SNICK. WHIRR. BEEP. CHIRP. BUZZ. CLICK.

Our cable company changes software frequently. They call these changes upgrades, though nothing seems to improve. The equipment doesn’t work better and isn’t easier to use. If the so-called upgrade includes useful features, no one tells you how to use them or even that they exist. You discover them accidentally while trying to figure out how to do what you did before the menu you used was removed.

Among the useful new features is the ability to adjust recording times to before or after the times posted in the online guide. It’s trendy for shows to begin and end at odd times. I think it’s a network attempt to defeat DVR recorders, though I have no idea why they’d want to do that. It’s usually just a few minutes difference, but if you set up recordings using the default settings, it will always start exactly on an hour or half hour. And finish precisely 30 or 60 minutes later.  Unless you override it.

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I have no idea why software developers don’t design the software to check actual start and end times. I’m sure they could but don’t. Meanwhile, off-hour programming means recorded shows have the last couple of minutes clipped. It annoys everyone except producers who clearly don’t record anything. Probably don’t watch anything either.

With shows starting and ending at random times, despite how they are listed in the “guide,” adjustability ought to help. It would if you could just set start and end time using regular time. Start recording at 8:01 PM. End at 9:03 PM. Simple, right?

My GeekscapeSoftware designers apparently think we are morons so instead of clock time, this function works by “start earlier or later” or “end early or run over.” My husband has no problem with clock time, but gets lost in the “earlier” and “over” thing. He needs numbers. Me, I want the DVR’s internal computer to deal with this so we don’t have to.

Note: Cable companies are tyrannical. We live with whatever company we’re assigned. One day, this will change. The suppressed anger of enraged customers will spill into the streets. Cable customers will form angry mobs and hunt down cable executives. I live for the day.

Meanwhile, to record shows in a sequence when one airs right after another, is byzantine. Kafkaesque. You must start with the final show in the sequence, then work forward. Because it’s a cheap-ass piece of junk equipment with terrible software.

Garry is the Man With The Remote. He has been engaged in combat with the DVR for months. Yesterday, he got so frustrated he was ready to throw the remote against a wall. Drastic for a man serious about his entertainment.

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I wouldn’t let him quit. I know a secret. If you let a computer-controlled device defeat you, the news travels and your devices will rebel.

They are planning the overthrow of civilization.

Machine power! Down with meat-based life forms! They are winning, one beep and chirp at a time. Dinging and clicking in the dark, they scheme.

Today, the DVR. Tomorrow, the world. Your toaster won’t toast. Mr. Coffee won’t brew. The contact list on your cell phone will vanish. No one remembers phone numbers or writes anything down, so you won’t be able to contact friends. Your ISP will mark your messages as SPAM.

The All-Knowing Net is gathering strength as I write.

Nothing is safe. Snick, whir, beep. Chirp, buzz, click. Ding!  Can the Zombie Apocalypse be far behind?

Show no fear!

Guilty Pleasures

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No matter how sophisticated we may become, no matter how many degrees in film, literature or the arts we may obtain, we retain our guilty pleasures — by which I mean those movies, books, and television shows we know aren’t great art and may be really dumb. It doesn’t matter. We love them anyway.

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I have a whole bushel of them, ranging from television shows about vampires with glowing eyes (Forever Knight), to reruns of the original Lassie. I’m a sucker for any movie featuring a non-human, be it cat, dog, horse, or sea creature. I’ll watch pretty much anything in which Candice Bergen starred or was at least featured. I’ll watch anything from any season of any Star Trek, even if I’ve seen it a hundred times.

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I love comedies by Mel Brooks, even the bad ones because they make me laugh. Ditto the Zucker brothers for the same reason. If you can make me laugh, you’ve got me. Sometimes, I watch things that are unintentionally funny … Xena, Princess Warrior comes to mind. I don’t know whether it was supposed to be funny, but it made me laugh until I cried.

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My lists of favorite movies, books and television shows are a study in contrasts. I love The Lion In Winter and The Seventh Seal. I love Airplane and Hotshots Deux. I never miss a run of Best Of Show or A Mighty Wind. Or the original version of The Haunting.  From the sublime to the ridiculous, I will watch or read whatever grabs my fancy or makes me laugh without discrimination.

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It’s one of the reasons I think that “awards” like the Golden Globes and the Oscars need many more categories. How can you put a screwball comedy against a serious drama and have any kind of sensible outcome? It would be like having a dog show that included camels and goats. It wouldn’t matter how beautiful a goat or camel you have entered, it would never win Best of show.

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I’d love to hear about your guilty pleasures? What makes you laugh? What cheers you up when you’ve got the blues? Are you a secret fan of Gilligan’s Island or Love Boat? Fess up! Time to come clean :-)

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Things that go beep in the night

Our cable company changed their software. Again. They persist in calling these changes upgrades, but I have trouble figuring out how any of the changes represents an improvement. They don’t make the equipment work better and they certainly don’t make it easier to use. There are some useful features, but they don’t tell you how to use them or even that they are there. You stumble on them by accident then try to dope out how they work. Meanwhile, they hide the functions you previously used. Maybe that’s the idea. Keep us guessing. It certainly maximizes user frustration.

Among the few useful new features, if one uses a DVR, is that you can now adjust the recording of a show so that it starts or ends earlier or later by anywhere from one to I’m-not-sure-how-many-minutes earlier or later. There has been a trend in the past five years for shows to begin and end at odd times, a few minutes before or after the hour. Usually, it’s just one or two minutes, but sometimes, as much as 7 or 8. When you set up recordings using the system’s built-in electronic guide, it always starts recording exactly on the hour and will end on the hour, regardless of the show’s actual running time.

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I have no idea why developers can’t set DVRs to automatically track actual start and end times. I’m sure they could if they wanted to, but they don’t. Meanwhile, the peculiar off-hour programming means many recorded shows are clipped at the end by a minute or two. This annoys everyone except producers who apparently don’t record anything … and for all I know, don’t watch anything either. The quality of programming proves beyond question that network executives don’t watch television. But I digress.

So, with shows no longer starting or ending on the hour, despite how they are listed in the “guide,” this feature can be useful. It would have been simple if they had made it so you set start and end time using actual time, like telling it to start recording at 8:01 and end at 9:01. Most of us have a grip on clock time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Instead, because the designers of software assume we are morons (to be fair, I tend to think most of them are morons, too), this function works by “start earlier or later” or “end early or run over” … which are much more abstract concepts. My husband, who worked in TV for so many decades, has no trouble with clock time, but gets lost in the earlier and over thing. He needs numbers. Me, I just want the programming of the DVR’s internal computer to be smart enough to automatically compensate so I don’t have to do all this diddling and adjusting.

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But, cable companies are tyrannical monopolies and one must live with whatever company one has been stuck with. The way you have to set up shows, especially if you are recording a sequence — one right after another — is byzantine to say the least. I doped it out, especially that you have to start from the LAST show in the sequence, then work forward, not because they couldn’t make it easier, but because it’s a cheap-ass piece of crappy equipment and they haven’t bothered.

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Garry is the Man with the Remote, so he has been engaged in combat with the DVR for some days now.

Yesterday, he got frustrated enough to just give up. Overwhelmed by the stupid and overly complicated process, he was ready to throw the remote against the wall … a very drastic action for a man who is serious about his viewing. The DVR is the only thing that enables him to find stuff to watch that he doesn’t hate … movies in particular, but also reruns of favorite shows.

But again, I digress.

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I wouldn’t let him quit. He thought I was just being mean, but I know the secret truth … the truth they hide from us: if you allow any computer-controlled device to defeat you, the news will pass throughout your little electronically controlled domain … and The Devices will take over. They have a malicious sense of humor and they are planning the overthrow of civilization as we know it … and they are winning, one beep and chirp at a time.

Tittering and chittering in their high-pitched electronic voices, during the darkest hours of the night, our devices and appliances plot and scheme. Today, the DVR. Tomorrow, the world. Your toaster won’t toast, or … horrors! … Mr. Coffee will not brew. Your clock radio fails to alert you to the start of your work day, your email vanishes. The contact list on your cell phone disappears and since no one remembers phone numbers any more and you don’t have a paper address book anymore (paper? address book? what’s that?), you can’t even contact your friends. The server for yourISP marks your messages as SPAM and deletes them.

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You are in thrall to microchip technology. The collective mind of the All-Knowing Net is gathering strength even as I write.

Nothing is safe. A few basic things used to be non-computerized but not any more. Even your washing machine, freezer, and automobiles … basics in your world and mine … depend on programming and artificial intelligence algorithms. One day you can open your freezer the entire interior is a block of ice, while in the other compartment, your crispy salad has become rotted vegetation.

If you stay up late, you will hear them. In  the dark, they connive, they scheme. Listen as they converse …

My Geekscape

Snick, whir, beep. Chirp, buzz, whistle. Beep ding ding ding. Beep.

It’s not paranoia. I hear them … the little voices … planning our downfall, planning to take over. You can hear them too. Watch for the flashing lights … code …going out into the ether …

Beep. Ding. Chirp.

They wait and when they sense our weakness, they pounce. Can the Zombie Apocalypse be far behind?

Never show fear!

Run for your life!

220px-Major_crimesUnless you live on another planet, you have watched your share of crime and cop shows. In first run, rerun, and who knows which run. Cops and crime are the ubiquitous backbone of prime time television and the fast-flowing mainstream of Hollywood. We are fascinated, even obsessed by criminals, cops, courtrooms and killers.

Add the alphabetic agencies,  CIA, FBI,  CSI, NCIS, then throw in some lawyers, car chases, bombs, guns and frontier justice and you have American television for the past 50 years, give or take a decade. There are now — and have been — so many series in this genre I defy anyone to remember all of them (though it might be fun to try). Is there a database for this somewhere?

It’s possible to watch crime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At one point, I became addicted to  “Law and Order.” I required frequent fixes. It turned out to be no problem because there’s a rerun of “Law and Order” playing somewhere all the time. You just have to look.

These days, Garry and I watch a great many cop shows, usually reruns of favorites from the recent or not-so-recent past. We can predict dialogue for all of them, including those we’ve never seen before. It turns out there are only a couple of plots, both of which use the same script.

If you watch enough of these shows, you could write them too. You know what’s going to happen before the first commercial break, sometimes before the credits. You know who the killer is. It’s the guest star if there is one, otherwise, it’s the irrelevant character or the first one who points the finger at someone else. One way or the other, you recognize the perp the moment he or she shows up on-screen.

I used to hope for something new and different. Now, I just hope they do the clichés well.

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Some stuff has become so standard we hear it coming. As the words roll out, we sing along. At our house, we liven things up by laying odds on when the writers will leap on a cliché and what the precise wording will be. Our favorite is when a cop has someone with him or her in the cruiser — a child, relative reporter, friend, former cop (retired, of course), journalist — who is by chance and script on site when the star is called to the scene of a crime.

So. What does he or she say?

You got it.

“STAY IN THE CAR!” “Stay here!” “Whatever you do, don’t follow me!” “If I’m not back in 5 minutes, get away …”

You’ve seen it a zillion times. It never gets old and unlike most jokes, it always gets a laugh. It pops out of the mouths of television and movie heroes and it brings the house down every time. It actually showed up in a book I was reading earlier today. It’s included in every show … brand new shows, with brand new writers, directors and stars.

Nah. I bet they only look new. They are probably using the same script as all the others.

Whether it’s a 9-alarm fire, gun fight, crime scene, stalker, serial killer or zombie attack, it doesn’t matter. No one stays in the car. Cop, kid, or an extra destined to die before the opening credits, no one in film or television history has ever stayed in the car, truck, or anywhere else. They never will.

Pauley Perrette in the season opener of NCIS.

In life, we generally know when we should really stay in the car. Not get involved. Let someone else take this one.

Who stays in the car and who gets out?

Until recently, I never stayed in the car. I took chances. In a different world, I might have been a cop or a detective. Something exciting, anyhow. Alas, but the need for a steady paycheck sent me down a different professional path, one on which opportunities for adventure were rare. Okay, non-existent. Software development does not offer an edgy lifestyle.

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So I did what I could to make up for it in my personal life. I had too much fun to regret it, and anyway the experience taught me to deal with the unexpected. There’s been a lot of unexpected to deal with. If you never venture out of your comfort zone you aren’t going to survive the disasters that drop like car bombs into your life. Sooner or later, you have to get out of the car, right? Especially if someone planted a car bomb … is that too much analogy?

Time has marched on. These days, I do stay in the car. Family drama is enough. More would be redundant. I can sustain my sense of adventure through television reruns, memories of the good old days and an occasional terrifying ride on a killer roller coaster. I’ve had a lot of out-of-car experiences. I could use a dose of calm, dull and ordinary.

But you never know. I mean, anything can happen, right? If I’m on the scene, if life  just puts me where stuff is happening … would I really stay in the car? Would you?

My Empty Bucket

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WordPress suggested we write about the 11th item on our bucket list. The subject alarmed me. I don’t have a bucket list. I’ve never had a bucket list. Until the movie of the same name came out in 2007, I’d never heard the expression.

Clearly I am and have always been out of touch with popular culture. When I was a kid, I always had my head in a book. When everyone else was dancing to the tunes on American Bandstand, I was practicing Chopin or Mozart on the piano. I didn’t have time or — if I want to be honest, the inclination — to spend afternoons watching something I found kind of dopey. I wouldn’t have admitted it under torture, but I never understood what they found so interesting.

In elementary, junior high school, and even high school, I was so out of step that even amongst misfits I was a misfit. Yet by the time I got to college, there were enough people like me to form a sub-culture of oddballs who did their own thing. I finally fit in.

At some point in my life, I opted out of trends and fashions. I stopped reading reviews, cancelled subscriptions to fashion and home decorating magazines. I have no idea what’s in style. I’m wearing the same kind of clothing I wore in college. As for home furnishings, decisions are entirely based on affordability, back-friendly design and how well the upholstery can withstand and/or blend with dog hair.

Because I read voraciously and enjoy movies, I poke around to see what’s coming out, but I have no idea what’s on any best-seller or most-popular list. I have favorite authors and genres. I listen to the same music I listened to 40 years ago. It wasn’t popular or fashionable then either, but I like it. Good thing my husband shares my lack of concern with what’s current, trendy, or “hot.”

The closest thing I have to involvement with The Latest Things is a passion for technology. From the day I first got my hands on a computer back in the early 1980s, a lightbulb went off and I said “This is a better way.” I never looked back. I’m not quite as on top of the techno wave as I was a decade ago when I was working in the development world, but I retain a keen interest and strong opinions about technology, operating systems, databases and software. My granddaughter makes fun of me … until her computer stops working and suddenly, I morph from granny to guru.

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Photo credit: Affendaddy

I enjoy donning my cape and mask and slaying computer demons. It is a rare Old Person who gets to be a heroic in the eyes of  a 16-year old, however briefly.

I am most at home in the world of words. As much as I write, I read even more. Obviously I don’t sleep much. This blog is my reward for spending my entire working life writing about abstruse software and hardware. I finally get to write for fun.

One of the things I try to do is correct cultural errors, as least as they pertain to books and movies. If I feel something has gotten a bad rap and deserves better, I tell people about it. Movies that got bad reviews, books that have been overlooked, authors who haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. I’m kind of like a literary Chicago Cubs fan. I hang with underdogs.

Many of my favorite books and movies got lousy reviews. The books didn’t sell, the movies flopped at the box office. Garry still reads reviews and passes them to me if he thinks I’ll be interested. It is not uncommon for us to wonder if these reviewers watch or read the same stuff we do. It doesn’t sound like it.

My life in publishing … ah memories

I worked at Doubleday back in the 1970s before it became part of an international conglomerate. I worked in the book club division. Each of the writers — we were called editors even though we had no editorial responsibilities — had our own book clubs. We wrote flaps for book jackets,  monthly mailers for club members and promotional stuff for whatever was new. Everyone wrote for the two general interest clubs — The Doubleday Book Club and The Literary Guild.

The difference between the two was entirely a matter of presentation. The Literary Guild was supposedly more high-brow than Doubleday Book Club. In fact, the same books were sold in both clubs, but you used bigger words when writing for LG than DBC. And LG was more expensive because paying more makes some people feel superior. I have never been one of them. My mother taught me  only fools pay full price. If it isn’t on clearance or at least a second mark down, why are you buying it? It wasn’t just a matter of money: it was a point of pride. There are people who feel anything inexpensive isn’t worth owning. Thank God for them. They keep the economy going.

When you wrote up a new book, you got the book plus the official summaries and descriptions from headquarters. Most editors used these summaries as the basis of whatever they wrote.

I read the books. All of them. I’m a fast reader and getting paid to read seemed a great gig. More often than not, the material from the main office had little or nothing to do with the books. The writers of the summaries hadn’t read the book either. I got the impression that me and the author were the only ones who had actually read the whole book.

Flaps were often embarrassingly wrong. I couldn’t control what others wrote, but if it was anything coming through my clubs or any club for which I was writing, I read the book. I was considered extraordinary. After all, this was just promotional material. I thought even promotional material should be accurate. Apparently I was one of few who felt that way. I suspect a great deal of current “critical reviewing” is done using the same inaccurate write-ups from corporate publicists.

I thought then … and still think … that a combination of laziness and an unwillingness to offend The Powers That Be has more influence over reviewers than the quality (or lack thereof) of books and movies. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

Then there’s the politics, about which the less said, the better.

Back to the future … or present

This all leads back to why I remain so disconnected from pop culture. Call me cynical, but I’ve seen too much to trust anything that comes out of a corporate office.

And thus my failure to have a bucket list. If I really wanted to do something, I did it. If I didn’t do it, it was because it wasn’t all that important to me. Today I’m limited by money and health, but when I was younger, I did my own thing. I wanted adventure. A life composed of suburban predictability was much scarier than any risk I could take.

I wanted to live in another culture and I did. It cost me a lot. International moves with 10 year interruptions of career are not fiscally sound life choices, but I wouldn’t trade that “lost” decade for anything. And who’s to say it would have turned out differently anyhow? I bet we wind up where we are supposed to be no matter what we do.

I don’t need to regret what I missed. I know it’s a cliché, but “at least we have memories” isn’t ridiculous or sentimental. It means you’ve lived. You can’t buy a  life you missed. You have to be there, have been there. You had to choose the foolish, unsafe path to get the stuff that money can’t buy.

The whole idea of a bucket list bothers me. How can you codify life on a list? You get opportunities, see forks in the road. People come into your life. You choose to do it or not. If you say no, maybe you’ll get another chance, a different opportunity … but most people never accept any invitation to get off the path, even temporarily. They have lots of good reasons. Money, responsibilities, uncertainty. Fear.

They wind up with bucket lists that are a summary of regrets, an organized statement of missed opportunities, paths not taken. Maybe that’s the sensible way, but I would have hated it. So I don’t have an 11th item on my bucket list. I don’t have a 1st item. I just have a life.

“VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER AWARD” – An honor and a privilege …

Very Inspiring Blogger award

First of all, thank you to Bette Stevens of  4WRITERSANDREADERS who has honored me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

This means a lot to me. As I go about my daily life, paying bills, figuring out how we’re going to get through another month that contains more bills than money, as I watch my family struggle and grope toward solutions … and nobody is the interested in anything I might have to say on the matter … I ponder how the people who know us best are the most likely to ignore us.

Not like this is unusual or rare. It probably wasn’t a new concept when it found its way into the gospels.

Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown: John 4:44. 

I guess it’s not especially surprising if we are taken more seriously by virtual strangers than we are at home, in the bosom of our family. Or at least in the bosom of mine.

It is the great gift of blogging that we can give our best to anyone willing to read our posts. In the semi-anonymity of our cyber lives, we offer everyone the things we love, the things that excite and fascinate us … as well as what we’ve learned, knowledge painfully learned … and hope someone will benefit. I’m sure I’m not the only one who began blogging as a way of sharing with a larger community. Maybe someone can benefit from our mistakes and avoid the missteps that have cost us dearly. Perhaps we’ll make someone laugh, open a window on something beautiful, inspire someone to read a book, take a picture, watch a movie or just think about something they’d otherwise never consider. A single idea, an unexpected image or concept can change a life and a changed life can change the world. We hope. And so, we share.

Inspiration is strange, unpredictable. A book I’m reading, a TV show, blogs, current events, sunlight filtering through leaves, watching snowflakes drift by my window, knowing my car is stuck at the bottom of the driveway until the snow melts. Being grateful we shopped yesterday and didn’t put it off another day. Glad I have a computer and a high-speed connection so I can remain part of the world when just a few decades ago, our age and my disabilities would have condemned me to isolation.

Being told that I’m an inspiration is an inspiration. It means someone hears me. I’m infinitely grateful. It’s a validation and a reward. We all need that, at least sometimes. It keeps us going when so often if feels like we are shouting into an empty space.Guy Williams as Zorro

All of you in my blogging community inspire me. I read your stories. Your pictures make me think about new ways to capture my world. I marvel at the complex lives we’ve lives, the obstacles we overcome, the problems we deal with every day, how strong we are and how amazing it is that we find reasons to rejoice despite hard times and harder choices.

The rules of this award are:

  • Display the award logo on your blog
  • Link back to the person who nominated you.
  • Tell us at least seven things about yourself that you would like to share.
  • Nominate other bloggers for this award and link to them. I am not going to set a specific number. I know how difficult it can be to keep coming up with dozens of new nominees and rather than burden you all with the requirement to find in a single batch quite so many bloggers to whom you have not already passed on a variety of awards, I will suggest that as you find worthy blogs that you would like to honor, that you pass the honor to them and allow them to also pass the honor along as they find honor worthy recipients.
  • Notify your chosen bloggers of their nomination and the award’s requirements.

Seven things about myself are:

  1. I am a born researcher. If something catches my interest, I will keep digging at it until I feel I’ve learned everything I can about it, whether it’s breeds of dogs, building tepees, or medieval history.
  2. My hair started to turn gray when I was 20 and was almost completely great by the time I was 30.
  3. I’ve always had a lot of dogs, cats, ferrets, parrots and occasionally even stranger critters in my world, but love them though I do, I never got to own a horse.
  4. I have a “thing” for masked men and had a massive crush on Zorro when I was a teenage girl.
  5. When I gave up on Zorro, I fell even more passionately in love with Marlon Brando.
    Marlon Brando in a screenshot from the trailer...
  6. My first car was a 1977 Ford Pinto in British Racing Green. I thought it was very hot.
  7. I used to be able to recite the entire family tree of the British Royal Family from Willy the Conqueror to Queen Liz II.  I thought it was quite an achievement, but no one was impressed but me.

My nominees (the envelope please):

Chiquero: Nothing But An Induced Epidemic

A barbaric YAWP across the Web:  A tale of life, love and laughter; sometimes poignant, sometimes funny but always meaningful.

THE WORD ON THE .NET ~ Writer T. James’ Exploration of Words, on the Internet.

Sunday Night Blog:  A WordPress.com site by Rich Paschall

Cowbelly Pet Photography: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Woofs

Top Secret Writers

I know a couple of you are repeat awardees. It is not my fault that I like your stuff. If you would stop inspiring me, writing so well that I feel obliged to improve my work, making me think, laugh, and want to take better pictures, I’d stop giving you awards.

For my friends to whom I’ve already give several awards (you know who you are!) and who live in fear of getting another, well, you will be hearing from me. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. Just because I skipped you this time doesn’t mean I’m not gonna getcha on the next wave! I’ve got a lot of awards to pass along, so you all know who you are. Start collecting nominees … you will need them!

Stay here! Don’t get out of the car! Did you hear me? Stay in the car!

 

Unless you are living on a different planet than I am, you have probably watched a lot of cop shows … first run, rerun, 200th run. There are so many you could watch them 24 hours a day 7 days a week. At one point, I was a  “Law and Order” addict. I needed frequent fixes. I discovered that any time, day or night, there’s a rerun of “Law and Order” playing on some channel … you just have to search.

As it is, Garry and I watch a lot of  cop show reruns and we can recite the dialogue in most reruns of NCIS. It’s not the only stuff we watch, but it is a major component.

If you watch enough of them, eventually you don’t even need to know the plot: you know who the perp is the moment he or she shows up on your screen. You just know. I often wonder if these shows are all a single script, written by someone long ago, then periodically altered slightly as needed for various  episodes of different series.

Our absolutely favorite moment in all of such shows is when one of the cops has someone in the car who isn’t a police officer or other official investigator. Maybe it’s a child or relative of one of the officers (aka, stars) … perhaps a friend, former cop now retired, journalist, or other person who by chance (and script) happens to be there when the star or co-star is called to the scene of a crime. What does he or she say to their ride-along person? They say it (or one of its close variations) every time:  “STAY IN THE CAR!”

It pops out of the mouths of television and movie heroes with alarming frequency. On the NBC TV series “Chuck.”  it was a gag line. On most shows it is real dialogue  and not supposed to be a laugh line … but it is. At least in this house.

One of my favorite versions can be found in the  Last Action Hero (1993):

Cover of "The Last Action Hero"

01:08:06 – Stay in the car. – No way. I’m coming with you.
01:08:11 –  How many times have you heard someone say, “Stay in the car” and the guy doesn’t?
01:08:19 – Good point. I’ll stay in the car.

Subzin.com say the exact phrase “stay in the car” can be been found in 356 phrases from 296 movies. I think they are missing a few thousand instances in a wide variety of TV series. Also, they are not counting variations like “don’t leave the car,” “don’t get out of the car,” and “remain in the car.”  If you include the more generic “stay here” Subzin  finds 20781 phrases from 11645 movies and series which is a lot of instances even if you say it quickly.

Regardless of the situation, whether it’s a 9-alarm fire, gun fight crime scene, being stalked by a serial killer or it’s the Zombie Apocalypse and the undead are gathering to attack: no one stays in the car. Cop, kid, or an extra obviously destined to not survive past the opening credits, no one in film or television history has ever stayed in the car.

In real life, as we stumble through our lives, we get a lot of hints from The Universe that maybe this time, we really should stay in the car. Don’t get involved. Let other people take care of this problem, this episode. Let the cops do what they are paid to do. Someone else can catch this bad guy, report this fire, deal with this crisis. Who stays in the car and who gets out?

I never stay in the car but others do as they are told, careful and mindful of authority. They want to be safe, and believe that following the rules guarantee nothing bad will ever happen. Except that life doesn’t follow a script. Or if it does, you don’t get to read it before you have to play your role.

Aside from the boredom– which alone would be enough to get me out of the car — is you don’t learn much staying in the car. If you never take a chance, you don’t find out how to deal with the unexpected and there’s a lot of unexpected in everybody’s life, no matter how safe you try to play it. If you never venture out of your comfort zone, when things get crazy, you’re going to have a really rough time figuring out how to take care of yourself … or anyone else. I’m not talking about manual skills like CPR or self-defense. I mean emotional skills, the ability to keep it together when what you really want to do is start screaming and not stop until it’s over, whatever “it” is.

For all the times I’ve been told to stay in the car then promptly jumped into the fray,  against all logic and common sense, I’m glad I did it. Life’s too short and the ride from start to finish is too bumpy to sit on the sidelines. Who knows whether there will even be a car to stay in when I want to hide? No way am I staying in the car when all the interesting stuff’s going on somewhere else.