Humor Column: Stumped by a smart TV

Pat and her brother, John, are pictured in their younger years watching the family’s new TV. Photo provided by Pat Van Dyke.

By Pat Van Dyke  
Humor Columnist, Canyon Lake Insider  

As a somewhat intelligent person, my smart TV has me stumped. This week, we finally caught up with the rest of the world and bought a smart TV. It wasn’t that our old TV gave up; it’s just that our kids thought that we needed a TV that was a bit smarter.

When Pastor Pete and I first discussed the necessity of purchasing a smart TV, we decided that a non-intelligent TV was fine with us. It did everything that we wanted a TV to do. After all, we can both remember when our families didn’t have TVs and we don’t think we suffered from a lack of entertainment.

My family’s first TV arrived when I was five years old. To memorialize that moment, my mother took a picture of my brother and me sitting in front of a TV that featured a blank screen. I don’t how smart the TV was, but we did often stare at a test screen, so it seems that we weren’t exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer.

My parents did make an attempt at making our black and white TV appear as if it were a colored TV. They purchased an advertised plastic covering to go over the picture that was blue on the top, green on the bottom, with the middle being an unappetizing shade of yellow-brown. This all made sense to my father. After all, the sky is blue, the grass is green, and in the middle are people and horses of various shades.

That first evening, we all settled down, popcorn in hand, in front of our “now-colored” TV to watch The Lone Ranger. Dad was so proud. He had a colored TV without paying a high price. The opening of the show featured the Lone Ranger galloping across the screen on his well-named horse, Silver, and firing off his gun while the narrator stated those familiar words, “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust, and a hearty ‘Hi-yo, Silver, away!’ The Lone Ranger!”

We knew we would love our “somewhat color TV.” The sky was blue, the grass was green, and the rocks were yellow-brown. But soon a problem occurred. The Lone Ranger entered the sheriff’s office and our hero’s hat turned blue and his pants green. Meanwhile, as Tonto stood outside next to Scout, his faithful steed, Scout suddenly had blue ears and green legs. The Lone Ranger ate a meal with green meat and potatoes while Tonto spent the time staring at dancing salon girls with blue hair. Sometimes, the greatest ideas just aren’t that great!

Pastor Pete’s family has a much more inspiring story about how they earned their first television. The year was 1959 and he and his siblings were told by his parents that they would purchase a television for the family if he, his brother, and his sister earned the money for the cost of the television.

Pastor Pete, his sister Frieda, and his brother George scanned the dairy on which their family lived to determine how they might earn some funds quickly. They noticed that there were several stacks of empty sturdy paper bags that at one time held grain for the cattle. Then they noted that there was an overabundance of “fertilizer” in the corrals that was now dry and flaky. Their final realization was that there were some people who would stop by the dairy and ask if they could fill some bags with fertilizer to use on their lawns. A profitable business was born!

When Frieda, 12, George, 9, and Pete, 8, realized that with no overhead needed for supplies, they had a prime opportunity to make a profit. They immediately filled a few bags, made a sign that read “four bags for a dollar,” and placed the bags and sign on the side of the road.

People began stopping and taking advantage of this offer. They then realized that they only had to scoop a few shovels of the raw material into a used bag to meet the premise of “supply and demand.” Soon, there was a new television in the VanDyke living room. Pastor Pete and his siblings had the experience of becoming fertilizer entrepreneurs with an unending supply of the needed raw materials.

However, things do continue to change. We know that so well. “In my day.” I went from a record player to a reel-to-reel tape. I then went from a reel-to-reel tape to an 8-track tape to a cassette tape to a Beta/VCR player and next to a CD player. I now find myself streaming my music via my cell phone. I have found that when I have had a garage sale, at first no one wanted an old record player and then they didn’t want an old reel-to-reel tape player. My old cassette player now sits on top of my CD player, next to my Beta tape deck which is under my VCR player all waiting for my next garage sale.

I do have some concerns regarding my new smart TV. The remote is amazing…..It is amazedly hard to learn to use! There are 43 buttons on the remote. All I want is “off/on,” volume, and channel selection. I think that covers most of the things I want a TV to do!

However, I have a “mute” button. Why would I need a mute button to turn down the volume? I have a volume button, and doesn’t that do the same thing? Then there’s the “CH LIST” button. I have no idea what that does but in case I need my CHs listed, I have the ability to do it!

“PRE-CH.” What is that? Pre-Church? I have a little house button. I think that’s for when you want to use the bathroom! I have a “source” button. I really don’t care where things come from. I have a guide button. I need a guide to show me what to do with the guide button!

I have A, B, C, and D buttons. I stopped teaching years ago and became a principal so that I would never have to grade a paper again….and Samsung want me to grade the TV? I have arrows that go up, down, right, and left. Those must be for when you “do the Hoeky Poeky and turn yourself around!”

I only have two buttons that make sense to me: one with an arrow that points inside a box and the other with an arrow that points outside a box. It’s for those of you who think either “inside the box” or “outside the box.”  Personally, I prefer sitting inside a box while thinking outside the box about what is inside the box!

There are so many others that I don’t understand, but one that I might. It’s a very small button that says “info” in very small letters which means it might not be important. But for me (the slightly intelligent mid- septuagenarian that I am), it’s the only button in which I’m even slightly interested.

I do wonder how long it will be until my now-new smart TV joins a vintage-filled group of entertainment devices. Right now, I’m going to “party old style” and “kick a can” down our street. If it’s fun enough for Opie who lives in Mayberry RFD, it’s fun enough for me!

Prior to joining Canyon Lake Insider, Pat Van Dyke was a humor columnist, reporter, and photographer for a local newspaper for four years. She graduated from Central College in Pella, Iowa, and earned a master’s degree in educational administration from California Baptist University. She was a middle/high school teacher for 20 years and a middle/high school principal for 14 years. Van Dyke and her husband, Pastor Pete, have resided in Canyon Lake since 1977.


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