When I was a child, television was simple: We watched Lawrence Welk and Gunsmoke on CBS and Bonanza on NBC. Those were the only two television stations we received and we got great reception–as long as someone stood beside the set with the wire antennas strategically held aloft in their hands.
We were enthralled. It was the modern world where the Cartwrights and Marshal Dillon came visually into our living rooms and we were grateful for the opportunity to see I Love Lucy solve all the world’s comical problems in a half hour of running around like a chicken with her red-haired head off.
Every time I watch television today, I remember those days with nostalgia. While I used to long for more than two or three choices on the television, I could at least make the television work by myself. I walked up, flipped a switch and there! The television came to snowy life. Then, squinting carefully to see which shows were where, I cranked the channel knob like cracking a safe until I was watching those channels. Easy, right? The television was a large, cumbersome piece of furniture where you placed a bowl of flowers for decoration and directed that mystifying collection of tubes and wires in whichever was the most convenient location for maximum comfort in viewing.
Today, the televisions have shrunk to a very light, very flat computer-style screen with a dizzying number of remote controls for a) the one to turn it on; b) the one to manage cable; and c) the one to flip on Netflix and Youtube, and d) the DVR which opens up even more selections. Gone are the days of two channels. Cable offers you a staggering range of programming; so much so, that it is almost impossible to choose the thing you should most wish to watch.
It has become a challenge: No more Marshall Dillon and Ben Cartwright: Now, you can watch fantasy, humor, movies, “reality”, documentaries, horror, sports, home shopping, cooking shows and religion. You can find any of these at any time and what’s more, if you can’t wait to watch the show you are panting for, you can do something called “livestreaming”–don’t ask.
I could deal with all of this, I really could manage, but I have run up against another problem with using my friendly television–you must be a technological wizard to set it up. Now, I tried to be a grown-up about this, but I can only hit “Set-up” so many times only to have it disappoint me when it fails to “set up,” before I am a weeping, whining, frustrated, furious mass of humanity hurling insults and sometimes objects at the impassive blank screen , which steadfastly refuses to be moved by my hysteria.
Feeling like the foolish old woman I am, I have resorted to calling the cable company and they come to my house (eventually) and expertly manipulate all of those remote controls like so many guns in a holster. “Now, this one is for turning on the television,” some kid younger than my winter coat will tell me. “Oh, great, and do I use this number key pad for channels?” I ask eagerly.
“Oh no! You have to use this one to change the channels,” he says handing me a second one. “Great, I can do that,” I say, doubtfully. “Where do I go on this one for Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever?” I am so hopeful.
“You use this one,” he pushes another remote into my hands, ” and if you want to LiveStream….” “I don’t,” I say sharply as he reached into his toolbelt for yet another gun…I mean remote.
“Well, I’ll just leave you to get acquainted with your new television system and enjoy,” so saying, he headed for the door. I won’t say he ran to his truck, but he wasted no time getting there.
By labeling my remotes—“power,” “cable,” “DVR” and “I don’t know”…I was able to limp along for about three days. I began to be very proud of myself for how quick I got on the draw. And then it happened: we had a power outage. It didn’t last too long and everything was back on within a half hour—except the television system. It seems when it loses power, it must be “set-up” again. There are two things which should never lose power–hospitals…and my television system. I plan to look into that as soon as the delivery guy re-does everything so I can use it again. But I’m willing to bet that the service guys at the cable office are flipping a coin…and the loser has to come out and set me up again. Marshal Dillon wouldn’t do this to me!