Tuesday, March 31, 2015

"Two Steps Forward..."

I was on a roll, I really was.

I was kicking butt in matters technological.  I had learned to program my CD-clock radio.  I had mastered the DVD player (after spending ten years pretending I had watched numerous movies that I hadn’t.)  I am making headway with my iPhone – when they say to switch it off at the movies, I can do that; and when it’s over, I can successfully switch it back on.  I am a wizard with Kindle.  And the list goes on!

Not really.  That’s pretty much the whole list.

No towering achievements, I suppose.  I imagine lab monkeys going, “I learned the iPhone in seven minutes!”  But for me, it was definite progress.  I still get excited installing a new light bulb – I flip the switch, and, miraculously, there’s light!  For decades, that was my technological highpoint.  And then, starting about six months ago…

I shot exponentially ahead.

I had finally broken through.  Building confidence.  Gaining momentum. 
Given up on as “hopeless”, I had matriculated from technological “Special Ed.”  I was unquestionably on my way.

And then…  

A comeuppance.  Or, more accurately, a discouraging “come-downance.”

I had wanted to watch the Parks and Recreation series finale; it was a show I enjoyed, and I was curious to see how they would bow out.  Unfortunately, other plans had been made for me, placing me during the actual broadcast somewhere I was considerably less happy to be – a testimonial dinner, where the club soda was seven dollars a glass.

No problem.  We have ON DEMAND, a Time Warner cable service where you can access shows you missed and watch them whenever you want to.  I am still in awe of that sentence.  Not how skillfully I wrote it.  That that service actually exists.

I had internalized the procedure.  Press “1” to get to ON DEMAND, click on “Prime Time”, click on NBC, click on Parks and Recreation – Look at me!  I can do that stuff!

I scroll down the list of Parks and Recreation episodes to the series finale, and I click on the “Play” icon.  The first thing that comes up is a white-lettered announcement, saying,

“Fast forwarding and other functionality may not be available during this program.”

A considerably more honest rendering being,

“We paid people to disable the ‘Fast Forward’ function so you will be unable to ‘Fast Forward’ through the commercials.”

What is this “may not be available” business?  It isn’t!


I begin watching the Parks and Recreation series finale.  Then, at the twenty-minute point – as indicated by a clock at the bottom of the screen – the show is interrupted by a series of commercials. 

Traditionally at such moments, I fiddle impatiently with the remote, switching to another channel, and switching back when I program I was watching resumes. 

With commercials playing, I reflexively fiddle with the remote.

I am not entirely certain what I did.  In retrospect it appears possible that I accidentally pressed the “Exit” button.  


The commercials – and the Parks and Recreation series finale they were sponsoring – to immediately disappear.

Okay, it happens.  No big deal.  I go back to the beginning – keystroke, keystroke, keystroke, keystroke – I scroll down to the Parks and Recreation series finale…

And I’m back.  

I heave a huge sigh of relief when I see a right-pointing black arrow at the bottom of the screen, indicating, as I have learned, that, if I click on that arrow, the show I was watching will pick up exactly where it left off.   

I confidently click on the right-pointing black arrow…

And the Parks and Recreation series finale goes right back to the beginning. 

The clock at the bottom of the screen registering not the twenty minutes where I had left it when the commercials started, but…


(The first zero designating the hours, the two to the right of the colon, the minutes.)

Left with no alternative – remember, I am unable to “Fast Forward – I get up and I walk out of the room, opting to chat with the missus rather than watch the first twenty minutes of the Parks and Recreation series finale over again.  Gauging the time lapse, I return to the television just short of the twenty-minute mark, and I continue watching the rest of the show.

In time, the clock on the bottom of the screen reads:


Fifty-two minutes into the designated (on the screen) 58-minute “Producer’s Cut” of the Parks and Recreation series finale. 

Another cluster of commercials comes on.  I fiddle impatiently with the remote, instructing myself not to go anywhere near the “Exit” button.  My mind must have misheard the “not” part.  I apparently accidentally pressed the “Exit” button again, and I am again…

Back at the beginning. 

Fifty-two minutes from where I would ideally like to be. 


I am not quite as techno-savvy as I had led myself to believe.

What am I going to do?  I can’t go talk to the missus for fifty-two minutes (while the video once again catches up.)  Such attention arouses suspicion.  And I would have to explain out loud what I did.  I was making such amazing progress.  She was starting to be proud of me.

Lacking reasonable alternatives, I resigned myself to missing the last six minutes of the Parks and Recreation series finale.  And then, somehow, the show unassistedly popped back.  At precisely the fifty-two minute juncture!

I have no idea how that happened.  It was certainly nothing I did… unless moping was the answer.

The lesson in this matter – and believe me, I am not learning it for the first time – is humility.  You can make progress with your machines, but being human – you, not the machines, the gadgets will always have the edge.  Though you can certainly learn from your mistakes.

Next time, when I am watching a show on ON DEMAND and the commercials you cannot “Fast Forward” through come on…



JED said...

It hurts me to read posts like this. You have been bullied into believing that you are inadequate. You've been confused by technically advanced appliances and the builders of those appliances want you to think it's your fault.

The fault is with the makers of these things. There is no reason for them to be so hard to use and so unreliable. As an engineer, I am embarassed for my profession.

With the resources these companies have at their disposal, their products should be consistent, easy to use and fun. Most electronic products are just poorly designed and manufactured in the cheapest manner possible.

There's an apocryphal saying, "Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." While it's not really true, it points out what these products have done to us. You hit a button multiple times hoping that the machine will grant your wish if you press the button just the right way with the right submissiveness.

Sorry for the rant. I just had to get that off my chest.

Paul Biegler said...

The ON DEMAND feature came into being at least 10 years ago and it was, as JED said it should be, quite easy to use. I cut the cable cord in 2009. The ON DEMAND feature was what I missed the most. We were under the Comcast dominion, but I imagine the features are the same regardless of the carrier. The way Time Warner treats you Dodger fans, I wouldn't trust them with anything! I know that's irrelevant to your topic but I just can't stand what they and the Dodgers have done to their very own fans, and nobody can do a thing about it.

Anyway, I imagine you'll master any of these hi-falutin technologies that you choose to challenge. You play with them till you've figured it out. You can't break anything, just get more confused, so you turn it off and start over.

FF to end of msg.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

All the above granted, you might nonetheless like to provide yourself with a different gadget to fiddle with when ads strike on VOD.

Unless you'd like to learn to torrent and avoid the ads entirely. :)