The remote control was sitting on the dirt next to the sidewalk. I thought about stopping to pick it up. Then I considered where I might put it after I had picked it up. It was laying on what passed for the front yard of a house on a busy street in Oakland. I couldn't immediately imagine a use for it out there. It was a dual remote, one that could run a VCR and a TV without having to leave the couch. Now it had gone missing.
Did it get thrown out the window in a fit of pique? Did the owner of this device become dissatisfied with its performance? Maybe it just needed new batteries. In those seconds that I looked at it there on the ground, it was impossible to tell from my vantage point. It could have been that the family had purchased a new television and DVD player for Father's Day. That made this remote control expendable.
After all those years of service: kids' movies, tapes of family gatherings, all those favorites on VHS. The pause button that gave them all a chance to catch their breath when things got a little too scary in the Temple of Doom. The mute button that gave them a chance to hear the phone ring with news from grandma who was finally coming to visit. The kindness of the rewind button. The relative impatience of the fast forward button. On. And off. That pretty much told the made up story of this chunk of plastic that seemed so carelessly discarded.
Maybe someone was looking for it. How could they enjoy their favorite shows? Would they resort from walking across the living room to interact with their technology in a more dated and intimate fashion? What if there was a multimedia crisis going on in the house, just a few steps away from where I was standing?
What if this remote control had ceased to be useful for its owners for months, maybe even years? What if it was trash? I had now officially given this piece of machinery exponentially more thought than any of the remote controls in my own home.
But I did wonder if it would be there when I came back.