The King of the Remote

Posted on October 14th, 2011

I have never met a remote control I could actually use. That’s because I live with two males. And males truly believe they are the anointed Kings of the Remote Control.

It starts even before boys are born. Oh, sure, some people still cling to that silly belief that doctors identify boys in ultrasounds because they have…well, something girls don’t. That is so last decade. With the new ultrasounds doctors can identify boys by the remote control in their hands.

It’s true. If you don’t believe me, ask any OB/GYN. They’ll tell you. And hospitals now use the remote as an identifier for boy babies. No more wrist bracelets for newborn boys—only the girls get to wear hospital-issued jewelry. For boys, they just check the remotes.

Even fathers have quickly learned to identify their sons by the remotes held high above the basinets. In maternity wards all over the country, proud papas are telling new grandparents, “Look, mom and dad, that’s my boy. See how well he handles the remote?” And new mothers are gently correcting, “No dear. Our baby is to the left, with the Sony. The other baby is the Jones’ kid. They have a 3D screen.”

As you can see, remote envy starts young.

Almost as young as remote control training starts. Forget catch. Forget soccer. Forget camping. Today’s dads work hard to make sure that their sons are ready to inherit the remote control throne. Dads sit on couches for hours at a time demonstrating the nuances of channel flipping to their young princes. The Kings of the Remote don’t care that they are developing an incurable case of couch-potato-itis; they are determined to pass their knowledge to the next generation.

By the time boys are 4 or 5, they know what buttons to push. They can change channels with the best of them—even if they don’t know what they are watching because they can’t yet read. But their fingers are limber and fast and they can scroll through five hundred channels in seconds.

Once they learn to read, the training intensifies. At that point, princes can be taught to search for “iCarly” and “Sponge Bob Squarepants” by themselves. They no longer need Daddy to change the channels for them. Now they are ready for the ultimate challenge.

Finding the remote.

You see, once there are multiple users for the same remote, that remote never, ever gets put back into its proper place. And if you can’t find the remote, you have to actually get up off the couch and change the channels manually. Kings and Princes absolutely go insane at the thought of doing this. They will spend hours ripping apart the family room—upending couch cushions, flipping through magazine holders, unpotting plants—before they will actually stoop to something as horrifying as pressing the + button on the TV set.

From a female perspective, this is strange. I mean, first of all, we aren’t afraid of the + button—getting up and walking to the TV counts as five seconds of exercise, so we do it. And women know deep down inside that if we did have control of the remote, we’d treat it better. We’d always put it in the little remote basket next to the TV so it would never be lost.

But for some reason, it never occurs to men to put the remote into that little basket. Instead, they prefer to spend at least ten minutes every day finding the remote. Oh, sure. Some men sleep with their remotes. But that poses a rollover problem. Remotes have been crushed under the weight of a snoring couch potato. And, even if the remote isn’t crushed, the TVs can suddenly turn on by themselves or worse, change channels and end up on some girly station like HGTV or Bravo.  So most men simply drop the remote any old place and just hope they can find it the next day.

As for me, I have a well-hidden spare. On long, winter days when nobody is home, I get my spare remote out and practice. And I dream of the time to come when there is a forced abdication of the remote throne. On that day, the Queen of the Remote will take over. There will be no more channel surfing. HGTV will no longer be banned from our TV set. And I will never watch “Mythbusters” again.

Long live the Queen!

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