Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

TV broken? Learn to twiddle

Only a superhuman cable guy can fix it

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I'm sitting on the couch, staring out the window and mindlessly twiddling my thumbs.

OK, I have just re-read that first sentence and it raises a troubling question, namely: What do we mean by the phrase, "twiddling our thumbs?"

The answer: According to a definition I have just found online, it means interlocking your fingers and moving your thumbs in a circular motion around a common focal point, usually in the middle distance between the two thumbs.

So I'm twiddling up a storm as I sit here waiting for the cable-TV guy to arrive. He's definitely coming. They promised he'd be here between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Possibly 8 p.m. Definitely today, unless he gets really busy, then it might be next week. No later than December.

Not that I'm complaining. I'm just happy they're sending somebody. I need help because we're having problems with our TV. I'd fix these problems myself but, unfortunately, modern TVs cannot be operated by normal human beings. Modern TVs can be operated only by (a) teenagers whose thumbs are the size of piano legs because they spend all day playing violent video games; and (b) tech-support people who work for the cable company and live in major Canadian centres, such as Mumbai.

When I was a kid, fixing your TV was a snap. If, for example, the picture was fuzzy, all you had to do was stand beside the set, randomly waggle the rabbit-ear antenna and ask: "OK, how's that?" Or: "How about now?" In extreme circumstances, you would wrap your body in tinfoil and stand on the roof like a primitive satellite dish.

But things are much more complicated today. You need a degree from Harvard to even turn your TV on. In our den, for example, there are at least four remote-control devices, all of which have a "power" button, along with hundreds of mystery buttons with labels like "PIP" and "SWAP." Along with the big-screen TV, they control the DVD players and the PVR, and I suspect one opens a portal to another dimension, so I keep it hidden under the couch.

Anyway, I'm sitting here, twiddling, waiting for the cable-TV guy, because over the weekend my wife and I wanted to watch a movie, so we pressed the "video on demand" button and, instead of a movie, we got an onscreen message stating: "I don't feel very good. I am experiencing error J56XVIILX33915XC-&%#**96X. Even I don't know what that means. You need to call a guy in Toronto to find out what's wrong."

So I called the number onscreen and, after spending 15 minutes listening to recorded music that reminded me my call was important, I was connected to a helpful tech-support person. I explained the problem and he told me to examine the cable box, which I foolishly assumed was the box with cables coming out of it we keep in the basement.

"It's a silver box," he told me.

"No, it's blue," I replied.

"No, it's silver," he sniffed.

Eventually, I wandered back upstairs to the den, where I found a silver box hiding under the TV. "Turn the box around and unscrew the red cable," the tech guy advised.

"There is no red cable," I whined. "There's a black one."

"Which side is it on?" he demanded. "It's on the right," I offered. "My right or your right?" he wanted to know.

I pondered this. "Which way are you facing in Toronto?" I finally inquired.

"Look, just go ahead and pull that cable out," he declared. "Now look at the TV and tell me what you see."

I looked at the TV. "I don't see anything," I whispered. "It's blank."

He paused. "Hmmm," he said, thoughtfully. "That's not a good sign."

I sensed he, too, needed support. "Well, you're the expert," I said softly.

In the end, we spent half an hour on the phone together, chatting, unplugging random cables, frowning and rolling our eyeballs. Finally, we were able to take a TV that refused to show movies on demand and transform it into a TV that also refused to record programs or let us look at the guide that tells you what shows are on which channels.

"I'm going to make an appointment for one of our cable-TV representatives to visit your home," my frustrated tech-support pal finally grunted. So I'm sitting here on the couch, patiently waiting for the cable guy to arrive. I could actually watch the TV while I wait, but all the shows are mindless, boring, reality-based drivel.

If I'm lucky, the cable guy can fix that, too.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 24, 2012 A2

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