Billy Coffey

writer, observer, learner

Handling the remote

image courtesy of

image courtesy of

Sexist I’m not, though I must admit I believe there are a few things men have a firmer handle on than women. Just a few, mind you.

Chief among these is the proper handling of the television remote control. This is most likely due to an almost childlike ignorance concerning its proper function on the part of the female. The remote is not used to simply turn the channel or adjust the volume. It’s purpose is much more intricate–to obtain an overall grasp of station selections, striking an elegant balance between quality viewing and commercial evasion. Or, in more simplistic terms, to channel surf.

My wife has long abandoned any hope of holding the remote control. Not that I do not trust her with it. But watching her use it is painful to me in the way that a composer would be pained by watching a hillbilly use a Stradivarius. It is a skill, the handling of a remote. Something that cannot be taught but must be inborn.

Over the past few weeks, however, an insurrection has begun over our family’s remote control. One led not by my wife. Not even by my son.

By my daughter.

It began innocently enough. I walked into the living room one evening and found her on the sofa and the remote on the ottoman. During a commercial break on her favorite cartoon, I decided to see what else was on. When I reached for the remote, however, I found a hand already there. Hers.

The ensuing standoff was both temporary and bloodless, and my Alpha role within the family remained intact. But as these remote control battles increased in frequency, I began to lose a bit of face. The last one, yesterday, ended in a tickle fight that was only broken up with my son whopping me with a pillow.

I’ll be honest here. I really don’t understand the whole remote control thing. I don’t really know why it must be in my hands and no one else’s. I am not a callous snob. I will gladly watch what my family wants. But I must be the one to turn the channel.

True, there is a certain amount of power involved in the remote. Those buttons are alluring. I have a control over the television that is not offered in my life. Possibilities that are difficult at least and impossible at best.

Zoom, for instance. With a push of a button, my remote will enlarge a certain area of my screen and bring greater detail to the larger picture. The ramifications are enormous. I have outwitted both Shawn Spencer on Psych and the dude in the vest on The Mentalist by the careful manipulation of that button. I don’t miss anything. Which is quite unlike my own life, in which I miss too much.

And there is the Swap button. A wonderful feature that lets me instantly trade what I’m seeing for something else. Easy on my remote. Harder in my reality.

The Exit button is even more handy, enabling me to quickly escape from a screen I have no idea how I managed to get to. The Exit button works wonders for me when it comes to the television. Not in life, though. Most of the time I have to find my own way out of all the self-inflicted confusion.

I would also like to have Pause, Rewind, and Fast Forward buttons in my life, just so I could take a break or try something again or skip over the parts I don’t like.

Play, too, would be a necessary function. I would like more play in my life.

That, I think, is why I’m so passionate about the remote. And if you’re honest, I don’t think you can blame me. Because no matter who you are, we all want a little more control over our lives.

I will say, however, that there I have one function in my life that is much better than its counterpart on my remote control: the Guide button. A push of that button and I know how to navigate around on my television. Handy.

But handier is the Guide in my life, the One who can navigate me through all of those parts in my life I would like to skip over or redo or exit. The One who can help me zoom in on what needs to be seen.

And Who can help me swap earth for heaven.

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1 Comment

  1. I agree with you that men seem to know how to use the remote better than us women. When we purchased our new TV and hooked up with a Net Flix Box, I haven’t a clue even how to turn oin the TV let alone find the movie or program I want to watch. So He is the master of the control each even when we have our TV time together. :-)

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