Peace through strength, remotely

Tension disappeared and now peace prevails in our living room, thanks to the simple act of losing a TV remote control.

Our family always had only one remote, as we only have one TV. That’s fine, except that the person with the remote has the power. Generally that was me so it wasn’t a real big problem, especially after the kids left home. But sometimes my wife would get the remote and that made me ill-at-ease. We’d be watching TV and I was powerless to change channels, adjust the sound, or make the captions magically appear. My wife likes to watch a show and leave it on the same channel, even during commercials. I see commercials as a two-minute exercise in finding out what else is happening in TV land, easily flipping through a score of channels to get the gist of the action. As I do this my wife fumes, fearing that I’ll never get back to the show we’re watching.

Then one day we lost the remote. It wasn’t a simple loss, where in a day or two the remote shows up in its usual place under the sofa cushion, beneath the chair or buried under a pile of newspapers. This time it seemed to have disappeared for good. The dog looked guilty but would never admit to anything. I squeezed him a few times to see if that would change the channel but it only made his tongue pop out. I had to admit he probably didn’t swallow the remote.

I found myself actually changing channels by hand, a tedious experience which my wife couldn’t bear to watch and threw me into despondency. Why had I worked so hard the last 30 years if I still had to change channels by hand?

Finally, apparently afraid that I might squeeze the dog to death, my wife bought me a new remote. I was thrilled, even though it was shaped differently and took some getting use to. And then the rule of lost items came into play: The easiest way to find a lost item is to buy a replacement, then the lost one miraculously reappears. Our old remote turned up in the pocket of a jacket I rarely use, but had donned one day during a downpour to walk the dog. I often take the remote with me on dog walks, while leaving our gold and diamonds on the kitchen table for anybody to steal.

My wife claimed the old remote and I took the new one. How would TV watching work out when both people had remotes? We feared there would be remote control battles, with both of us changing channels furiously, determined to lock in on the channel we wanted. But what happened was entirely different. My wife no longer feared that I wouldn’t get back to our show in time during commercials, because she could do it herself. And I didn’t feel powerless, as my remote was safely by my side.

TV watching became more enjoyable for both of us, for the arms race was equal. It perhaps explains why so many countries want their own nuclear bomb. Pakistan was bummed out for years when India had nuclear weapons, but relaxed when it too had the bomb. No more feelings of inferiority, or that the other side would act imprudently. It’s also why Iran wants the bomb — everyone else in the neighborhood has one, and they feel like they have no control. Let’em have the bomb and watch tensions cool down in the region. Who knew a simple thing like a TV remote control could bring peace to the world?

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