I’ll admit from the start I am not a technological genius. I tell people I just recently learned to use a ball point pen.
For years, I couldn’t work the stereo in our home because the console resembled an airplane panel with its buttons and knobs and blinking lights. It made me feel like one of the ape-men from “2001, A Space Odyssey.” I’d scratch my head, press a button, turn a knob, and call my son for help.
“Whatever happened to a simple On and Off button?” I’d ask.
“But this has so many more options. Look, you can increase the treble with this knob or the bass with this one. And this button controls the…”
“I don’t want options. I just want to listen to music.”
I miss my old record player.
So you’d think my son, now grown with a family of his own, would understand and not buy me anything I have to plug in.
You’d think so, wouldn’t you?
Recently, I had heart surgery, and he and his wife, well-meaning and caring as they are, decided that a man my age would take a long time to recover and need to watch television all day. They bought me a year’s subscription to TiVo so I wouldn’t be limited to the horrors of daytime TV. To make matters worse, my wife took advantage of my weakness and had cable installed.
Now in order to watch TV, I have three different remotes — one to turn on the set, one for cable and one for TiVO. I need the equivalent of a doctorate in electrical engineering just to change the channel. But I’m trying to learn. (My wife will attest to how trying I can be.) When I want to watch something on television, I make sure I get to the set at least ten minutes before the program starts. Usually, I can get to the desired channel in that time. Unless, of course, the TV is set for TiVO. Then all bets are off.
At least, arguments over me switching from channel to channel have ceased.
I miss the three or four stations I could get easily on my old, antennae-on-the-roof TV, but I now have options. I can watch reruns of The Golden Girls, four continuous hours of The World Series of Poker and The Megan Mullally Show day or night. What’s more, TiVo automatically tapes shows it thinks I want to watch, like Spanish soap operas, Bonanza and a tribute to Rod Stewart.
Of course, I haven’t quite mastered the art of taping shows I want to see. Just the other day I set the TiVo to tape Law and Order. It taped all twenty-three episodes of the show that come on in a single day. When I tried taping Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, I got a preacher assuring me I’m going straight to hell. I assume that is TiVo’s advanced sense of irony at work.
It’s not all bad. I look at the jungle of wires and cables and the flashing colored lights emanating from the various gadgets and I figure I can save on a Christmas tree this year.
But the thoughtful gift is working out after all. Watching television has become so complicated, I take long afternoon walks, garden and exercise. Evenings I read and go to sleep early. I used to stay up to watch David Letterman, but now I can’t figure out what channel he’s on. Thanks to the gifts of TiVO and cable, I’m recuperating much faster than I might have if had I been able to rest in front of the television.