It's just too many remotes. (Photo/Janet Silver Ghent)
It's just too many remotes. (Photo/Janet Silver Ghent)

For me, figuring out our TV is a remote possibility

Ten years ago, my husband wanted a large-screen TV for the living room, so he spent days checking websites in search of the best deal. “Enough already,” I said, exasperated. “It’s Father’s Day. Go ahead and buy it.”

Well, he ran out to Fry’s that afternoon and came home with a 52-inch Samsung. Ten years later, I figured out how to turn it on. Maybe by next year, I’ll be able to watch a movie all by myself.

Listen, I am no Luddite, and long ago I learned how to use a VCR as well as a CD player. These days, I help friends deal with the quirks of Microsoft Word and assist choir members with audiovisual recording and transmission. But none of those skills help me with the television, particularly since we have four remotes on the coffee table and another five stashed away in a drawer.

“Why are those five remotes in a drawer if we never use them?” I asked my husband.

Allen shrugged his shoulders. “You don’t need to worry about them,” he said. “You only need to concern yourself with what’s on the coffee table. The one that’s shaped like a dog bone is the one that turns on the TV.”

I fingered the remotes on the coffee table. Not one of them, in my estimation, looked like a dog bone. This process wasn’t getting any easier. That’s why I asked Allen to provide a one-page user manual some time ago. I found it in the drawer with the remotes we never use. Here’s what it said:

Normal TV watching procedure: “Turn on everything with pink remote.” That’s the universal remote, which has pink tape around the edges so I can identify it. “Use only Comcast remote for everything except on/off … talk to it. If you turn on everything with the Comcast remote, it will not turn on the receiver, and the sound will not work as designed. If you do not aim a remote at the glass dome over the French candle, it may not work right.”

When all else fails: “Use pink remote, turn off everything, turn on … AIM!! Now use Comcast remote.”

Yeah, right. Except the pink-taped, so-called universal remote never really worked. That’s why it sits in the drawer with the other remotes we don’t use. However, the Comcast remote, which turns the TV on and off, doesn’t turn the sound on. For that, I need to grab another remote labeled Yamaha.

That much I get, sort of. But if Alexa, our electronic assistant, can turn on and off the couch light, play Nat King Cole, and deliver the news and the weather report, why can’t she turn on the living room TV?

Exasperated, my brother, Bob, called out, “Alexa, teach Janet how to use the remote.”

“Sorry,” she responded, “I’m not sure about that.”

I’m not beyond learning. Heck, when we stayed at an Airbnb and the owners provided a user guide for electronic equipment, I had no problem following it. With that in mind, Bob created a more extensive tutorial, geared just for me.

Step 1: “Turn on TV using Comcast remote. Press all-power button on top right.”

Step 2: “For sound: On remote labeled Audio (Yamaha), press button on right under yellow tape. Make sure receiver indicator shows hdmi4 on the screen; it usually does. If not, call Allen or Bob …”

Step 3: “For movies or programs: If you want Amazon Prime or Netflix, press Xfinity button in center of Comcast remote. A series of choices will come in. Move cursor toward the right and press Apps.”

Step 4: Gets more complicated. “In Apps, more choices will come up … Move cursor to desired choice and press. In both Netflix and Prime, an icon will appear with several names, including yours. Move cursor to your name and press. That should get you in. If some internet issues occur and the selection doesn’t take, then wait it out …”

Step 5: “Finding a movie or program on Netflix or Amazon Prime requires a second tutorial.”

That’s why I use the uncomplicated small TVs in my bedroom and in the kitchen. One of these days, I may try to watch a movie on the living room set, pressing the right buttons all by myself. However, I have too many books I want to read first.

Meanwhile, all this remote learning may be for naught.

“You know,” Allen said, “if we buy a new TV, it will come equipped with Alexa or Google Assistant, and they’ll be able to handle everything.”

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].