Wednesday, November 22, 2017


(Actual cat not pictured.)

Being the hard-nosed investigative journalist that I am (not), I don't like to see this column go to waste. I'm allowed about 750 words per week, and I like to make them count. That's why this column consistently focuses on life's most challenging questions: Why are we here? Do we have a purpose? What is right? What is wrong? Where do we go when we die? How do we make the world a better place? And, of course, the most perplexing and fascinating question of all:

What do my cats do after I leave for work?

I may finally know the answer.

Last week was rough. Stress at the office, stress at home, stress from the plentiful amateur pyrotechnic enthusiasts in my neighborhood and their nightly attempts to burn down our block while sending my cats into permanent firework psychosis. I even got to experience stress in the car thanks to some passing nimrod who thought it would be great fun to cruise down River Drive shooting roman candles sideways into the windows of passing cars and local newspaper columnists. I dig fireworks, but after a week of coming home every night to Little Fallujah, I yearned for some relaxation.

And how do I relax? The mature, 46-year-old way, of course: By playing loud, violent video games. But that's when things got interesting.

I had just booted up the X-Box and was checking my ranking in Rock Band (I am now the 7th greatest singer in the world, in case you were wondering.) That's when Bez, my feline couch co-pilot, hopped up beside me. After giving her a quick courtesy skritch, my attention returned to the game. This didn't sit well with Bez, who wanted more than an absent-minded pat on the head. After a couple of head butts and a mewl or two, she hopped down, walked directly in front of the TV, turned to me, and let loose an indignant meow of displeasure... which caused THIS to happen:

"VOICE COMMAND ACTIVATED. TV POWER OFF." Poof. And with that, my TV shut off, leaving me open-mouthed, game controller still in hand.

That's right, my cat has the ability to shut my TV on and off. Worse yet, it's an ability I have yet to master.

I was once excited to learn that my new TV had voice command technology. After all, this is a milestone advancement in the world of contemporary laziness. Some may have thought we had reached the pinnacle of sloth with the invention of the remote control, but let's be honest: we as a lazy people could be doing MUCH better.

Even with the so-called "ease" of remote controls, I still have to roll to one side of the couch, extend my arm, pick up the remote, avert my gaze from the TV for precious seconds to find the correct button, and engage multiple finger muscles in order to push that button. If I want to scroll through all the channels, that can involve pushing said button like fifty times. Come on, that's practically a full-scale exercise regimen for that finger.

But with voice command technology, there's no more exhaustive button-pushing to be done. Finally, I can change a channel without averting my eyes from the screen even for a second. THIS, friends, is optimal laziness.

According to the manual, all one has to do is clearly say, "Hi, TV." This initiates voice command mode, where it responds to a limited vocabulary of commands. "Hi, TV. Power on." "Hi, TV. Volume down." "Hi, TV. Please call 911 because my muscles have ossified and I have become fused to the sofa." You know, that sorta stuff.

But of course I get the one TV that doesn't enjoy being a conversationalist. I can sit there in the basement and say "Hi, TV" 'til the cows come home and my TV usually just ignores me. My neighbors, on the other hand, probably refer to as "that crazy guy who keeps angrily saying hello to his television."

That's not optimal, I realize. But it's probably better than "that crazy guy who keeps meowing to himself." All I can hope is that no-one walked past my house at 9 p.m. last night, because after discovering the cat can control my TV, I switched tactics to, "Hi, TV. Umm... meow?"

I never did get the TV to come on. But I now know EXACTLY what it's like to have your master ignore your desperate meowing.

I'm now convinced that the moment I walk out the door, my cats high-tail it to the basement, turn the TV on, and spend the day watching Animal Planet and winning the laziness war for now. In the meantime, I have a cat wanting a belly scratch. If I'm nice enough, maybe she'll change the channel to HBO for me.

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