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by Scott Porter

 I’m convinced there is a spiritual message somewhere in this true tale. I wonder if anyone can put their finger on it for me. The only one I can find is my middle one. Warning:  You may want to don your Depends.

Now I must preface the following series of events with some facts.  We share rooms here at the nursing/rehabilitation center. Each room has two beds and two TVs.  While some privacy can be achieved by closing the curtains between beds, both of us can see each other’s TV.  Standard TVs with standard remotes.

The TV starts around 5:30 in the morning, EVERY DAY.

The TV is NEVER muted.

The TV will be on at all times when he is in this room.

The TV might get turned off around 2:00 or 3:00 am when he’s asleep, never by him.

The volume is almost always too loud to allow any other audio source to be heard.

Management was made aware of these problems and a request for room change the first morning after the move here was management’s idea, not mine.

Headphones were suggested to him; I already use them.

The universal remote arrived Wednesday.  I got it set up while anus was at dialysis, and last night I started having fun! I think changing to a religious channel in the middle of a basketball game will be fun too!

I turned his TV off last night at 10:45 pm and would have had a good night’s sleep, except I kept waking up coughing. Damn cold. This too shall pass.

Last night began with his volume mysteriously dropping every 10 minutes or so. After doing that from 9:30 to 10:45, his channel would jump up a couple of channels. He finally turned it off in disgust at 11:30.

Now he’s out for dialysis. Maybe they’ll add a quart of battery acid. One can only hope.

At 5:30 am, the TV went on. I was ready. I had my universal remote still close by after last night’s battle. And due to his insistence on keeping the curtain drawn between us, he couldn’t see the whole picture. I turned it off. A minute or so later, it was back on. I turned it off. This exchange went on at least 15 times until he gave up at 5:55.

At 6:15, the ambulance guys showed up to take him to dialysis. He asked one attendant to use his remote and turn on the TV. The attendant did and asked him, “What next?” “Wait for it,” was the reply. Nothing happened. The attendant said, “What happens?” Richie said, “It turns off, but now it won’t.”

Meanwhile, I’m behind the curtain (picture the Wizard of Oz controlling his empire and saying, “Ignore the man behind the curtain”) trying to contain myself.

Now all this guy has to do is turn the TV off between 11:00 pm and 7:00 am, mute commercials and keep the sound at a reasonable level. But he’s a bit thick and I’m determined.

This morning was similar to yesterday, except he complained to his basketball loudmouth aide that his TV wouldn’t work before 6:00, it turns off by itself, gets louder, changes channels. He mumbled something about computer control. I think 7:00 is a better time. I also think after 11:00, it should be shut off. He wants maintenance to come.

March Madness will take on an entirely new meaning.

Last night at 11:00, it was 74-72 at the end of the third quarter, when they came back from commercial to blah, blah, blah….click. When he tried to turn it back on, he dropped his remote….shift change….no personnel for at least an hour…too bad.

At 5:30 the next morning, he got his remote back. TV only on for 5 seconds. Click. His loudmouth basketball buddy came in to check it out. It worked until he turned his back. Click. He unplugged it to reset the processor and said he’d be right back. At 6:00, he comes back, plugs it in, watches for a minute. As he starts to walk out the door, click. So they agree they’ll call maintenance.

Now the ambulance guys show up to take him to dialysis. It’s relatively quiet till they bring him back at 11:00. Wondering, if I tweeted this, it might be a good thread. Aw, he had the shits at dialysis, so he was back at 8:30. Eureka. So this morning, he tells a couple of aides the TV goes off at 11:00 pm and won’t stay on before 7:00 am. They say they’ll talk with maintenance, makes no sense.

Makes perfect sense to me!

Gee, they called someone about shutting off the automatic sleep function. They can’t find it. Tee Hee. Maintenance guy is here looking at his TV, scratching his head, looking at menus. I’m ignoring the whole thing, trying to maintain a poker face.

“I gonna get anoder one, I no unnerstan,” says Jose from maintenance.

Stand by, or if you prefer, ROFLYAO!

Took me 45 seconds to program my remote for his “new” TV.

All set for March Madness!  Snicker Snicker. I shall try to keep my horselaughs silent.

The new TV works better than the old, at least for ME! The IR detector is much more sensitive. I don’t have to move my hand around trying to find the sweet spot. Just lay there under the sheet with my hand uncovered.

So last night at 11:00, Click.  Back on. Click. Off.  Back on. Click. Off.  Hmph.

Next morning, at 5:30, he asks Fred to try it.  Fred is standing at the edge of the curtain. On. Click. Off. Never even noticed the man behind the curtain.

Rich says, “They must have it in the computer.”

Fred says, “I’ll check it.”  He tries several times.  On. Click. Off. On. Click. Off. On. Click. Off.

Hey, Richie, it ain’t Bill Gates, it ain’t the CIA.  Maybe gris-gris? A witch doctor?

The next morning, it is William who asks, “What do you do, watch TV?”

Richie says, “The thing shuts off at 11:00 at night and goes back on at 7:00 in the morning. Somebody’s fucking with it! Sonofabitch!”

Fred comes in.  Richie says, “Call the cable company. I was watching Syracuse and Villanova and it went off!”

Fred and William confer in Nigerian, trying at 6:15 am to make it work. Each time, it goes off. Fred wants to call maintenance.

Good luck. It’s Sunday.

Richie says, “It’s doing the same thing as the old one!”

Syracuse is in Sicily, isn’t it? Maybe the Godfather can help?

So while I’m lying here contemplating the patterns of dots on the ceiling panels and listening to a seemingly endless Grateful Dead jam, I notice a used colostomy bag and my mind drifted back to the seventh grade and how ahead of the times some of my classmates were. While using the facilities in 1965 at good old PVRS, I read, “Flush hard. It’s a long way to the kitchen” scrawled among the witticisms and advertisements on the wall. It now occurs to me that the colostomy bag should be delivered to the gourmets sweating over our meals. Recycle for the good of all of us. Imagine, recycling was proposed at PVRS in 1965. If we did that right now, maybe we could reverse global warming.

“Why this is nothing but a bag of shit!”

But it’s really good shit!

Roll me another one just like the other one.

This whole Facebook thing brings to mind another piece of literary wisdom, penned no doubt by a future valedictorian of Princeton or Harvard, that I read on the wall of PVRS lavatory, that went something like this:

Some come here to shit and stink,

And read the writing on the wall.

I come here to sit and think,

And write the wisdom on the wall.

It somehow seems ironic to have a Facebook wall to scribble on.

So the social worker came in and Richie says he wants to know why his TV goes off between 11:00 and 7:00. He says it’s a conspiracy and he wants his sports and movies back or he’s going to call his congressman. She told him she’d have the unit manager look into it in the morning. These are, by the way, the same two idiots I spoke with before I ordered the remote.

Lots of luck!

I think he also threatened a lawsuit. I bet Jim Sokolove would just love to help.

Last night he was watching Ben-Hur. The chariot race had just ended, Marcelus had died, Juda’s trying to find the way into the Valley of the Lepers. Click.

This morning he didn’t even try until 7:10.

I have been trying to decide, now that he’s gotten the 11-7 idea, what will happen when THEY change the clocks? If THEY get it right, it would give me an extra hour of sleep the first night. If THEY get confused, maybe it could start going off at 10:00 pm and the other end messes up the other direction and waits until 8:00 am. And then gets stuck like that. Hmm, decisions, decisions.  Is it an H.G. Wells (The Time Machine) version of Three Days of the Condor?

So not to have suspicion cast my way, I go to sleep around 10:00 that night and ignore all sound input until at least 7:00 in the morning. So when my alarm starts beeping (I have a wound-vac attached to the dressing on my butt that gets loose and whistles with the air leak, causing an alarm to sound an obnoxious beep every couple seconds, which continues until the vac is reset or the nurse fixes the seal and does a reset) and whistling (I may try to teach my butt to whistle Dixie), it irritates the crap out of him. One good turn deserves another, or as Mom used to say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, or something like that. Last night I let it beep from 10:00 pm to 6:30 am, when someone came in the room and reset it.

On the noon news, a woman from somewhere in New Hampshire was talking about the power outage. She said, “Every now and then, the TV goes on, I don’t know why.”

Maybe it’s at 11 and 7!!!

The unit manager came in and Richie railed at her about the cable conspiracy and told her all about it and the new TV doing the same thing. She said she didn’t understand, wasn’t a technical person, but she’d find out.

Yeah, Rich, Bigfoot will get it right, just like she made you turn down your TV, wear headphones, move me to a more compatible room, maybe get supplies ordered before they run out. Let’s all sing along with the bouncing ball now, and in four-part harmony, FEELING!

Maybe we should just stand him on his head. Oh, now it’s morning! Oh, he’s no fun. He fell right over.

10:40 pm – I’m playing possum. He’s watching an old Rockford Files.

What’s that sound? Silence? Hmmm. OH FUDGE! It’s 12:20 am, TV is off, and I fell asleep playing possum.

5:15 am – Richie tells Fred, maybe it worked. I told her to call the cable company and take me off the computer. TV goes on. Click. Off. Shit! Back on. Off again. This continues until 6:00 am when Rich needed the bedpan right away. Rich was late for dialysis. Shit.

Sorry I fell asleep, but maybe it heightens the suspense.

10:30 pm – The nurse comes in, parks her cart in front of his TV, flushes his catheter and changes his dressing. The game is over, the post blah, blah, blah is over, and the sports recap blah, blah, blah is over. He switches to TCM for a movie.

10:40 pm – The nurse now comes to change my Hoover. I’m facing the wrong way for control.

11:05 pm – She’s finally finishing up, doing last minute futzing around, Rebel Without a Cause is starting. I can’t control, her cart blocks the signal.

11:06 pm – As she moves her cart, I do a bank shot off her butt. Click. Phew!

The next morning at 6:10, Rich says to Fred, “The fucking TV won’t work.” Fred:  “Again?” Rich: “I was watching the Celtics and it went off! I’m gonna complain again today. I told Mary Jane (Bigfoot), but she didn’t do anything. I’m gonna call my congressman again.” Fred: “You call congressman”? Rich: “A week ago. I’m gonna call him again. He owes me a big favor. I’ll call a lawyer.”

Right, I’m SURE that will do it!

At around 9:00 am, things got a little noisier than normal. Seems Richie was trying to slip into a diabetic coma, but a nurse got wind of it and said not on MY shift. So while they were yelling at him to eat and trying to force ice cream down his throat, I muted the TV. I waited until 11:00 pm to shut it off.

This morning he didn’t bother with the TV while getting ready to head to dialysis. So except for the idiot that decided to weigh me last night and screwed up my sheet, tubes and johnny beyond repair, I think we made it. Happy hump day.

Michelle (the aide from my old room) delivered my breakfast and said she overheard Rich a few days ago say he thought Bigfoot or his new roommate or SOMEBODY called the cable company to have his TV shut off at certain times. She grinned, said he ought to get the idea and just live with it. Then she said, “Bon Appetit” and left.

This afternoon they sent Hector up to check it out. He played for a half-hour and couldn’t find anything. Rich insisted in a voice rising in volume that somebody at the cable company was shutting his TV off at 11 at night and it wouldn’t come back on until 7 the next morning. Hector says there’s no way to do that, the cable would go out for the whole building. Rich yells at him to be here tonight or tomorrow might get interesting. The cable company could shut down the signal to the building, Rich, but your TV would still be ON showing either a blank screen or snow.

During the evening, I decided the pattern was too rigid. So we’ll vary it. He’s still hollering for maintenance, which says it can’t be the cable company.

They could put a screen in front of the TV to block the IR signal or, hey, try a new roommate!

Last night was random changes he reversed each time till it went off at 11. He went out to complain at 6:30 the next morning, but he didn’t turn the thing on till 7:00. The next night was routine. The Silence of the Lambs isn’t, and neither is 12 Monkeys, but at eleven, Click.

At 6:15 the next morning, he was off to dialysis. TV was still off.

Saturday night/Sunday morning went well. It’s absurd that he watches the Stooges while reading his paper and complaining, yet fails to see the humor in this.

Wake up and go to sleep!

At noon, Bigfoot, Rich and Jonathan, an aide, are discussing the TV as they’re taking Rich for an appointment. Rich says, “They gave me a new TV. It must be the remote.” Bigfoot asks, “Jonathan? Any ideas?” Jonathan deftly brings up the menu, goes to sleep timer and sees it is not set. Not wakeup either. They left the TV on and left. I waited ten minutes and turned it off.

I didn’t know it HAD a sleep function! What a novel idea!

The scuttlebutt is that Bigfoot asked the staff to keep alert. The only two in the know had a hard time not laughing. At 4:15 pm, Jose from maintenance comes in. When I took out an ear bud, he asked if I had a headache. No. Then asked if he could use my remote. Sure. He played with the menus and checked for interactions with both TVs, found nothing.

Nothing the next morning except the normal pre-dialysis doo-doo. The nurse was concerned he hadn’t eaten much. Richie says between the coughing and eating, he didn’t want to choke.

Gee, Rich, if I hear anything unusual, like silence coming from behind the curtain, I’ll ring for help. I promise.

She reminded him they didn’t want his sugar too low.

A nice glass of ethylene glycol, Rich?

When he came back, he was short with his aide. She wanted to know why was so mean. He said he had to go out for 3 ½ hours yesterday, then this morning and then again this afternoon.

Sorry you missed Let’s Make a Deal, but it was better with Monty Hall, even though there was a reason it went off the air years ago: it got OLD! The reason it’s back on now? No imagination!

He got back at 2:30; TV was on before the EMTs were out the door. Guess he couldn’t find his call rope because I heard him yelling for help at 3:05. I let him yell increasingly frantically (Yes, Mrs. Peters, I know I shouldn’t have used that phrase, but WTF!) for 15 minutes before I pulled mine and said, “Sorry Rich, I couldn’t hear you through the music.”

He should keep his moanings consistent. He tells totally different versions of events to each person that has the misfortune to run into him. It’s okay, though. Most don’t have the nuances of English mastered, so they don’t realize what’s inconsistent with what he’s saying.

Off at 11:00, still not on at 7:00.

Anyone that would suffer through Shemp ought to be put out of their misery. He’s nearly as bad as Joe and Curly Joe! Curly WAS the Stooges. Now, if Rich only liked silent movies.

I turned off his TV at 11:00; we were up again at midnight with him coughing and complaining about life and sorry care. But he didn’t turn the TV back on, nor did he try in the morning. He did tell Fred the sons of bitches still haven’t fixed his TV, he’s gonna call his congressman, maybe he’ll make them do something. He says he told “the guy” (maybe the maintenance guy?), but the guy said he couldn’t do anything, maybe Cam (who is Cam?) can make them fix it. He says he can’t watch basketball because it goes off in the fourth quarter.

That only happened once, Richie, like yesterday you saw two basketball games and switched to Space Cowboys for the third, at least, time this month.

After Richie came back from dialysis, he started complaining to Jonathan that the TV was still doing it and it must be the remote. Jonathan explained how it couldn’t be. Richie was sounding like he was pleading. Jonathan said maybe someone in another room or down the hall was pointing their remote at a mirror or something.

I took an unscheduled nap again last night until 11:25! But it turned out he did too, so he never knew it went off late. This morning he had it on at 7:00.

The next morning, he tried turning it on at 6:00, but nobody had changed our clock on the wall so it wouldn’t work till 7:00. Or was it 8:00?

Click. Click. Click. Click.

I do wonder what the battery-powered clock on the wall has to do with it. They did set it ahead, though, at 9:30 am.

The battery-powered clock turned him off at 11:00 and on at 7:00 for Fox News and Baby Face on TCM with Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent by Darryl Zanuck from 1933.  So you see, Gaslight would be his cup of tea. Next was another from 1933, Female. Then he found the Stooges.  At least it was a Curly one.

Why don’t I screw with his TV during the day? Someday someone might figure out all they have to do is place a small piece of paper so as to deflect my IR signal but not his.

So he had Bigfoot in again with Jonathan. It goes off at 11:00 and won’t go on until 7:00. They gave me a new TV but not a new remote, it still does the same thing, he says. He wants a new remote and Jonathan is going to set the timer to reset in a five-minute period. Rich just wants his games back, he says, but I haven’t shut a game off since that first one in the third quarter with the score 72-74. He has watched two games some days, but all but one ended before 11:00. Bigfoot checked my remote to look for interactions and asked if it was universal. I shrugged my shoulders and looked dumb. Bigfoot’s going to have the nurse here at 10:55 tonight.

Like she’s got time to stand guard.

I did say I was ready for March Madness, didn’t I? Watson, the game’s afoot!

Next was the new Let’s Make a Deal, then the new Price is Right. Noon news, Millionaire (like that would help either of us), Rachel Ray, Barefoot Contessa, Quincy (with Carolyn Jones), The Addams Family, four reruns of the newest resurrection of Family Feud, Deal or No Deal, Bonanza (he napped through most when not coughing or griping), then back to more TCM with A Penny A Peep (a short from 1934), Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, then he found a basketball game starting at 8:00. NO MUTING EVER.

Ever try to carry on a conversation over commercial drivel? Your mission, Mr. Phelps, if you choose to accept it, is to give this guy a clue. Goodbye, Peter Graves.

Well, it probably won’t be Fred (he wasn’t answering Bigfoot’s calls), but the nurse and Bigfoot want a voicemail tonight. I wonder if she’ll notice the man behind the curtain.

Well, sports fans, if I was married to this guy, I’d get a divorce. Oh, I’ve had two and he’s divorced. I wonder why?

At 10:50, Renee comes to watch and chat, Rich fills her in. At 11:00, it goes off. She wants to see it. Rich turns it on. I turn it off. She thinks that’s odd and has him do it again. So do I.

I stump into the Last Chance Saloon. Gimme some more of that third red eye, Barkeep. I was challenged to a game of 7-card tarot with Pentangles wild, when I saw him deal a high priestess from the bottom of the deck. I said, Rich, there ain’t enough room in this life cycle for both of us. I faked left, turned right, and shot a beam from my third eye right at his TV.

Apologies to Firesign.

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone. Everything is in relation to everything else. Buddha?

Maintenance came and asked me if I could control Rich’s TV with my computer. I said, “You’d have to be a lot smarter than me.” I showed him my headphones (and offered them and the computer to him) and said I had them in all the time so as not to hear what goes on while listening to music.

He sees me that way every time he comes in here, right?

He wanted to know if the TV bothered me. I told him I complained the first day in this room. He wondered if there was any difference. I told him I didn’t think so and that I tried to go to sleep around 10:00 pm. I doubt that will make any difference. I asked him if he’d like to live like that. He smiled and said no.

An aide said there were systems to control all kinds of stuff. Yeah, over dial-up? And with what interfaces? I suppose it does divert attention from the real culprit. My Mac does not have an IR port, but may have an IR receiver. Should I accuse Rich of making my typing bad? Warning: The Surgeon General has determined that choking chickens with catheters may be dangerous.

Let’s see what the leprechauns bring.

They brought him a new Sharp TV. So far I can’t get my little remote to work. I’m wondering if it is the angle/sensitivity. I’ll play more when he’s out of the room.

Game over maybe?

Well, that was the problem. The TV is tilted a bit too much facing him. If I can get someone to straighten it, I’ll be okay. Otherwise, I’ll have to stretch a lot. I did get it working, just very awkward.

Hope no one notices I got his TV straightened a bit. I turned him off at 11:00. He turned it on and off around 6:00. I slept a bit late, been coughing. Now he’s off to dialysis.

No one seems to have noticed that the TV is straight. It’s still a little temperamental, so tactics have changed to off at 11:00 and intermittent sneak attacks during other times it is on.

Last night at 10:20 Rich turned his TV down a little, about 6 db. He had the aide get him a pitcher of ginger ale. He sat up and he pulled the curtain some more. The dadburn noise of those stupid basketball squeaks and cheering was a little better, but too little too late.

At 11:00, click. He turned it back on. I turned it off again. He waited ten minutes and tried again. Again, I turned it off. About 11:30, Fred walks by and asks Richie how he’s doing. Rich says, “The damn thing shut off at 11:00, it was in the half and it went off.”


Fred says, “We’ll see what happens tomorrow.” Rich starts grousing that somebody’s fucking with it, that’s the third fucking TV.

This morning at 6:30, he asked Fred to try it. On, then nothing. Rich says, “Turn it off.” I did. Fred says, “I didn’t do it.” It stayed off till 7:00.

Looks like the rectal tissue has pull. Musical beds again. I’ll let you know when I’m settled.

So, no telephone, which means no internet. My roommate is relatively quiet.

While I’m sure they have no clue how I shut off the other guys’ TV, they by now must know I was responsible for it.

If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out.”

Looks like if I want a phone, I have to pay Verizon or some phone company. I don’t think welfare will allow for that. I also think my hair clippers disappeared. But I lost the aide that cut my hair two moves ago anyway.

I can do rudimentary email on my Kindle and sort of access my bank.

Wow! They wired me up a phone!

The Latin maintenance guy looked weird at me, like I was going to tap into DOD and start World War III!

My new roommate is a sad case. He’s young, had a lot of bucks, invested it and lost it all. After the loss, he attempted suicide three times. He is now non-verbal, fed through a tube and has severe muscle contractions. They change his diaper a couple times a day. I got a good look one day at his face when they were turning him. Only his eyes showed something. I think it was terror. Another case of “Hey, you ain’t got it that bad. Look at that guy.”

So I heard tell a month or so later, Richie was not doing well and had a couple of strokes. He’d been out of the hospital a couple of times. I was not too surprised one morning when I heard a Code Blue over the intercom for that wing. I looked out the window in time to wave to the Richiebird as he flew by my window.

Bigfoot is no longer employed here.

It’s half time, Rich.

It’s not nice to fuck with Mother Nature.

About the Author: On May 29, 1971 Scott was 18 years old. He was riding a motorcycle when he was hit by a car turning left in front of him, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He learned to live life pushing a manual wheelchair. In 1997, Multiple Sclerosis, that had been masked by the paralysis, was diagnosed. The symptoms of MS became more severe, by 2002 necessitating a power wheelchair and making driving a car unsafe. Over the years, both legs, that didn’t work or feel, had been amputated. By 2009, the strength in his upper body had declined due to the MS in spite of constant exercise to the point that he was forced to give up his independence and move to a nursing home.