Just As I Thought


I want one of these. Really.

First, the power: I sauntered into my branch of Hollywood Video, stepped up to the wall of 12 giant TV screens simultaneously pumping out a Bruce Willis action flick, aimed my trusty new weapon and — presto — the screens went dark. We customers could proceed with our browsing without all that hopped-up banging, shooting and thundering assaulting our brains.

I’ve spent the past few weeks wandering around with a simple little plastic device tucked in my pocket. It has changed my relationship with our media-saturated society. It has turned me into devilish jerk and conquering hero. It has enabled me to fight back against faceless institutions, including airports, video stores and theme restaurants.

… My new toy, called TV-B-Gone, is essentially a universal remote control that does one thing only: It turns off TVs. I love the heck out of it.

… The power went to my head. At Dryclean Depot, I zapped two screens that were blasting loud promotional videos. It was here that I first discovered the most curious thing about my vigilante video-blanking: Folks who had been dully staring up at the screen simply looked down again when it went blank. No anger, no questions. Just, Okay, that’s over, now on with life’s live show.

I walked through the Post newsroom, zapping 14 TV screens that provide a video news backdrop to our work. Not a soul noticed.

At the food court during the auto show at the Washington Convention Center, four guys were watching CNN Headline News when my kids and I sat down with our sandwiches. We zapped the TVs, and the guys immediately turned their heads from the screen to each other and commenced a conversation. A victory for social discourse!

… Last stop: The waiting room at Children’s Hospital. Nobody was watching the blaring TV; its incessant yammering had forced waiting parents to the far corners of the room. I tried to point my vigilante device without being noticed. Suddenly, the cacophony ceased. The children grew quieter, the parents relaxed. Mission accomplished.

Have you noticed the incredible proliferation of televisions in public places? And their bizarre ability to suck you in? It’s amazing — eyes just automatically swivel toward the set, even when it’s something no one wants to watch. At a restaurant, at the car dealer waiting room, in the airport.
I’ve gotta get one of these.


  • I had not noticed the quiet takeover of TVs until I noticed TVs in two unlikely spots: the line at airport security, where the TV is somewhat useful AND at my local post office, where the TV isn’t useful at all, but makes no noise to speak of.

  • I’ve been guilty of abetting the takeover myself — when designing a recent convention, I put one of those plasma screens at the registration desks. There were two mitigating factors, though: first, the screens were scrolling useful information, and second, they were for the benefit of people standing in long lines. Having televisions in places like restaurants and grocery stores is just a means to hypnotize people.

Browse the Archive


Browse by Category