Surfin’ USA

This is not about Malibu Barbie and beach boy Ken. This is about that dreadful disease that attacks the elderly- using the friggin’ tv remote control channel changer.

Despite being a member of the Medicare club for about fifteen years, Ma still appreciates the roses, especially this year’s NBA MVP, Derrick Rose. She is very much into sports, specifically the NBA playoffs this year. The other evening, she called to ask if I had just watched Miami hand it to Boston to finish off their mini series. I told her no- that I was busy working, making a living. She ignored my dig and continued with the fact that Memphis and Oklahoma City were about to start playing but that she was tired and going to bed. Well, she is old, you know. (Hey, stop cursing me)

In this round of the playoffs, all the games aired so far were on the TNT cable network. That was easy for Ma to find. It was channel 32 in her Chicago cable television system. Only five notches away from 37 which was home to the Cubs and Bulls broadcasts that were not on good old channel 9.

But, then the NBA governing body did a sneaky thing and decided to spread their wealth around and allow more broadcasting companies to pony up to them for the rights to televise the precious playoffs. This meant that ESPN was able to share in the glory. It also meant that the third game of the series was to switch from the memorized channel 32 to some other.

Ma called me when the game started with panic in her voice. “Where are the Bulls?”

I replied caustically (as usual), “what do you mean where are they? They’re playing in Atlanta.”

“No, idiot,” as she spoke her favorite name to remember me by. “I mean, what channel?”

I proceeded to explain that this game was on ESPN.

“Well, what channel is that?”

I replied, “how should I know? We have different systems. 49 is TNT by me, 32 by you. ESPN is 32 and 33 by me, depending on if you want ESPN1 or 2. Try surfing through the 30’s. Maybe it will show up.”

She calls back and says, “What’s wrong with you? I’m on ESPN and it is a volleyball game.”

I explained to her that I was indeed watching a basketball game and she had probably settled onto ESPN2.

She then told me that when she went up and down the channels on the remote, 31 was ESPN2 but that there was no 30. It skipped to 29. So I told her to try not surfing but to just type in 30 and hit the button. She did and nothing happened. She asked for the score and I gave it to her. Hey, it was her problem and not mine. The game was on in my computer room.

I visited her the other night for supper. When done, I went into the living room to watch a free ON Demand movie. When I was ready to leave, she said, “not so fast, buster. You gotta help me figure out where ESPN is or I’m gonna call Comcast and you talk to them.”

I played with the remote and could not find it either. So, Ma picked up her portable phone and called Comcast and told me to shut up about three times while she had to listen to an automated recording tell her which button to push in response to a series of choices. Finally, she got a foreigner on the phone and started talking words that made no sense. I grabbed the phone from her and explained in eloquent foreignese so that the customer service person could clearly understand the problem. The lady quickly told me that ESPN had been moved to channel 3. Huh? What? Why? I kept her on the line while I quickly walked over to the television set and selected channel 3. Lo and behold- it displayed ESPN on the screen. I thanked the prospective new immigrant and now Ma has a new television channel number to remember.

Hey, c’mon- I’m a baby boomer, the oldest of my societal grouping which are eligible for Medicare now as well. I’ve even heard talk of something called a DVR attached to a tv set but I got plenty of VHS tapes to keep me busy.

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