My Cable Box Blurred my Political View

by Barrett

Pop Quiz: You’ve got 60 seconds to figure out how to fix your cable box so you can watch the big debate. Here’s a hint… pound away!

It was 8:59pm.
And I sat down in front of my Panasonic 42” Plasma TV as a proud citizen of the United States of America.

That moment could well mean one of our recent political smack-downs was on the immediate horizon.

Or “Dancing with the Stars” was on.

But in fact, the Vice Presidential Debate was about to begin.
Of course, my TV’s picture should have been perfect, as it was powered by Cablevision’s Optimum DVR box.

I Can’t Take My Seat in the Audience
As my TV’s glow grew brighter, and the image of Wolf Blitzer appeared, I noticed the typical text box at the bottom of CNN was partially cropped off.

I looked closer at the entire picture, and all four edges were actually cropped off, as if the entire frame was zoomed in a bit.

That was really bad.
I didn’t want to watch the debate with half of Biden and Ryan’s faces cut off.
I wanted a full-on view of the spectacle!

So I immediately jumped into emergency diagnosis mode.
I ran over to a small glass case mounted on the wall next to the TV, smashed in the glass with my elbow, and pulled out a small piece of paper with the code-red check-list.
(That’s how they do it in the movies, don’t they?)

  1. I quickly looked at a few other channels to make sure CNN wasn’t just fritzing out.
    They were all displaying in the same zoom mode.
  2. I checked the Blu-ray input on the TV. No problem there.
    So the cable box was clearly the culprit.
  3. I reviewed the cable box’s set-up menu.
    All was still good. I even adjusted a few of the box’s output settings,
    just in case.  No luck.
  4. I stared at the last item on the list.
    “Pull the plug.”
    Sometimes rebooting just does the trick.

Optimum, We Have a Problem
Then my wife walked in and sat down. She observed my poorly masked frantic state and asked what the problem was. The debate was about to begin.

“Problem? What problem?”

I was stuck.
The proud home IT guy had to fess up that even though we were funding a small country’s operating budget with our monthly cable bill, I couldn’t get the cable box to behave.

She let me off easy.
“How bad could it be?” she said as she invited me to sit down.
(Even the home IT guy needs a break occasionally.)

So we watched half the debate.
We actually stuck it out for the full ninety minutes, but remember, we could only see half the picture.
Since the split screen of the two candidates exaggerated the zoom problem, I felt we really didn’t get the complete experience.
(I’ll have to assume the other half of their faces mirrored the portions I could see.)

Get to Know Your Remote Control
A few days after my humbling (hobbling?) tech glitch, I figured I’d better fix the problem. I figured I would likely have to replace my cable box.
I wasn’t too excited about this, because there were still twenty unwatched shows on the DVR, which would be lost after a box switcheroo.

But I had no choice but to call Cablevision tech support and so I dialed away…

I explained my problem to the friendly customer service representative.
I asked, “Have you ever heard of this problem?”
He replied, “Oh yes. Many times.”

He then told me to go to pick up my cable remote and press the “#” button on the bottom right.

What?! The pound button?
Bingo. The TV’s image returned to normal size.

“Do you have any other questions I can help you with at this time?”

I thought, “Why would anybody know about this button?!
It’s not labeled at all!
Why does it even exist?
There’s already an official screen set-up section in the cable box’s menu!
Are you just thinking of ways to ruin my cable television viewing experience?!!”

But I said, “No thank you. I’m all set.”

He said, “Please hold for a customer service survey.”

And then I hung up.
(Is that wrong?)

He was actually very nice, and I know he had nothing to do with the decision to create this disruptive remote control button.

And there was a silver lining. I got to keep all my DVR recordings.

Read the Manual
But I was really cranky that this simple problem had derailed my election central viewing experience. I just couldn’t accept that it was my fault. The blame had to lie elsewhere.

So I went online to see what education support Cablevision offered for their remotes.
On Optimum’s website, there indeed is a section that displays my infamous DVR remote and each button’s functionality.

And when I hovered over the “#” button, the following words popped up:
“Size the picture for some HD television models.”

All right.
So by the book, Cablevision is technically covered, and I’m the Luddite.
But come on!
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s fallen into this trap.
(My Optimum buddy pretty much admitted that.)

Throwing Stones in Cyberspace
But we’re not quite done yet with my story… are we?
Yes, I’ve left out one important detail.

When I later explained to my wife that I had fixed the cable issue, she asked me how the problem began in the first place.

She correctly reasoned that someone must have accidentally pressed the “#” button to create my “zoom-gate.”

Well, I knew it wasn’t my wife.
She’s already joined much of today’s digital consuming population, finding most of her desired content on her laptop.
The operation of our hulking and under-watched TV falls under my watchful eye.

Well, then there’s my toddler.
Coincidentally, he’s done some other tech damage of late.
And he loves picking remotes up and pressing all the buttons.
But this one has typically been placed out of his reach.
I’ve considered blaming him, but under the circumstances (no proof)
I’ve decided it would be uncool to blame him.

So that leaves only one person.

Somehow… Mea culpa.
Wow, that hurts.

To dull the pain, I’d like to help others avoid my little ‘tungle.’ (tech bungle)
Please heed today’s tech tip:

TV Tech Tip for Watching Politics
Don’t press the “#” on your Cablevision DVR remote control.
Don’t lean on it. Don’t point at it. Don’t look at it.
And keep it at least five feet off the ground.

You’re welcome.

Now that I’ve got the whole picture back in focus on my TV, I’m wishing the political picture could be so simple.

Fortunately, that’s a question for someone else’s blog.
I’ve got a few more tungles to work through…