Column Classic: The Off Switch

by Lisa Scottoline

Do you remember a commercial that used to say, “Reach out and touch someone?”

If you do, you may also recall that the product they were advertising was a telephone.

Because back in the day, people needed to be encouraged to use the phone.

Let’s pause for a moment of silence.

Not necessarily to mourn, but to consider how times have changed.

Because these days, you have to encourage people not to use the telephone. In fact, you have to beg them not to use the phone. You have to put up signs in hallways so that they won’t use the phone, and you have to designate special railroad cars so they won’t use the phone, and you have to pass laws so they won’t use the phone while they’re driving, because everybody uses the phone all the time, twenty-four seven, nonstop.

In other words, we’re reaching out.

But we’re not touching anybody.

We’re too busy on the phone.

We have priorities.

We’re also watching TV all the time. 

Do you remember when you used to have a wait a week for your favorite show to come on? The commercials called it “appointment television” and they encouraged you to “make an appointment” with your television to see your show.

Between you and me, it wasn’t that hard an appointment to get.

Try and see my gynecologist.

Next year.

But to stay on point, somewhere along the line, the appointment book got thrown out the window. And we started watching TV all the time, one show after the other, all the time, twenty-four seven, nonstop.

I do it, too. 

Last night, I was watching a new television show, and as soon as it finished, a commercial came on saying that I could get the second episode right away.

But it was already midnight, and I should have been asleep by eleven.

I pressed the On button and started watching.

I watched the whole entire second episode, half-asleep and half awake, so that not only am I tired today, I didn’t even see the stupid show.

I cannot be trusted with a TV in my room.

I’ve done the same thing when I watch shows on Netflix, where you don’t even have to press the On button to watch the next episode, thus eliminating that single volitional act, that tiny moment when you have a choice about watching another episode or returning to your life.


Plus, I have been known to combine these nonstop activities, and undoubtedly so have many of you, so that you can be watching your 303rd episode of The Whatever Show, while you’re texting nonstop on the phone or cruising Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter nonstop.

When was the last time you were on the phone with somebody and you suspected they were scrolling through their phone during the conversation?


When was the last time you were barely listening to somebody while you were on the phone with them, because you were scrolling through your phone during the conversation?

Okay, guilty.

On both counts.

Anyway it’s very clear what the problem is here.

It’s not our fault.

It’s never our fault.

You could’ve guessed I would say that, if you have read me before.

I never blame me, or you.

This is a place where you can come, and I will reliably tell you how to solve problems in your life without changing anything you do.

Leave the diets and exercise to everyone else.

This is the true judgment-free zone, and all that we need is an Off Switch.

That’s the solution, right there.

If the television manufacturers would start making televisions with a big red Off Switch right in front, we would have a fighting chance.

It’s their fault.

In fact, the other day, I couldn’t find my remote, so I went to the television to turn it off and I couldn’t even find the Off Switch.  I spent fifteen minutes looking for the Off Switch on the front of the TV, then ran my fingers along its sides, feeling up my TV.

The TV enjoyed every minute.

This is what I’m telling you, it’s TV manufacturers conspiring with TVs to get felt up.

With the phones, it’s easy to turn off the phone, but that’s part of the conspiracy.

Here’s how it works:

The phone turns itself off, in that the calls “drop” all the time.

And what happens every time a phone call drops?

We become frenzied and call back instantly.

You could’ve been ending a phone conversation with somebody, but if the call gets dropped, you’re going to call back instantly and spend even more time on the phone.

See, another conspiracy!

More shenanigans with the Off Switch.

Sometimes they don’t give us one, and sometimes they work in mysterious ways.

It’s just not our fault.

Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2015