The new Apple TV has a new feature that I’m sure lots of normal people would be interested in using but it only makes me more anxious. Or maybe I’m the normal person and all the rest of these freaks are the weird ones for talking to their televisions?
For starters, the whole remote experience is different. Where you once had a choice between three buttons, you now have a totally over-sensitive track pad, which is also a giant button. I’m so serious about this stupid track pad. If you so much as look at it, it pauses your movie or starts running it backwards at a seizure-inducing speed or just smugly turns the whole shebang off and drops you back into normal TV with a shudder, like oh fine are you happy now? Now nobody can watch HBO GO! The other buttons are the old Menu button that gets you in and out of apps, and the play/pause button, without which we’d all be stuck. I don’t have any fucking idea what that button with the little TV icon is for. I also don’t know why I need volume control when I already have it on the TV remote, but okay.
The offending and most confusing button is the one with the microphone. You’re supposed to talk to your Apple TV now, as if that’s just the most normal progression of technology in the world. I feel like a crotchety old lady about this stuff, but I’m going to resist this movement because I’ll be damned if I’m ever going to get caught standing in my kitchen, screaming MAKE TOAST MAKE TOAST at the toaster while it says “Here is what I found for baked roasts.” So now there’s this button smack dab in between the two classic and most oft-used buttons, and I press it accidentally all the time and before I realize what’s happening, the screen has gone black and a terrifying little message comes up that says LISTENING… and I’m just supposed to be okay with that.
You’re supposed to take advantage of this and become even more lazy and thoughtless about your television consumption. Or maybe it’s supposed to streamline your iTunes purchases and Netflix viewing? I don’t know. You’re supposed to say stuff like “Val Kilmer” or “Movies with a strong female lead” or maybe “Movies with Val Kilmer dressed as a female” and it’s supposed to think about it and get back to you and tell you to watch Willow for the 3,000th time. I’d like it to stop listening to snippets of my conversations when I accidentally hit the button and telling me to watch Guy Ritchie movies. So I have made a list of things to ask it.
Things I want to ask the Apple TV:
I like movies. Do you like movies?
Can you find me two things on Netflix that are not total crap?
Find me a movie in which the weather is what it will be like here tomorrow.
Did Steve Jobs tell you any secrets before he died?
Is Steve Jobs telling you secrets now?
Why do you keep suggesting that I watch the movie “Ouija”?
Is the movie “Ouija” about Steve Jobs?
You are listening to me at night, aren’t you?
When I was in junior high, I spent a week out of every summer at the Southern Illinois Christian Service Camp, “Where God and a Good Time Go Together.” As I recall, what we did there really didn’t have much to do with service, but okay. I just remember being super excited about being there because we got to go swimming every day and we stayed up late at night and those things alone were worth putting up with the endless barrage of Jesus crap they made us eat. I mean seriously, it was God o’clock all the tiiiiime in that shit hole. And it was a shit hole, one year I was putting my sister’s New Kids on the Block sheets on my wafer-thin plastic mattress, and when I lifted it up, there was a pile of sand and a calcified white hermit crab claw under it, as if some poor unfortunate crab had been forced to chew its own claw off to escape the place. The bathrooms smelled like sewers and the shower walls were moldy, mold upon mold upon years of mold, so it was like showering in a greasy cave.
The kids there thought I was funny but otherwise did not take me seriously. I never had a Camp Boyfriend and it seemed like everyone else did. I didn’t wear makeup and I didn’t know how to do my hair and my only Cute Outfit was a pink and white striped t-shirt tucked into white drawstring shorts that I pulled up to my neck. I didn’t wear a bra yet because I had no boobs and I was pretty sure you waited until you had tits to strap them down. But according to the girls at camp, you wore one because you were supPOSED to wear one, because how else will anyone know you’re a girl and want to date you? They were so right, with their French braids and Eastland shoes and bras. Having struck out hard core with the dudes at home, who thought I was weird, and then believing I could be totally different with a new group of kids a few hours away but falling flat on my face there, too, I realized that I would just have to deal with the fact that I was perpetually a weirdo and did not fit into any social groups. I was okay with being the funny kid, but I vowed to study what the others did that made them so successful with one another. Boys did sports stuff and said dumb things to make people laugh, and girls were mostly quiet and did their hair really good. I learned this by following around the established couples and taking pictures of them, which I would develop and study later, which was, admittedly, a bit weird, so maybe that’s why most of the kids and adults there thought I was a creep. It could also have something to do with the fact that one summer I found a pair of perfectly good Airwalks that someone had thrown over a power line and spent hours throwing rocks at them until they unraveled and fell, then wore them around even though they were two sizes too big for me because having nice shoes is one of the main things you have to do if you want a junior high boy to hold hands with you. So basically I was a church camp kid (strike 1) shuffling around in gigantic power line shoes (strike 2) taking clandestine photographs of prepubescent lovebirds and studying their hairstyles and mannerisms (I’m out. Fine! Okay.).
(Now that I’m remembering all of this, I’m realizing I should have been nicer to the fat kid at school who told all of us one day that he had a girlfriend but we’d never meet her because she lived in North Dakota and her horse training job kept her too busy to visit. I should probably have recognized that he and I were mired in the same pit of total middle school despair and been kinder to him, or maybe I could have laughed a bit quieter, or not at all, but really I didn’t want to think that he and I were anywhere near one another on the spectrum. Because he was near the garbage end, in constant threat of being shot out the sphincter and joked about for the rest of his life, and I, having considered the old Fake Boyfriend storyline many times before, was by proxy only a hair’s breadth away from the same fate. I guess that’s why everyone is such a fucking asshole in school, though: everyone identifies with everyone else’s struggles, and it’s just too scary to think about so you say something mean and feel a little better? I’ll never be like you because I’m laughing at you! AHHAHAHAHHAHA cryinnnng.)
OK but anyway, Jesus Camp. It was really just a microcosm of the school experience, but God Was Watching All The Time so everyone had to be nice at least on a phony level. Like the really nice girl who came up to me at the pool and very nicely pointed out that I should start “shaving, you know, down there” because we were at the age where we were starting to get hairy and “you’re a little bit hairy now so you’re only going to get MORE hairy and I’m just letting you know because everyone is laughing” and everyone was laughing because now everyone was specifically looking for my crotch fluff at the most secret edges of my teal one-piece Wal-Mart bathing suit with the scuffed-up butt. Anyway, she said it really loud because she wanted to make sure God could hear her being so nice to me. It was a lot of stuff like this, interrupted every few minutes by a chapel bell ringing, meaning we all had to run to church and watch videos about Jesus or listen to a preacher talk about how touching each other was “Playing with FIYAHHHH” or watch skits about how to be friends with each other. There were these little classes we had to take during the hottest part of the day, where we sat wilting under shitty little awnings, listening to stories about Jesus and doing activities that were supposedly sanctioned by Him but conveniently came out of little workbooks that the camp counselors read from. You were supposed to be part of a giant group prayer about every five minutes. Every night, we suffered through Cabin Devotionals, which were just about the worst thing ever, because the best part about church camp was staying up late in the dark and not having any adults around to tell you what to do. But before you could do that, you had to sit in a circle on the floor and the counselor would tell you God stuff you were supposed to think about.
One year, our cabin counselor was a lady with one leg. Leigh Anne had that crinkly yellow 80’s hair that always looked wet with bangs that looked like some kind of scouring pad stapled to her forehead. She usually wore a prosthetic leg with a white New Balance shoe attached to the bottom of it, walking with a single crutch on that side to help her along. Sometimes, she went without the leg and zoomed across camp on two crutches, the empty flap of her shorts dangling loose on one side. Leigh Anne was nice, but she scared me because she had one leg and I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to talk about it or not.
The leg was nice, I guess, but definitely not a top-of-the-line model, as far as prostheses go. It looked like it was made out of the same material as those stretchy ankle bandages you wrap around an appendage when it’s sore but not broken. It was the same color of No. 2 pencil eraser, too. It was always a little bit dirty and it smelled kind of bad from the stump sweat and it sometimes had one of those scrunchy ribbed socks on it, the kind that you pull up then push down like some kind of poofy ankle decoration. Sorry to linger on the smell, because I know these things can’t be helped, but the thing definitely counted as a stanky leg.
One night during Cabin Devotionals, Leigh Anne lowered herself to the floor by sitting on a bunk and then scooting herself over to the circle on her butt. Her sweaty stump stuck out from under her nightgown and I was so glad when she sat far away from me, on the other side of the circle. Of course, that treated me to a view of the stump, but it was better than having the stump brush against my arm or being able to smell the dank air coming from her crotch, where the prosthetic had been situated all day in the 100 degree heat. As the leg looked on from its post, leaned up against some poor unfortunate soul’s bunk across the room, Leigh Anne shared with us the sad tale of losing her leg to cancer when she was in high school. She’d done a cheerleading stunt and landed on the leg, breaking it. The doctors found the cancer in her leg bone and amputated the leg and God and Jesus and “now I’m super happy to be here serving Him!” If you had asked me, which no one did, Leigh Anne got a shitty fucking deal. I’m pretty sure everyone else thought that, too, thereby missing the point of the devotional, but most girls were hung up on the whole “I used to be a cheerleader” thing because when you’re in middle school, that’s still a viable life goal and solid career path so the idea that there were such things as former cheerleaders, and through no fault of their own, now that was just too much to handle.
On the last night of camp, there was usually a scavenger hunt. We ran around in the dark with flashlights, screaming at nothing. My team had some clue about getting children to school, so OF COURSE we had to venture out to the old broken down school bus sitting at the edge of the property (doesn’t every church camp have one of those?) and look inside. We drew this creepy moment out longer than we had to by following the suggestion that maybe whatever we were looking for would be outside the bus, in the grass, maybe? So we shined our flashlights all around the bus, behind the flat, cracking tires, in the tamped-down weeds, but realized we’d have to look inside. So we reached up and yanked back the screechy bus door and climbed inside. I remember walking down the aisle of the bus, flashlight beams shooting around in all directions, when one of the girls near the front of the line screamed and ran out, quickly followed by the rest of us, but not before we’d all had a chance to lay eyes on it. There, in the last seat on the bus, by the exit door, was Leigh Anne’s stanky leg, foot on the floor and bent at the knee, as if some legless person had been sitting there when the rapture happened. You’re not going to sit here and tell me that rapture mindfuck wasn’t intentional. You could practically hear one-legged Leigh Anne cackling from some dark room where they’d hidden her during the scavenger hunt.
What was my big fear about the rapture anyway? Loneliness? A lake of fire? Maybe I wasn’t afraid of it, after all, because they never scared me bad enough to make me one of the kids who broke down crying and allowed themselves to be baptized in a giant tub in the chapel after dinner. Maybe I realized that earth after all these assholes would be slightly better than the assholey place it was at the time. You could wear whatever you wanted to the pool and have all the blow-up pool toys to yourself. You could break into the canteen and eat all the Whatchamacallits and WHO’S GONNA SAY SHIT? There won’t even be anyone left to punch your canteen card and keep track of what you owed. Boom. Sold! Later, y’all, have fun in heaven.
So, the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen was a prosthetic leg on a broken-down bus in the dark. These are the kinds of horrors reserved for your children at Christian church camps. In Jesus’ name, Amen.