In every family there are two people: one who wants to watch TV, and one who knows how all the remotes work. Once a week my wife calls my name in a tone I have come to translate as: "You have done something to the TV, and I can't find the show I wish to watch." The following conversation ensues.
Me: "Well, your first problem is that the TV is showing the Blu-ray menu."
Her: "And I would know this how?"
"The strip of apps at the bottom is slightly different. It shows Hulu, for example, and we don't have Hulu. I could remove the Hulu link, but I chose to keep it there to remind you this isn't the TV menu. When you see the thing we don't have, you know you're on the wrong menu."
"But it says Netflix, and we have that. But when I go to Netflix, it asks me to log on."
"Right! Because I haven't entered our credentials in the Blu-ray app menu for Netflix. Just remember: the Blu-ray knows nothing about us. I've kept it in the dark."
"OK, that's helpful, but I still don't know how I get to the TV. I press the TV remote and it just turns off."
"Oh, well, actually, that's not the TV remote. That's the DirecTV remote."
"DirecTV is how I watch TV."
"Oh, boy. Well, technically, no. See, the TV is the TV set. DirecTV is the provider of content that displays on the TV set. So you're watching DirecTV on the TV. Got it?"
"I just. Want. To watch. Television. I have worked. Ten hours. Today."
"Got it. We're on the Blu-ray menu, because there's Hulu, which we don't get, so you have to go to the TV menu using … what?"
"Right, but what's the saying? Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach a wife to find the Fishing Channel on the satellite grid and you've entertained her for a lifetime. If she likes fishing. You're more into tennis. So, give a man a tennis racquet, and. …"
"Can you just get to the part where I watch my show?"
"We have to go to Input to select the source. So you just click like this: over, over, select, press OK, up, over until you get to DirecTV, and then select again. Now you see the difference? It's a different strip of apps. No Hulu."
"Which we don't get."
"Very good. Now you can pick up the DirecTV remote and select where you want to go."
"I wanted to watch that show you said I had to watch so you could cancel the service."
"Oh, that's CBS Access! That's simple. Use the TV remote — no, that's the Blu-ray remote; I know they look identical but the Blu-ray has a button called Top Menu, which does absolutely nothing."
"Maybe it works with Hulu; have you tried?"
"We don't get Hu … oh, you're kidding. OK, use the TV remote; no, that's the DirecTV remote. Right, the TV remote. Go all the way to the left to the options button … no, that's the settings button. Never press that one. Just don't. Go up and to the right to Apple TV. There. Now use the Apple remote. That's right, the thin one. You're holding it upside down."
"How can you tell?"
"The top is shiny glass. Now slide your thumb down until you get to CBS, and click. See? There you are."
Five minutes later I hear my name called again in a tone that suggests my life would be easier if I replaced all audiovisual equipment in the house with Viewmasters. Some of those were 3-D.
"Yes, light of my life?"
"It won't play. I press play and it goes back to the main menu."
"That's because CBS Access is a trash app coded by monkeys on reefer. You have to reset the Apple TV."
"Which button is that?"
"There is no button. You have to pull the cord out and count to 30. It's a great time to floss."
Eventually we got the CBS thing to work, but it wouldn't play the episode she selected and insisted on making her watch the commercials over and over again. As frustrating as that was, I had to applaud their marketing strategy: Make people pay for content, then force them to watch ads. It's like leasing a car and you have to listen to an ad for the car on the radio before you can put it in gear.
Anyway, in the interest of equal time, here's my wife describing my coping issues:
"I leave town for four days and all the plants die."
She has a point, and I'm sure she showed me where the watering can is, but it wasn't there the last time I looked.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks