom, for instance. With a push of a button, my remote will enlarge a certain area of my screen and bring greater detail to the larger picture. The ramifications are enormous. I have outwitted both Shawn Spencer on Psych and the dude in the vest on The Mentalist by the careful manipulation of that button. I don't miss anything. Which is quite unlike my own life, in which I miss too much.

And there is the Swap button. A wonderful feature that lets me instantly trade what I'm seeing for something else. Easy on my remote. Harder in my reality.

The Exit button is even more handy, enabling me to quickly escape from a screen I have no idea how I managed to get to. The Exit button works wonders for me when it comes to the television. Not in life, though. Most of the time I have to find my own way out of all the self-inflicted confusion.

I would also like to have Pause, Rewind, and Fast Forward buttons in my life, just so I could take a break or try something again or skip over the parts I don't like.

Play, too, would be a necessary function. I would like more play in my life.

That, I think, is why I'm so passionate about the remote. And if you're honest, I don't think you can blame me. Because no matter who you are, we all want a little more control over our lives.

I will say, however, that there I have one function in my life that is much better than its counterpart on my remote control: the Guide button. A push of that button and I know how to navigate around on my television. Handy.

But handier is the Guide in my life, the One who can navigate me through all of those parts in my life I would like to skip over or redo or exit. The One who can help me zoom in on what needs to be seen.

And Who can help me swap earth for heaven.


To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.


Denise said...

Such a great post, love it.

Katie said...

We now have an almost one year old baby girl in our house. Said Baby Girl wasn't with us though as we enjoyed a rather funny episode of Curious George. I don't even let her watch TV yet I know all about Word World and Curious George and Between the Lions. I'm doing field research for when she is old enough. That's what I keep telling myself anyway. ;)

Maureen said...

We have at least a half-dozen remotes in the house and not a single working television, because we never switched over to whatever it was we needed to get reception. I will say, however, that when we had a tv that worked and my husband's three sons joined us following a dinner out, the goings on over the remote and who controlled it would drive me out of the room. Altogether too much testosterone.

Wonderful post, as always.

jasonS said...

OK, I definitely feel you on this one. It is painful to watch my wife with the remote. I "need" that small measure/illusion of control. :)

The second part reminds me of the movie, Click. Great parable (involving a universal remote) about making our choices in life. If you haven't seen it, check it out.

Cheryl Lewis said...

What I said in my last comment. And the one before. And the one before. Sheesh. I'm such a broken record here.

(Which is why I subscribe to the same Guide you describe. He fixes my broken.)

Nick the Geek said...

My oldest is 6 and she already has a better grasp of how to work the TV than her grandma ever will. She can use the DVR and pause live tv etc.

The other kids bring me the remote when they want a different show or anything, but this one is starting to do it on her own. This can be a problem since she likes to pause anytime she runs out of the room or skip parts of DVR shows that she isn't enjoying. We will be having a show down soon.

Robin Arnold said...

Since you have the remote, please press Replay on this morning? I think I missed some stuff. And that zoom feature sounds good.

Anonymous said...

My husband and son have a constant battle over our remote. I stay out of it (I don't know how to use it anyway), but there is something in the male make-up that causes them to be territorial over that controller!

Great post, Billy.

L.T. Elliot said...

Way to wrap up a post, Billy. Again, I'm humbled by your skill.

Beth E. said...

I told my hubby about the zoom button on your remote...he's extremely jealous now. ;-)

Awesome post, Billy!

Heather of the EO said...

I need a surrender button :)

Great post, Mr. Coffey.

(Hi Katdish!)

Kristie Jackson said...

Beautiful! And sadly I am a hillbilly with a Stradivarius when it comes to our remote. Another good reason to just leave it off!

Anonymous said...

Notice that no where in the post did Billy mention me, his wife, getting access to the remote. I have long since relinquished control of the remote, but struggle daily with surrendering control of my life to My Heavenly Father.

Joanne Sher said...

Ohh - good stuff. And yeah, I can understand (though MY hubby is not as possessive of the remote as the average guy). Control is such a tempting offer, but we are SO much better of with Him in control. Thanks, Billy.

Karin said...

I let my hubby have the remote control and as soon as he has messed it up again he comes to me to fix it. The most aggravating thing is when he's in Guide - the program I'm watching is minimized in the top right hand corner. Sometimes he scrolls and scrolls and scrolls through the Guide hoping the options would change. Finding nothing better to watch than what I'm watching, he stays on the mini-screen until I finally remind him to change it to large screen again. Oh well, we're seniors - what can I expect, lol!!