The Gift of Sound

My parents had gotten a new TV before Thanksgiving. Paired with their DIRECTV and Bose sound system this should have been an exciting time in their lives. However at some point the sound quality deteriorated severely. My parents found themselves cranking the volume up all the way just to be able to barely hear it.

Though it was extremely frustrating it was a reality they had come to accept. And that was sad because my parents don’t hear as well as they used to. After working all of their lives they finally retired and have a beautiful huge television with great sound but now… no sound.

However when my sister visited for Thanksgiving we were not satisfied. We saw not only the opportunity to correct the issue, but also an idea for a great holiday gift.

Now I know as much as about electronics as I do about cars. Which is to say I know nothing about electronics. So I went online and started doing research. The research I did pointed to some inexpensive speakers that would work with what my parents had.

Jump to Christmas Eve when my electronically clueless sister and electronically clueless self walked into a big box electronic store to find what we were looking for. After two minutes of talking to the guy there I learned two things.

  1. 1. I was an idiot.
  2. 2. We needed to by them a stereo tuner and not just speakers.

As these things go the guy said he had ONE stereo tuner in the back that happened to be on sale.

Isn’t that always the case? There’s always just one, and it’s in the back. Like the sales person has to get on a camel and trek 5 miles through the Mohave to get to the back of the store.

It’s never: Yes I have one left and… it’s right here!

But my sister and I are know nothing and it is a really good deal, so we purchased it. The nice guy at the store gives us his card and tells us that when my parents need to come back and purchase the speakers later on, to come back and see him.

We readily comply.

Christmas morning comes and we give the stereo tuner to my parents and they open it up excitedly.

This will make things better!

We say.

You will be able to hear the TV now!

We honestly believe.

Christmas passes, as does the following day. And sure enough it is soon time to install the stereo tuner. So I sit down one morning and begin the process. It starts off easy enough.

I open the box. I take out all of the items. I move the box to the side.

And that’s when things started to go downhill.

The first problem I encountered was the fact that the cords that connect the TV, to the DIRECTV box to the DVD player to the BOSE speakers are all only long enough to just barely make the connections without any slack.

So in order to actually move or unplug anything, I have to get a flashlight and contort my gangly body into the entertainment center. One might think 6 months of yoga would have helped with this, but no, not at all.

Within no time, the normally organized living room looked like this.

Also keep in mind while everything is connected at this point, nothing is actually working. The TV is on but there is no sound, the tuner turns on but it’s not doing anything, and the red light on the Bose speakers just glares at me like the Eye of Sauron.

So that’s when I give up on the instruction booklet, which has a lot of pictures like this:

A picture like that means nothing to me. It could have been the back of a toaster over and I wouldn’t have known the difference.

And I want to be clear I tried to follow the instructions, I really did. But after I followed the instructions and didn’t get it to work the first time, I knew I was screwed. So I just started plugging every cord into every hole in every machine in the living room. If you had told me to run the microwave while putting my tongue in the DVD player I would have tried it.

Nothing worked.

So I took to the Internet.

Bad idea.

I don’t know how to fix what isn’t working because I don’t even know what’s wrong. So I’m googling things like…

How come this isn’t working when I plug the red thing into the red hole?

Or I’ll just write the name of every product I am trying to connect and put a question mark at the end. And believe it or not that’s when I started to find answers.

Meanwhile, at this point it has now been two days since I took apart the living room. The discussions between my parents and I have elevated in intensity as none of us knows what’s wrong.

My dad wants it to work. My mom wants us to just return the thing. And I can't bare to face the guy at the store business card I got, too embarrassed to admit that I’m a technical moron and maybe I should have just bought my dad a book.

After reading multiple sites and comment boards I finally come across a picture of the Bose system my parents have with a remote control. I ask my parents if they have a remote control.


I don’t think so.

Let me check.

At this point I’m spiraling down a hole of self-doubt and regret as I anticipate the conversations I will have with my friends after I return home. 

Hey rich what did you get your parents for Christmas? 
Oh three small fights, an old remote control scavenger hunt and hypertension.

Twenty minutes later we have found a lost remote control with dead batteries. After we change the batteries I press the power button the little red light suddenly turns green. Their original speakers work! The sound is perfect!

They didn’t need a stereo tuner, or new speakers, or a trip to best buy… all they needed was to turn their speakers on.

It wasn't their fault, heck, none of us knew what was going on. But maybe buying them new things isn't the way to go. Maybe next year I will just find something around that house that doesn’t work and fix it.

Or at least... turn it on.