Not Even Remotely Funny

You’re probably familiar with the newest TV remote control technology.  No longer do you have to “enter” the channel on the device: in many cases you can simply say what channel you want into the remote and voila! There it is on the screen. Of course, most times you will be asked to repeat yourself, because the high-tech gadget failed to understand you.  As Mary Ellen noted, quite aptly, “I might as well ask you to switch channels, Dick. You can’t hear me half the time, either.”

And why are functions only on the remote, and not on the giant TV itself?  Why jam all those buttons onto something the size of a stapler? They could have put them on the set, as well. Absent-minded as I am, I have never lost a TV screen…and then found it in my sock drawer.

I try to look on the bright side. If I didn’t have to tear my couch apart at least twice a month and dive into the dark side beneath those cushions to look for the remote, I wouldn’t have $235.89 worth of change in a cookie jar and I’d still be wondering what happened to my wedding ring, my extra set of keys and 17 ball-point pens.

No one can argue that a remote control is third only to movable type and the Squatty Potty for the world’s greatest inventions. I became so paranoid about losing the remote that I wrapped a long piece of dental floss around it and then tied the line to the leg of the coffee table. I never lost the remote…and I remembered to floss 45 percent more often. And only once did I get caught on the floss and sprain my ankle.

One company may have solved the disappearing remote problem. They will soon introduce a new flat-screen television that obeys commands based on hand and body movements. This technology is called gesture recognition. (It’s a concept we are all familiar with when we cut someone off on 465.) “The TV has a camera and will recognize you if you are in front of it,” says the manufacturer. This intrigued me, because I’ve been in front of a camera for 40 years, and I’m still having a heck of a time being recognized.

The premise is that you can wiggle your fingers, point up or down or make various other motions and the TV will respond. It’s like sign language—no remote needed. Let’s say my wife and I are about to retire for the evening.  As she watches me flex my fingers and rotate my palms, she wonders if I’m about to give her a romantic massage. “Ooh, Dick, are you trying to turn me on?”

“No, I’m trying to turn on Stephen Colbert. What’s the sign for CBS?”

Advances will not stop with the TV remote. One day all this technology will also be introduced in the kitchen. With the proper hand signals, we’ll be able to operate the convection oven, the stove, the microwave, and the air fryer.

Truth is, I don’t do any food preparation, so hese hands-free innovations will have little effect on me. When it comes to cooking, I have no interest in lifting a finger.

– Dick Wolfsie spent his career sharing his humor, stories and video essays on television, radio and in newspapers. His columns appear weekly in The Paper of Montgomery County. E-mail Dick at Wolfsie@