John McCullagh October 2, 2003
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We’ve all got so much older and wiser in recent years that it has become difficult to impress us with new technology. Yet I have a tale to tell in this vein. As this story concerns two men who are sadly deceased, but one who is very much alive and who might take umbrage, I shall refer to them by the initials D, E and V.


Some ten years ago, D was working as caretaker in a local Community Centre when who should drive up this day to deliver a huge new television set to the pool room but his old pal E, a council employee.

Now before I go any further I should explain that this D was a character much given to mockery and ruthlessly taking a hand out of any unsuspecting victim he might find.

The veracity of his tales about others was of secondary concern when compared with the amusement they might engender at the victim’s expense. Many Newry people would have paid dearly for the opportunity to turn the tables on the said D!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Got you a new TV set D. Will I show you how it works?"

"You want to show me how to turn on a television set, E?" he snorted.

"Well, it is special," says your man. "You see, it’s voice activated!"

"What the h*** does that mean?"

"Watch your language, D."

Then he paused, for dramatic effect.

"It means you tell it what you want, and it’ll do it for you", said E.

"Get me a fish supper from Pat Price’s!" quipped the grinning caretaker.

"Don’t get smart," snorted E.

The new set had been unboxed and wired up. They were alone together in the pool room.

E waited a moment. "Watch this .."

and he turned to face the TV set. D could not see the remote control in the hand he kept hidden behind the flap of his jacket. He wouldn’t have known what it was in any case, for the very concept of infra-red remote control sensors hadn’t reached the town yet. In a loud voice E called out to the TV.

"Give me BBC 1 please!"

The TV flickered into life and a picture materialized on the screen.

"How the h**l did you do that?"

"I told you to watch your language!" E was angry now.

"And didn’t I explain it is voice activated."

He paused. "You can try it if you want!"

"You want me to talk to a bl***y TV?"

E waited patiently. "Yes!" he said.

"Right, then!! RTE," D bellowed to the TV. 

Nothing happened.

"See, I told you", he yelled triumphantly. "It doesn’t work!"

"It won’t work for you because you insulted it", explained E patiently.

"Leave it out, E. It’s just a stupid machine!"

"No, it’s not a stupid machine. It’s a very sensitive and intelligent machine and you insulted it. You’re going to have to apologize to it now!"

Raising himself to his full five foot six inches, E stuck out his chest with pride.

"If you expect me to apologize to a television set you must be madder than I thought!"

‘Well, it’s like this,’ E explained. ‘You’re the caretaker/manager here, and you’ll have to know how to switch the TV on and off, at the very least. Isn’t that so?’

The other made no reply. ‘Or we’ll have to find some one who can,’ E added ominously.

‘You’re serious, aren’t you?’

‘There’s no way round it. A caretaker/manager who can’t manage to change the TV channels. Who would believe it?’

‘I’m sorry, TV,’ D muttered quickly under his breath. ‘Please give me BBC1.’

An electric splutter and the familiar logo appeared on the screen. D could hardly believe his luck. He went to town.

‘ITV! RTE1. More volume!’

The set hung on his every word.

‘I’m away,’ said E. ‘Remember what I told you. And no bad language!’

The caretaker seemed not to hear as he played happily with his new toy.

E left hurriedly, the remote control tucked away in his pocket.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

He drove quickly to V’s shop to let him in on the joke. He had scarcely arrived when the phone rang and an angry voice could be heard on the other side of the line. The owner replied in similar terms.

"What do you mean, it won’t work? Me and E tried it here in the shop not a half hour ago. It’s working perfectly", stormed V.

"Yeah, it’ll work for him but not for me. It was the same when he was here."

"Please don’t be silly. It’s only a TV set. What exactly is the problem?"

E’s cheeks were scarlet and swollen as he tried to suppress the laughter.

"I can’t explain on the phone. You’ll have to come here and see!"

"I’m a busy man, you know. Let me see, will Tuesday week do?"

"I need you here now", he pleaded.

The arrogance had gone and a note of desperation crept into his voice.

"My job is on the line!"

E snorted audibly. V scowled at him to shut him up.

"I’ll be letting other customers down. You’ll owe me".

"Oh, thank you very much. I’ll be waiting."

The line went dead. The two men erupted in unrestrained laughter.

"I’m coming with you," said E. "I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I’ll keep out of sight."

*****************************

Ten minutes later they arrived at the Centre.

E didn’t emerge until the two men were long gone into the building. He knew the lay-out. He crept into an adjoining room and listened behind the closed door. He could picture D’s angry face as he heard the spoken command.

"I bl***y told you, BBC1".

"Is that how you’ve been talking to that TV?"

The caretaker didn’t answer.

"No wonder it won’t work for you! Now apologize to it and ask again nicely," he demanded.

D looked stunned!

"That’s just what E said. Are youse in this together?"

"As far as I’m concerned I supplied a TV in perfect working order. If you mistreat it and it doesn’t work properly, it’s not my fault. Now stop wasting my time.’

He waited just a second, then added,

‘I’m away on!" and he turned on his heels.

"No, wait, wait." D turned to the TV. "I’m sorry again."

There was a strange sound from the other side of a nearby door, but D seemed not to notice.

"Please give me ITV."

In the corner the TV flickered to life and obeyed. D was transfixed.

"More brightness ….Volume down … Increase the contrast".

Again the TV hung on his every word. He was enjoying himself again.

**************************************

Mercifully they continued the jest just a minute or so longer. Then E came out of hiding.

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I’d like to report that D learned his lesson and became a reformed character. If you know the man I refer to, you’ll know how far from the truth that is. But remind him of this story. Why not run off a hard copy and pass it to him in company.

You were just thinking the same, weren’t you? You’re evil, you are!!

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