We’d like to blame this one on age, or our generation, but we know that would be a cop-out.
On Saturday when I walked into my boyfriend’s house, where friends were picking us up soon for dinner, I found him attempting to connect a DVD player to a TV. A newer model sat on a nearby chair. Not going well, I surmised instantly, from the tension in the air and the sound from the television, which did not match the picture.
“What does juego mean?” I asked when he clicked the remote to access a menu. “Doesn’t matter,” he grumbled.
I took my cue to back off, realizing that he also was having trouble selecting English directions.
He told me he was now trying to hook up an old DVD/VCR player that had been stored in his garage because the newer one appeared to have a compatibility or other problem. The one we had been using to watch videos is built into another TV.
Lurking across the room, I felt his frustration as he tried every combination of color-coded plugs. I did not laugh. Honest.
I did ask if the devices have manuals. No. If he would like me to look up instructions on line. No reply. If a kid lives nearby. Glare.
Flashback to when I was packing to move 15 years ago: The area behind my stereo cabinet resembled a viper pit—tangled skinny black snakes attached to various openings in four components and two huge speakers. I had never hooked that system up myself and had no clue what went where. As I removed each plug and prong I attached a note on masking tape, such as “third hole from left on silver box.” What elation when I turned it on in my new home and everything worked!
The current project had only one cord, with three plugs on each end. Yet neither of us could comprehend the connections.
During dinner we shared our dilemma with our friends, senior citizens, like us, who consider ourselves acceptably literate electronically and technologically. Sure, they’ve hooked up things; they’d be happy to take a look.
Back home, with wine, we were on a mission. May as well turn this into a party.
“At least we’re back where we started,” said my boyfriend after some coaching and plug switching. “At least we can watch TV again.”
When he turned on the DVD player, sure enough, we heard Franklin Delano Roosevelt talking at a political convention promoting reform to end the Great Depression. But on the screen, Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley appeared as Chippendale dancers on a Saturday Night Live 40th anniversary show.
Then this profound statement from our friend: “Here are four people with a combined business experience of 120 years and four college degrees and we can’t work a VCR!”
Followed by a brilliant solution from my boyfriend: “If all else fails, ask my son.”
His text to his son on the West Coast read: “I need help connecting a DVD player to a TV. Here’s a picture of the back of the TV. After you stop laughing, call me.”
“How did you make it this far?” the son asked, when my boyfriend answered the phone.
Snippets of the speaker phone conversation: “I have pushed red into red and yellow into yellow … every combination I can on the damn things.” “Is the power on? Is it plugged in?”
At the son’s request, we texted him a picture of the backs of both devices.
He called back: “Uh, you have yellow into white.”
One more switch and … success:
Finally, the video matched the audio. Ironic that our movie, from the series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, was from an era when none of the delegates to that convention could have conceived of popping a slender disc into a slot and seeing—and hearing—a movie on a big electronic screen at home.