There's a cartoon in the paper called Zits. It's one of those daily strips where you actually develop a relationship with the characters. The main character is Jeremy, a teenage boy who confounds his parents.

I laughed out loud last week when his parents (aka anyone in that senior middle age category) are trying to watch some show on television. They're holding several remotes and trying to read directions. Jeremy is standing behind them chewing on his arm!

(Let me digress here a bit... his mother chewed on her arm last month as she tries to teach him how to make a grilled cheese sandwich!) It's all relative...

Well, for our 38th wedding anniversary, my first husband and I decided to enter the world of high definition television. We were well cared for by the salesperson and we took delivery of several large boxes, lots of styrofoam that the city doesn't take in recycling or garbage, cables that look important, and remote controls. Each box had its own remote control.

Well, before we even opened the boxes, it was beyond us. It had taken several visits from the Rogers and Wirecom people to actually get the cables into the house without snaking exposed cable up and down stairs and around door frames. And so now, here we are, the biggest TV we've ever laid eyes on (42"), a blue ray player, a cable box, and our treasured vhs/dvd combo player because the kids super 8 mm movies were dubbed onto vhs a few years ago... you must keep some treasures!

The wonderful Marcel Tucker came and literally 'tucked' cables everywhere, connected it all, laid the remotes across the coffee table and called me for my lesson.

Forget the lesson... this calls for a degree; at least a diploma! Now let's see... there's a remote for the television. On is the red power button.
Point the remote at the cable box (labelled cable) and hit guide. I can find the movie channel by hitting a few numbers and get a description of the movie by hitting info.

At this point, it's important to mention that all type on all remotes is in 4 point, faded text and certainly with my new progressive lens glasses not at all readable. Just wait, Marcel, while I get a flashlight and the magnifying glass. I draw a little picture of the remote with its arrow and enter buttons and guide and info buttons. Then there's volumn and channel selectors. Marcel tells me I can listen to classical music by going to 719 on my television remote. My TV remote?

Next lesson is to be able to find the high definition channels. Another page of notes. HDMI1 for cable, HDMI2 for the blue ray player, component 1 for vhf and dvd combo player.

But it's got to be turned off there and on here in order for any of it to work. I'm now chewing my own arm.

Watch a movie? Different remote. Different configeration of buttons and for this I need to select HDMI3 (if I can find it), select a video source and find and hit play.

At this point I wrote down Marcel's cell phone number!

And to use the VCR? Press TV and then select video 3 from the Video source button.

Well, the fancy system is in the family room and I've been watching The Hour on the old square set in the bedroom. One remote, on and off, an arrow to scroll to the channels til I find the little CBC icon.
It's emotionally debilitating to think you're a fairly smart person who can't watch their own television. I was lamenting to my much younger friend, Ian Lowe, about my dilemma. He showed up this morning with a Logitech remote and a software disk for my computer. He inserted the disk (while I was reading the directions on how to open the plastic package for the remote). He did some quick programming and then we went together to the fancy new entertainment system.

He took all the other remotes and put them in a drawer.

Now, Donna, he said, removing my teeth from my arm. See here? If you want to watch TV, just hit the 'watch TV' button. It'll turn everything on for you. Then you can hit the up and down button and find your channel.

Want to watch a DVD movie? Hit the DVD button. It turns on the blue ray player, sets the TV screen to movie mode and once you put the dvd in the waiting slot, you push play and watch your movie.

Want to see the kids when they were little at Christmas, 1985? Select Movie button. It turns on the VCR, switches the screen for VHS tape watching, and away you go!

I'm stunned. The holes in my arm begin to shrink. Why do all these manufacturers do this to us with all these remotes when there's an easier way?

Thanks, Ian. You've restored my faith in something. I'm just not sure what!

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