Vivid tube world just a yardstick away | Dennis Box

A moment of memory fell on me during one of the staff meetings when I was supposed to be paying attention to whatever I was supposed to be doing soon, I think.

The dandy recall was a class I took when I was at the University of Washington. As I remember, it was a sociology course I was taking my first year. The professor always wore smoky glasses and turtleneck sweaters.

Beyond that image, what leaked into the plumbing of the limbic lake in my brain was a textbook about how TV was going to turn me into a whiny dummy. OK, that particular prediction could be proven, but the book could have blamed milk or a comic book and the results would have been the same.

The professor had extended discussions with some of the students, who apparently weren’t distracted dummies.

I don’t remember the conclusion of the discussions, but I still have the book. I have always thought it was silly to blame my dummyness on TV watching.

Here is why.

My early TV years encouraged a zippy propensity for experimentation and adventure.

My dad loved all the cool new things like TV. He had a very inquisitive mind. Dad was both mechanical and mathematical, which made him excellent at fixing cars and gambling. He tossed the gambling after meeting my mother.

We lived on a farm at the top of a mountain. We were the first on the hill to have a TV. It was a Zenith, black and white, of course, with a little rotating dial to change stations.

I can remember flopping on our couch in the front room watching Wanda Wanda, Brakeman Bill and JP Patches. This was high art, tempered with philosophical passages from the likes of the Crazy Donkey, Gertrude and some guy in a robe and pointy hat.

It was critical that I was able to move between channels quickly and smoothly so I didn’t miss an essential element of life.

I have to claim that I invented — out of life-changing necessity — the first remote control in the galaxy.

Mom and Dad bought me these cool, bright yellow No. 2 pencils with neato erasers.

Dad had one of those wooden yardsticks that Arnie at the feed store gave us. I decided to secure a pencil on the end so I could hang it over the arm of our couch and poke the dial to change channels at will.

First I tried to nail it. Trying to hold a round pencil still while whacking a nail through it was flawed and painful for a 5- or 6-year-old budding dummy.

I also tried to glue it, but all that was available was Elmer’s wood glue. Super glue wasn’t around at the time, only Supergirl. I decided the glue took too long to dry, and showtime was coming up fast.

I rooted around in the shop and found some of Dad’s tar for the chicken house roof. I don’t think I have ever gotten all that stupid tar off. It’s amazing how a little dab of that stuff gets everywhere. I was not popular with my mother that night. The whiny line that usually worked, “It wasn’t my fault, I was being chased by an-out-of control chicken,” didn’t work that time.

Finally, I came upon my religious moment of light. Those pencils were big fun to me because I figured out how to shoot them with a fat rubber band. I would run around playing Robin Hood with a cool pillow case cape I stole from my sister, shooting pencils at evil, dive-bombing flies sent by dopey King John.

Those rubber bands were key to my invention. I took about 20 or 30 rubber bands and secured my pencil, eraser-end-out, to the end of the yard stick. At last, I could drape myself over an arm of the couch and change channels at will from a whole 3 feet away from the TV.

As you can imagine, that Zenith with its three or four channels and the meditative musings of the Crazy Donkey sparked spiritual ingenuity in a 5-year-old. Today, our remote controls are simply fancy shmancy, pencil-pointed yardsticks.

How could the turtleneck professor think TV was leading us to the eve of destruction when it sparked such lazy inventiveness in me? Today TV and its backdoor cousin, the internet, and social media have lifted us into the age of a communication Aquarius. It has directly given us two presidents and hundreds of shopping channels.

It is the Age of Aquarius. The image of men and women dancing around a sunlit field waving their arms over their … wait … no … that’s wrong. Sorry , they would looking down at their cellphones, but still dancing around a sunlit field. Yippee.

Reach Dennis Box, Covington Reporter regional editor, at dbox@maplevalleyreporter.com or 425-432-1209, ext. 5050.

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