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Remotely annoyed: Hitting the mute button a big part of modern TV watching

It’s a bad habit, but sometimes the television at my house is on in the background while I am doing chores or reading. However, when I am actually paying attention to what’s on the screen, the remote is never far from my reach.

It’s not so much about any given program’s content that causes the mute button to be employed. Most “shows” I can tolerate. Well, unless Joe Buck and Troy Aikman are broadcasting an NFL game and then the sound is off.

However, like many people, I am annoyed by some advertisements. Currently, I cannot hit the mute button quickly enough when the “Peter Pan” commercial for Geico starts. Obnoxious. Annoying. Irritating. While I am not a violent person by nature, this ad makes me want to bop the bratty forever young Peter right in the nose.

Another commercial that sets me on edge is for Chia Obama. The whole Chia “pet” craze was baffling to me, not just because of my black thumb when it comes to growing, but because the end product – sprouts coming out of an animal likeness or a human “skull” – is ugly.

But now the president is being “honored” with a Chia? Not so much …

The mute hitting isn’t always because ads are bad, though. Sometimes these short spots are so heartbreaking, they are difficult to bear.

For instance, there are fundraising ads for animal protection groups which are so moving, they bring me to tears. Every. Single. Time. Most especially, any ad with sad-looking dogs and cats using a Sarah McLachlan song is enough to make me sob. Every. Single. Time.

This holiday season, there were a few commercials that were beautifully touching, enough to trigger a muting to stop the tears from welling. My two favorite involved young people unexpectedly decorating the homes of older neighbors. Sweet but for a sentimental sap like me, a crying trigger one doesn’t need at what already is the most memory-filled time of the year.

All that being said, I realize there are some people who think Buck-Aikman are great broadcasters; who believe the “Peter Pan” Geico ads to be hilarious; who have ordered a Chia Obama; and who think sweet commercials are nauseating. More power to them.

The ability to mute the sound on something is fabulous for that reason in particular: it’s a selective process. Unless, of course, you’re watching in a group that includes people of the opposite viewpoint on what should be on “no sound” and what should have the volume cranked up.

Back in ancient times like the 1960s, before the advent of the remote control, one had to make a real effort to get to the TV set to turn the volume down, then back up again. Of course, back in my growing-up years, we had two channels at the Prusi home and one father who served as the television arbiter any time he was at home.

In other words, nothing was muted. If what was on television bothered my dad, his solution was simple: Turn the set off and find a good book to read or go outside and play. And there was no complaining from us kids because we knew that would annoy dad even more.

As a matter of fact, dad was probably on to something. While there are good and admirable shows on TV, it would serve me better in the long run to skip the mute and instead hit the off switch and read a book. Or go outside.

And most importantly, whatever the day of the week or the time of day or the weather, it would be best to not spend so much time with a remote in reach. Maybe it’s time to spend time in remote reaches instead.

Editor’s note: Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 240.