Who Has The Controller?

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The TV Controller, by virtue of its very name, has evolved from a harmless remote device into an insidious weapon for the domination and control over other family members.

No matter how lowly your position at work, taking possession of the controller at home will automatically make you The Boss. Feel the strength run up your arm as you power on the TV from your seat across the room. Adjust the volume to your liking and begin cruising for what you like to watch.

As you flick through the channels, ignoring everyone’s moans and groans at your choice of programming, you will surely find yourself thinking: It’s great to be king! But beware, and hold fast, because others around you are scheming and plotting to usurp your power and take control at the first opportune moment.

As any great ruler knows, you can never let your guard down. Think of the controller as a weapon. Once you are in possession of it, keep it close on your person. Would you leave a dirk, a sword or a gun lying idle on the couch if you left a room full of captive enemies for a moment? Don’t trust the members of your own family, especially young children.

Leaving the controller behind, while you shuffle off to the kitchen to make a bowl of ice cream, is bound to end your reign over the TV for the night. You may think you are coming back to finish that soothing PBS Nature program on migrating birds, only to find that your son is now sitting in your seat licking a lollypop, his sticky hands wrapped around the controller, eyes ablaze from the sugar rush, squealing through an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. Best to turn around and finish your ice cream alone in the kitchen because your migrating birds have gone south for the night.

As adults, we draw battle lines between recliners over who gets the controller. My mother has tried several times, between the intake and exhaling breaths of my father’s snoring, to slip the controller out from under my dad’s heavy paw. He always awoke just as she was changing the channel, growling, “What are you doing? Put that channel back; I was watching that!”

“How were you watching it? With your eyes closed?”

“I was just resting my eyes. I’m listening to it; put it back! – And give me the controller.”

Our old TV set had one controller, which was simple to operate. Now we have an HD TV, which came with its own controller. There is a Verizon controller for the set top box, a controller for the receiver/sound system and another for the Blu-Ray player. With four controllers to operate, watching a movie requires at least two quick-witted, nimble-fingered people with a systematic Featured imagestrategy.

First, we line up all four controllers on the table between our recliners. One by one, we go down the line: turn on the TV first, turn on the receiver for sound, turn on the Blu-Ray player with controller number three. If nothing shows up but snow, check controller number four to be sure we are set on HDMI/DVI. Go back to controller number two and switch the source to BD (for Blue-Ray Disc). Where’s the movie? I thought you had it. Find the movie, open the tray and insert the disc.

If I leave this concentrated effort up to my husband, alone, I can take advantage of the time it takes to launch the movie and make a bowl of old-fashioned popcorn – from the kernels – or fold a batch of laundry. Then, we push back our recliners, and my husband calls out, Are we ready? and I answer Ready! -like we’re blasting off into space.

I lose my patience when he has the controller and he forgets we’re watching a program that’s taped. I’m constantly yelling, “Fast forward through these commercials!” When I try to grab the controller out of his hands, he fumbles and presses random buttons, and we end up sitting in front of a blank screen with him looking down at the controller, asking it, “What did I do?”

When my son is home watching a movie with us, I sigh with relief and give him all the controllers. He grew up playing video games and, with lightning fingers and that sixth sense the younger generation has with electronic devices, he can navigate all those tiny buttons in the dark. When I ask him to pause a movie for a bathroom break, he immediately stops the movie and restarts it exactly where we left off.

When my son isn’t around I make sure I’ve gone to the bathroom and have all the snacks ready before we kick back the recliners and shout Ready! Ringing telephones and bathroom breaks are a real challenge. When the phone rings, I reach for the light switch first, so my husband doesn’t answer the controller instead of the telephone. Then we both start grabbing controllers, trying to find the one that will mute the sound on the TV so we can pick up the phone to answer it.

With one controller out of the way, that leaves three to decipher. This is where the real challenge is, because, by now, we’ve already dropped one or two controllers and the batteries are rolling across the floor so we can’t pause the movie because televisions today don’t have buttons or knobs that you can manually turn in case your controller slides under the recliner during a telephone call.

In the best-case scenario, my husband finds the right controller and presses the Pause button, so we only have to rewind about 10 minutes of the movie. In the worst-case scenario, he accidentally presses the Stop button and we have to restart the movie from the beginning. A lot of cursing usually accompanies the worst-case scenario. And I get to fold another basket of laundry.

Sometimes I think back to the 1960’s when my entire family of five sat together in one room, with a black and white TV and no controller. There were only seven channels back then, but at least we got some exercise, getting up and down to switch programs.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to go back to the past. Once you’ve felt the commanding power of being in charge of the controller, it’s hard to give it up. But the balance of power is a delicate dance and knowing when to grab the controller and when to give it up can be tricky. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up like Sméagol from Lord of The Rings, a solitary creature, with nothing to cling to but his Precious.

Would you want the fate of a controller hog – all alone in the TV room, with no family around you, gripping the controller in one hand and eating M&M peanuts and popcorn with your other hand, watching your favorite shows all by yourself, with no interruptions and the volume cranked up as loud as you want?

I don’t know about you, but I think I’m already there.

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About Christine Vanderberg

Christine Vanderberg is a humorist who lives on the South Shore of Long Island. Visit me at my blogsite: christinevanderberg.com
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