Friday, December 17, 2010

Remote Control Meltdown

Every November I sit down and make a Christmas list. This list comprises of three tiers:

1) Immediate family (those with whom I am in frequent contact).

2) Close friends

3) Coworkers and Other Peripherals (Yes, this is what it's called on my list. I've never told anyone that until now. And, if you are reading this and you are a coworker, please be advised that you probably fall into tier 2. This is a blanket statement.)

Tier 1 is where I will begin the focus of this post. 

Every member of Tier 1 usually has a set list of five items that include (without being specific) "book," "movie," "snow globe," "appliance," etc... Naturally, my mother falls into Tier 1. And for some reason, every year I have a strange compulsion to buy her electronics. I seem to make it my personal mission to buy the woman who has little interest in state-of-the-art gadgets - the latest state-of-the-art gadgets. 

Whereas others in Tier 1 normally have items on their list that include "new Bill Bryson" or "Polly Pockets," Mom's list usually comprises of items such as "upgraded shielded HDMI cables," "touch-screen iPod," and "wireless router." 

This year, I decided to upgrade Mom to wireless TV. I plan to do this in stages, and I thought I would start simple. Stage one was to be a BluRay player with WiFi so she could watch her Netflix instantly without purchasing OnDemand movies or dealing with discs. I had a mission. I chose to accept. 

During my annual Amazon Christmas buy-a-thon, (in which 85% of my Christmas list is purchased in a coffee-fueled frenzy on my bed in my pajamas - it happens every year) I ran across a net-ready BluRay player. It was a reputable brand and was well-reviewed. I added it to my cart. I might also mention that I tiqued the little "gift" box that means it will arrive in a cheap Christmas wrap-designed cardboard box with a ribbon painted onto it. The wrapping sucks - but at least the recipient, if delivered to their house, does not know what's in the box.

It did not come in said Christmas cardboard. It arrived in its manufacturer's box, and after work one day I found it on Mom's breakfast table in the kitchen. She had seen it, so I just asked her to close her eyes while I handed it to her again with a cheap bow on top. And while I was not at ALL interested in playing with it myself, I offered to hook it up to her on the spot. 

That was when I discovered it required a WiFi receiver. Otherwise, I would need to drag an ethernet cable through the living room, down the hall, and to her router. This would not fly with Mom. 

So a few days later I ventured into the mass hysteria that is Wal-Mart during Christmas season and bought her a wireless receiver. When I came home, I plugged it in. It didn't work. So I plugged it into my laptop, downloaded the necessary items, put in Mom's WiFi password, unplugged it, plugged it back into the BluRay - and it was online! 

That was when I discovered that Netflix was not built in. Apparently, these things have to be built in. Sure, I could view Picasa - but why? Does anyone use that anymore? And AccuWeather - yes, I could turn on the BluRay player just to check the weather, because it's just so convenient. But - oh no - while in the cities list I could find Savannah, Columbia, or the other Charleston, there was no Charleston, South Carolina. And therefore no Summerville. Might I also mention there was a NORTH AUGUSTA? Oh - and there was YouTube. Yes, there could be hours of entertainment looking at videos of dogs riding skateboards - which can be done anyway on one of many items in this house. But no Netflix. Damn it all, I was determined to do this one thing for Mom for Christmas. If she would have little else from me, she would be able to watch movies on her TV at a moment's notice. 

So I decided I would regift this BluRay to yours truly, and go out to find one that was Netflix ready. Today, I found such BluRay player. It was Netflix ready. In theory, it was also wireless-capable. (On later investigation, I discovered that the Best Buy associate who told me this was either lying or misinformed). But no worries - I still had the wireless receiver. Finally - Mom could watch her movies. My Christmas present idea would finally come to fruition. 

So I hooked the thing up, and all was well with the world. Until the remote control didn't work. It didn't even work a little. No problem, I thought. It appeared to be a universal remote. Codes are easy to find. Well, not only could I not find the BluRay codes, I couldn't even find clear instructions on programming that remote. 

So I called Geek Squad, as I purchased two years' protection. I was told to either take it back, or buy a universal remote. Feeling the need to purchase another cable anyway, I headed back out to Wal-Mart. On Friday night. A week before Christmas. I muddled through the mayhem and came home with a mackdaddy state-of-the-art universal remote. The thing can actually learn from other remotes. 

I plugged it into my laptop via USB, and discovered that the website didn't like Safari. So I switched to Firefox. It didn't care for that either. So I opened up the slow, user-unfriendly, dusty Internet Explorer. I said "no" to all of its personalization demands, repeatedly told Yahoo that I didn't want its toolbar, navigated through the personal settings, and finally got to the right page. I finally got to the place where I needed to be. I entered the model number of the BluRay player, and it seemed to be fine. It was all too easy. I unplugged the remote, and could hear drumrolls in my head. 

Guess what? 

It didn't work. 

It can power the BluRay player on and off, can even switch between main menu and Netflix - but that's where the functionality ends. I can't even use the "enter" key. So I called Sharp support. Apparently, non-computer-related issues need to wait until Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm Pacific time for human help.

Determined to watch Mom scroll through Netflix items at her leisure, I was not giving up yet. Last attempt - I decided to try to program the TimeWarner Cable universal remote's Auxiliary button. After not finding any BluRay codes for Sharp - anywhere - I downloaded the remote's schematic. It appears it was designed before Sharp had BluRay players.

Dismayed, I decided I would take the remote back to Best Buy on Sunday. Wish me luck. 

After all this - maybe an hour ago - I sat down in the living room, defeated, scrolling through my friends' Facebook statuses. And one of them caught my attention. It was an update from an old friend who is a funeral director. This woman has perhaps the whip-quick sharpest sense of humor of anyone I know. She has always adeptly used this humor to express herself, and so when I saw the following, my frantic Amazon carting, frenzied Wal-Mart trips, remote control meltdowns and Best Buy excursions were put into perspective.

"Recipe for the weepies: funeral of a friend + hearse with Bing Crosby on the radio + apparently not enough dosage of antidepressants = verklempt Bethy...".

Nearly two years ago my Dad died. I plan to write a post for him soon, when I get up the nerve. So now I can only ask myself - how did I forget?

Merry Christmas everyone. The remote control is not that important. 


Mandy said...

Well said. it is a shame it can be so easy to get wrapped up in the "small stuff" but it happens to all of us, doesn't it? great post!