The Blab-Off Switch Grows Up

Blab-off 2022.
Photo by Diane Taylor

A long time ago, probably in the 1950s or 1960s my father was in charge of our TV at night and on weekends….but he didn’t like commercials. Dad, therefore, devised what he called a “blab-off switch.” A long cord somehow attached to the back of the TV and then led to a kind of switch in Dad’s hand in the lounge chair. When the commercial came on, the blab-off switch was activated and the room fell silent until Uncle Milti came on with a new costume.

Years go by–the TV folks develop the remote–and then another remote and then another. I have a table full of remotes in the family room: one turns on the TV and cable; another controls the sound box that enhances sound; a third operates just the brand of TV I have and allows a fourth remote to come on and access things like Netflix and Prime, and the fifth turns on and off my Christmas tree lights (used during December and January only.)

I’m pretty good at knowing which remote is which unless I can’t locate one of the remotes because one of the dogs has hit the side table and that remote is on the floor. I then actually have to get up from my lounge chair, bend over and retrieve the remote. I keep track of my wits by telling myself as long as I know which remote is which I’m O.K.

With regard to blab-off, I’m like my Dad, so when the commercial comes on, I grab a remote and switch channels. Some of the other channels have commercials at the same time, but I can usually count on my three shopping channels–they are commercial-free, except that they are always selling things.

Problem is, when I switch channels and there is not another commercial, I then get interested in that show and forget what show I was originally watching. On a good day I actually see parts of two or more shows. On a bad day, I miss the ending of Forensic Files and I don’t know whether the family is happy with their home makeover and I’ve ordered a new blouse.

I am flummoxed when I go out of town. The channels aren’t the same as they are in Las Vegas, and I have to spend a good deal of time finding “my” channels. When I’m out of town I should want to see a canyon or a mountain but I still squeeze in time to figure out a new remote.

I sometimes fall asleep with a remote in my hand, only to wake up later. The TV is on and I know a remote is close by, but I am unable to locate it. I feel around and around, then I get up and shake the blanket that covers my lap in the lounge chair. Sometimes the remote falls out, but if it doesn’t, then I have to bend down to see if the remote is on the floor under the chair and hope to God it is there. You can’t imagine the relief when that remote is again in hand.

A few times I have finished a phone call and immediately needed to change channels on the TV. I program the numbers into the PHONE and am amazed when nothing happens. When I realize my error I look around to see if anyone (the dogs) were watching me in my old age. I don’t want to worry them.

Only occasionally have I had company that was told they could use my TV. Because the remotes are so tough for a stranger to learn in one short visit, I turn on the main TV and give them just one remote to use. When I come home, I usually find out the guest turned off the TV, but couldn’t figure out how to turn it on again, so…missed the Super Bowl.

Because my remotes are so much a part of my life when at home alone and tired of my book, I can’t seem to throw out old remotes. Maybe someday I’ll need that remote….and I’ll have it. I can see myself on my death bed with visitors wondering “What is she doing with her fingers? It’s as if she is–oh yes she is–fingering an imaginative remote!”

Seems to me, Dad had the right idea. One TV and one “on” switch. Three main channels (changed when kids were told to change the channels) and one handy blab-off switch. Life was so much simpler then.


4 responses on “The Blab-Off Switch Grows Up

  1. How true
    When we got our first TV in September 1953 in September 1953, my Dad’s chair was 3 feet from the big console and he switched channels manually and woe betide anyone who entered that sacred space.

  2. I love this article and can truly relate. BTW, I still have a DISH network remote and I switched to DIRECTV years ago! Heaven help us!

  3. How very true re the number of remotes and the fact that no two are alike. Every electronic device needs its own controller; each is a different species and we are the zookeepers to our own entertainment. We keep them by our side, on our tables, on our laps, in our drawers…some have already gone to “remote heaven” but, for some reason we keep them safely stored “just in case we need them.” Who would have thought this would be our future after a long history starting with turning a small, round knob and listening to the “click” when the channel changed?

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