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April Column Michiana House & Home: Hello, Dave

Xbox      While cleaning my house one Friday morning, I decided to pop in a movie in order to have a little background noise while I worked. I found a good flick, turned on the TV and was stumped when I realized that an Xbox One had replaced my Blu-Ray player.

I remember Boy Wonder telling me that his new gaming system played movies, but I was not prepared to try and start, stop, and pause a film using a controller that had more buttons than the old stand up Asteroids arcade game. To make matters worse, none of the joysticks or buttons were labeled with anything other than an X,Y,A,and B. I’m sorry, but I have a problem solving anything that looks remotely like an algebra equation.

By some stroke of luck, the Xbox screen appeared immediately, greeted my son by name…or whatever he likes to be called on there, and in the bottom left hand corner I saw the Blu-Ray player icon. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to select it.

At some point in this odyssey, I managed to drop the space-aged gizmo running the operation and knocked the batteries askew. When I straightened that out, the whole thing lit up like a Christmas tree, scrolled through screens I didn’t authorize and asked me if I wanted to purchase something, watch a tutorial, or play a game of Global Thermonuclear War. I swear if the thing would have called me “Dave” I would have freaked out right then and there. (If you get either of those references, you are at least as old as I am!)

Terrified I might have to suit up and go into battle just to watch Apollo 13, I began hitting buttons and maneuvering joysticks until I was able to find the original screen. I also put in a call to my oldest in hopes he would tell me what I was doing wrong.

Having grown up in an era of home computers, gaming systems and VCRs, I do not take pride in being this electronically challenged. I also have a master’s degree in education so I should be able to operate something akin to a CD player on crack without having to phone a friend.

“Oh I don’t use my controller to run my movies either,” my oldest child assured me. “I use the voice command option to tell it what to do and then it does it.”

“I am not about to start having a conversation with a piece of machinery,” I told him. “I already talk to myself as it is. This will only confirm that I am crazy.”

“You do know that you can buy a regular remote control for it for about $25 right?” He asked.

It was the best idea I had heard all day. “You mean a regular remote with normal buttons like Play, Pause and Stop?” I queried.

“Yes,” he sighed.

“Wonderful, now you know what to get me for Mother’s Day.”

“I’ll put it on my list,” he promised. “In the meantime, the ‘A’ button is your friend.”

I highly doubt that.

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March Column Michiana House & Home: Who ya gonna call?

phone           As a general rule, good things do not happen at 2:30 in the morning.

No one tends leaves the house that early unless they work the graveyard shift, have a family member in the hospital, or need to respond to another emergency. And if the phone rings at that ungodly hour, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s not the call telling you that you’ve won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

So, the other night when I was jolted awake by the phone, I knew it wasn’t good news. I fumbled for the handset in the dark, pushed the talk button and croaked out a greeting. It was a dispatcher from my alarm company who wanted to let me know that my phone was out of order.

“Let me get this straight,” I replied, dropping my head back to my pillow. “You called to tell me that my phone isn’t working?”

The woman sounded perplexed by my response. “Yes, ma’am. You see, we received a code that the phone line was down and we wanted to call and tell you about the problem.”

Had it been any other time of the day, I would’ve laughed, but nothing is funny at 2:30 a.m. I told her I appreciated her concern, assured her I was in no immediate danger and politely explained that since we were talking from the phone line in question, she could feel free to disregard the code.

“I hadn’t thought about that,” she said. “That’s a good point. I am so sorry for bothering you.”

“Not a problem,” I told her, preparing to hang up.

However, she wasn’t quite finished. “Now, before I go could you please tell me your passcode so I can confirm that I am speaking with the homeowner?”

Now I am all for precautions, but I’m not always prepared for a pop quiz in the middle of the night. I rattled off the first four digits that jumped into my head and was told they were incorrect. I tried another set that was either my son’s birthday or my high school locker combination, but that wasn’t right either. I tried three more times, told her to give me a hint and asked to use one of my lifelines before finally giving up on trying to pass the math portion of her SAT.

“No offense, ma’am, but it is 2:30 in the morning. I applaud what you are doing here however; I can assure you that I really am the homeowner. If I were a burglar, I wouldn’t have answered the phone in the first place. I wouldn’t have taken the time to reason with you and I wouldn’t conveniently know Julie Young’s birthdate, her son’s cell phone number, her billing address and her mother’s maiden name!”

After giving her the digits of my landline, the one she had dialed only five minutes before, the dispatcher let me off the hook. I tried to go back to sleep but I couldn’t help hoping that the next time she fears there is something strange in the neighborhood, she calls Ghostbusters instead of me!

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