DON’T ASK WHY- Remote controls have too many features to be truly useful

This week I was going to write about phone tapping. As you probably know, President George W. Bush recently endorsed the idea to tap into people’s private telephone conversations to get the really good gossip. Because, let’s face it, the president probably does not get to hear a lot of juicy gossip.

For one thing, most people probably think being the president is such a big job already, so why load on a bunch of useless scuttlebutt, right? Besides, who would WANT to tell the president about the skeletons in their closet? He’d most likely search it for weapons of mass destruction anyway.

But Bush is an American just like the rest of us, and the American instinct is to stick your nose where it shouldn’t be. Of course, there’s also the chance that some terrorism-in-the-making might be caught in the process, also.

I personally don’t mind this whole phone-tapping business, as long as it’s not my calls that are being listened to. The most suspicious phone calls I’m ever involved in are with Free Press editor Don Ratzlaff, trying to figure out why some pictures I sent by e-mail didn’t come through correctly. (Answer: the Internet was invented by Al Gore.)

But all kidding aside (Who’s kidding?), I feel that as long as Bush is just trying to get into the grapevine, I say let him. The president is sort of human, too, you know.

So that’s what I was going to write about, but I felt there was a larger issue at hand that needed to be discussed: my remote control has too many features.

Actually, we have two remote controls that control our home entertainment system. One of them controls the television and Dish satellite, the other controls the VCR/DVD player.

The problem is, there are so many buttons on each that I usually end up programming something totally opposite from what I had in mind.

The Dish remote has 39 buttons, while the VCR/DVD remote has 51. This adds up to 90 buttons. But that is not even including the remote control I would have to use in order to get the sound from the TV to go through the stereo system (15 buttons).

So here I am, holding three remotes with a combined sum of 105 buttons, trying to program the simple function of recording an “AFV” rerun. However, in reality, I’m actually telling the system-by mistake I assure you-that I want it to mix me an extra dry scotch on the rocks.

(I have yet to program the “Legal Drinking Age” feature.)

Personally, I’m scared to touch half of the buttons that are on the remotes. This is why I want my entertainment system to be more like my toilet.

Please allow me to explain.

My toilet has a grand total of one lever. No matter when I push it, how many times I push it or with what accuracy I push it, it will consistently perform the same function.

Granted, there have been a few exceptions. But this is more on the plumbing end of things than the electronics.

Another bone I have to pick with remote controls is their power sources: batteries. In my opinion, batteries are manufactured to last about two minutes before they die.

My brother recently experienced this technical difficulty with his remote control. Apparently, when the batteries inside a flipper go dead, it automatically becomes possessed.

For example, when watching a show, the remote suddenly began to levitate three feet off the ground and started to make high-pitched shrieking sounds.

OK, maybe not.

But the TV did begin to randomly change channels, even though no one was near the remote control.

Dee-dee-dee-dee, dee-dee-dee-dee.

But battery malfunctions are not limited to just the remote controls. They also have a habit of drying up in my CD player when I’m running. This mostly happens when I am in the middle of my first mile. Everything will be going fine until I reach the point of not-being-able-to-stop-the-treadmill-without-resetting-the-time-and-distance.

It is then that-and this happens about every other day-the batteries die, leaving me to run in silence, where I am forced to listen to myself breathe.

So in the interest of more dependable remote controls, I suggest flippers with extension-cord outlets and a maximum of three buttons: Power, Volume and Channel.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have President Bush waiting on the other line.

* * *

UFO: Scuttlebutt is an early 19th century nautical term for an open cask of water kept on deck for use by the crew. The term comes from scuttle, to cut a hole in, and butt, a large cask.

Sailors would gather around the cask and trade stories and gossip, similar to modern office workers at the water cooler or coffee pot.

By the turn of the 20th century, American sailors began using the term scuttlebutt in reference to these sea stories and gossip.

Eventually the term became associated with any gossip or rumor and its nautical origins were lost.

Don’t ask why.

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