Beverly Beckham

Nothing’s simple today, even turning on the TV

Shutterstock / Sean Pavone

Charlotte is on the telephone instructing me. She’s trying not to laugh, I can tell. But I hear, in her little girl voice, a smile caused by disbelief. How can an adult human being live on this planet in 2018 and not know how to get a TV to work?

“OK. So pick up the clicker, Mimi. No, not the small one. That’s for the DVD player. The oval one. Do you have it? Good. Now just go to regular TV.”

“How do you get to regular TV?” I ask my 10-year-old granddaughter.


“There’s a button that says TV. It’s on the top left. Don’t you see it?”

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“I see it.”

“OK. So now click that button.” I do as I’m told and, by the grace of God, the TV springs to life.

If there is one thing I miss from the old days, it is the standard on/off knob. It was a simple invention. Turn it to the right, and a TV turned on. Turn it to the left, and a TV turned off. This applied to all TVs. And radios. You didn’t go to your friend’s house and find a fancy TV without knobs that turned on if you whistled at it or clapped your hands. You didn’t have to have a “This is how we turn on the TV at our house” lesson every time you babysat. A TV was a TV. AND the on/off button also served as the volume control. If you wanted to turn the channel, there was a knob for that, too. There were no teeny, tiny buttons labeled “guide” “last” “info” “widget” “mute” “page.” I long to tell Charlotte these things. I long to tell her about “Wagon Train” and “Community Auditions,” too, but it’s all ancient history. And superfluous. We are in the middle of problem solving, and I cannot distract the only person who might be able to help me.

I am at my daughter’s house watching her daughter, Lucy, and searching for the movie “Wonder,” which wouldn’t be a problem if I’d simply handed the clicker to Lucy. But I’d said, way too confidently, “I’ll find it for you,” then taken the clicker from her. However, because I have Comcast and her family has Verizon, I turned her TV to snow.


Thus the 911 call to granddaughter Charlotte.

“Don’t worry, Mimi,” she tells me, patiently. “Now that we have the TV on, all you have to do is search for the movie.”

When I search for movies at my house, I speak into the clicker. There’s a button with a little blue icon of a microphone in the top half. I hold down the button and say “Frasier,” and “Frasier” comes on. I’ve watched every season of “Frasier,” “Grace and Frankie,” and “The Crown,” and I’ve never had a problem.

But there is no button with a little blue icon of a microphone on my daughter’s clicker. Which is a big problem.

“Just type in ‘Wonder,’ ” Charlotte tells me.


I spell out “Wonder,” 966337, and this takes me to a screen where I have three choices. I can watch the trailer, rent the movie, or buy it. But we already own “Wonder.” And there is no choice for this.

“I know, Mimi. Stay calm. Do you see on the left-hand side? There’s the letter D to search. Not the word search. Just D and a symbol that looks like a magnifying glass.”

I see “prev,” “rew,” and “stop.” I see “1,” “4,” “7,” an asterisk, an “A,” and an “A/V.” I see no D and no magnifying glass. I press every button, one at a time. The Olympics appear, the guide page, the weather station.

Then I see snow again.

“I’m coming over,” Charlotte says.

Five minutes later, she’s at the door.

She picks up the clicker. In less than a minute, “Wonder” is playing on the TV.

She grins. Lucy claps. I sigh.

Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at