Remote Control

Just over 50 years ago, give or take five years, a gentleman by the name of Robert Adler, of the Zenith Corporation, invented a little instrument that would change the course of human interaction.  What was this little item?

               It was something called a “remote control.” 

               Now in those days – the mid-60’s – most folks who had televisions found it to be a highly interactive and somewhat physical activity.  While there may have been only three networks broadcasting, a person watching had to get up to change the channel.  Get up to adjust the volume.  Get up to adjust the lines (vertical and horizontal lines throughout the screen were often a problem).  And if you were lucky enough to have a color set – get up to adjust the yellow. Get up to turn the television on, or off.

               I know, right?  It’s almost unthinkable.  In the 60’s, we didn’t have a remote control.  In fact, I think my family didn’t get one until the 1980’s.  But after that, wow.  The concept of “couch potato” likely got its inception from the use of the remote control.

               I won’t digress to talk about how this device has mushroomed to the point where we can do a whole lot of things via remote control – turn on our cars, start our furnaces, dim the lights, turn on the oven.  Okay, I guess I did talk about that for a second. 

               But my real purpose here today is to talk about sexism in the remote control world.  I thought it was just my house.  Over the decades, we’ve evolved to the point at which my husband is the commander of the remote.  There are three of them, and they sit in a twirly case, next to his chair.  The remote, if not in his hand, is on his armrest.  If I am given the remote, it’s because he’s leaving the room (at the very least) and, more often, the house.  Or I sneak out in the middle of the night and use them, being careful to place them back where they are supposed to be.

               This balance – or imbalance – of remote control power was always something I just accepted as unique to us.  But then I read a study from Oregon State University, which found that “men are more likely to dominate the use of the remote control.”  I felt amazed that this was happening in households all over America.  But there was more! 

               This same study also found that men are “more likely to annoy their partners with its use” and “more likely to ‘graze’ – which is skipping from channel to channel.”  I have to confess that my husband rarely annoys me with the use of the remote control, but I’m so used to it that it just seems normal.

               Oregon State University researchers also found the women are “more apt to videotape their shows to watch later.”  Ah, yes, that explains the many Hallmark movies on our recording list.  Women, the study found, are more likely to say “they are happy spending time together as a couple,” regardless of what is on television.

               The most common complaint about the male dominance of the remote is that men so often engage in the “unnegotiated” channel surfing without talking to their partners.   I have spent some time saying “What was that? What was that? What was that?” as selection options whizzed by.

               Male-female relationships are complex, and couples can argue about money, in-laws, chores, work, and child-rearing.   But the ownership of the remote is never in question. It’s just easier that way. Ask Oregon State.

New Ideas for the Times

Last weekend I was walking our dog with my friend, who was walking her own dog.  We were having a grand time (6 feet apart, etc.) and the dogs were enjoying it.  The weather was wonderful and we were admiring the snow in the woods where we were walking.  I had on the appropriate outer garments for walking outside in February and was quite comfortable – except for my knees.  The arthritis in them was taking notice of the cold and damp and letting me know that they were not comfortable.  We ended our discussion, my knees and I, with them threatening me that they would lock up later and make me very sore and stiff.  They are gals of their word, sadly.  

               I commented about this to my friend and she said, “You know what we need?  We need knee warmers.”

               She’s right!  I don’t need total leg warmers, like those that were the rage many years ago.  I need just some kind of insulated bands that will stretch and move with my knees.  I even have a cute name – Kneedy Knees.  We talked about our idea for this all the way home, where we promptly forgot all about it.

               But my stiff, sore knees this morning reminded me that this might be, in fact, a great idea to patent.

               This made me think of another idea I had several years ago.  I believe there are at least two full generations of people who use phones and have never had the rather satisfying experience of hanging up on someone.  Not only is hanging up a powerful message to the receiver, as the person getting it hears a loud click in his/her ear and then the dial tone, but it feels good to slam that receiver down and know exactly what the person is hearing. 

               It’s a non-violent way to express displeasure and we need more non-violent ways to do that.  So I think I should come up with an “app” for people’s phones, so when you press it, the call is disconnected.  But first, the receiver of the call hears the click and then a dial tone.  The person using the call gets that same feeling of satisfaction. 

               These days, you don’t even know when someone’s hung up.  You end up saying, “Hello?  Hello?” until you figure out they’ve either ended the call or the call was lost.  There’s no satisfaction in that.  I think it would be especially helpful for those annoying calls from car warranty places, insurance companies, and sketchy “charities.”

               I have one more idea and it was born of the pandemic.  I find that wearing a mask during the winter months in the Midwest is a really super idea.  No more chapped cheeks!  No more wind making my eyes sting and my lips turn to dust. But my ears still get cold. I want to invent a mask that covers my ears, in addition to going around them to keep the mask in place.  That way, I’m protected from viruses as well as from cold weather on all my sensitive face parts.

               Patents pending, of course!

Cancel Culture

There have been a lot of headlines appearing in the newsfeed on my phone and on Facebook about cancel culture.  While I don’t think these headlines are about what I think they’re about, I have to say I’m all for developing a culture in which some things are canceled.  Let’s start with the following three irritants.

               First, let’s cancel all the junk mail I get every day.  This will not only improve my mood greatly, but also save about ten million trees.  I don’t need flyers for every furniture store sale, jewelry sale, or bouncy house event.  If I want or need those things, I want to be able to sign up to get them, but otherwise, I do not want to sort through five to ten pieces of stiff paper every day in the mail to find the one invoice or important letter that’s mixed in there.

               The same is true for those magazines of “coupons” and discounts for everything from gutter toppers (that cost a lot and don’t prevent blockages at all) to new flooring.  Again, if I want or need those magazines, let me sign up for them.  Don’t just put them in my mail.  This is especially true for the ones that are loose-leaf, so that on cold, windy days, they won’t blow all over my yard forcing me to chase them around like a chicken with my head cut off.

               Cancel that.

               Here’s another idea.  Cancel the phone calls we get every day (EVERY DAY) from banks who apparently are monitoring my credit cards, warranty companies who apparently monitor my car warranty, and apologies from my power company.  If I want your services, I can find you.  I am especially weary of “Kevin” and “Donna” who call me to tell me they are my “health care advocate.” No, they aren’t.  They also are not from “social security” or “Medicare.”  And absolutely cancel that recorded voice that tells me I’ve been recommended by “one of my health care providers” for a medical alert bracelet.  Give me the name of that provider, please. We need to chat.

               Meanwhile, also require that if I request to be placed on a do-not-call list, that I’m actually placed on that list.  I shouldn’t have to repeat that request every time they call from a different number.  Yeah, they do that.  In fact, every call that’s recorded (that isn’t an appointment reminder) should be cancelled. 

               And speaking of those appointment reminders – I really do not need a text reminder, email reminder, US Mail reminder, and recorded voice reminder. I’ve never missed a doctor, dental, vision, or any other medical appointment in my entire life.  NEVER!  So why the four reminders?  I even get four reminders for a haircut appointment!  (well, I used to – haven’t had my hair cut in 8 months, so there’s that).  But again, if I’m forgetful and we all know it, then sure remind me a dozen times.  Otherwise?

               Cancel that.

               Finally, I’ve started to notice emails popping up that I didn’t ask for and do not need. They have subject lines like “you’ve won” and “we have an insurance quote for you.”  These aren’t going to spam because they aren’t spam.  These are real companies.  Some allow me to “unsubscribe” (which is amusing only in that I never subscribed in the first place).  But some allow you to click on “unsubscribe” and then tell you the message is “undeliverable.” 

               I started getting these types of emails when I purchased something on line from a new company.  Clearly, this company shares my email with “affiliates,” so that’s the first and last time I’ll buy from them. Sharing email without permission?  Getting junk email to sort through every day? You guessed it –

               Cancel that.


I couldn’t believe my luck in finding a website that actually detailed ten (TEN!) different ways that a compliment can be a bad thing.  Before you think it’s all due to “political correctness,” it’s actually not.  It appears that many people simply don’t know how to give a compliment. Or maybe they do, but it’s a sneaky way to give two competing messages.

               For example, when someone says, “Oh, nice outfit!  Much better than what you usually wear,” it’s a compliment initially. But the second part indicates that the person usually dresses very poorly.  Maybe it’s bad taste or lack of good clothing, but either way, the person walks away feeling ….good, but not good?

               I have first-hand experience with these kinds of compliments.  Honestly, most of the time, they’re just mis-speaks and I tend to find them hysterical.  My mother-in-law, rest her soul, once complimented my new hairstyle.  This was about 20 years ago, and I had worn my hair short for about a decade.  After I let it grow a bit and got a little wave in it, she commented, “Oh, your hair looks so nice!  It’s so much more flattering than before.” So for ten years, she didn’t like my hair, but didn’t say anything?

               Actually, this would not be typical of her at all and I quickly realized she was simply trying to be nice about my hair.

               But one could get a complex after a while with this type of compliment.  I continued to let my hair grow that year. Usually letting your hair grow means it looks pretty bad for a while.  I was washing dishes one afternoon, with my back to the door and a dear friend came in and said, “Gosh, your hair looks good!”  I turned around to thank her and she added, “From the back.”

               I guess my growing-out bangs did not look so hot!  Again, this made me laugh.  In fact, it’s become something we say around our family often.  If any of us say, “that chair looks good,” or “that paint job looks good,” another of us typically adds, “from the back.” It doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it just makes us all smile.

               Back in my thirties I had gained some weight and really struggled to lose it.  I had a bad morning and was tearing up a bit and complaining to my hubby that I felt fat and ugly.  He was so supportive, hugging me and comforting me.  I was halfway to work on my drive that I realized what he had actually said was, “you’re not a bit ugly.”  But…I was fat? 

               It’s become another funny thing for our family to say.  I think the best thing to do when someone gives you a compliment that isn’t really a compliment, is to just turn it into a joke.  Laughing always makes everything a bit more bearable. 

               So when I spent a week painting a room in our house and another friend came over and remarked, “Did you mean to paint it this color?” I just laughed.  I inferred that she didn’t like the color and I thought it was funny.  I also thought it was a good thing she doesn’t live here!

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