Mark Sherman: DVR world

Mark-Sherman SQUAREI am not a big fan of modern technology. I don’t know, call me old-fashioned, but when I see a couple at a restaurant spending more time on their iPhones than they are talking with each other, it’s not what I’d call a romantic evening. (Why, I ask myself, are they spending $80 to $90 to sit there talking or texting on their phones?) But what do I know? When my wife and I got our first microwave around 2008, one of my sons said, “Welcome to the 20th century, Dad.”

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I’m not on Facebook and I have never texted.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

However, through the generosity of my three wonderful sons, for my 70th birthday I received a new television — with HD! — and a fancy new DVD player. Since I now possessed such a delightful media center (though I know that at 32 inches our TV screen is pathetically small — even though it’s a lot bigger than the 22-incher we had), I figured I’d might as well get a DVR. For those who don’t know, that stands for Digital Video Recorder, and was the replacement for my Civil War era VCR (video cassette recorder).


I love using my DVR! It is so easy to record things, including the football game I’m going to miss because my wife and I are going out to dinner — where we actually talk to each other and don’t send or receive texts. But I have to come to realize that one of the problems with DVRing, especially as regards sports events, is that you never know who is watching the game in real time and who has DVRed it. And you can be pretty sure the latter doesn’t want to know what happened before they’ve had a chance to watch.

I guess a similar phenomenon exists for television series such as “Breaking Bad,” where someone might have DVRed the finale and doesn’t want anyone to tell her how things ultimately turned out. (As regards “B.B.,” I’m so out of it that I have never seen one episode.)

As for sports, I have had the experience more than once of telling a fellow fan what happened in a Giants football game, only to find them really angry with me because they’d DVRed it and had been looking forward all day long to watching. Of course, when you know that the Giants lost (and thus far this season that is all they have done!), it’s hard not to tell someone who hasn’t yet watched the game, especially when it’s someone you love — like your son. As parents, we want to spare our children pain. So if I know one of my sons hasn’t seen the game, and I have, and the Giants lost 38-0, how can I not let him know beforehand that watching it will be the sports equivalent of root canal?

So once again modern technology has led us into social dilemmas that we never had to face before. Here we are, with our just-better-than-Neanderthal brains, trying to cope with a world that makes science fiction seem like ancient history. I guess we have to develop a whole new etiquette for phone calls, not to mention e-mails and texts. We even have to be careful about revealing stuff we’ve seen on TV when we use that silly and primitive behavior called talking face-to-face.

But for the moment, let’s just stay with phone calls. From now on, as the caller, if you have DVRed something and don’t want the other person to tell you anything about it, you must start the conversation with “Don’t tell me about the Giant game.” Or “I haven’t watched the latest ‘Game of Thrones,’ so don’t talk about it.” As the callee, you must realize that the caller could have forgotten to tell you what he’s DVRed; so your responsibility in today’s world is to assume that the person calling you hasn’t watched anything in real time, but rather has recorded everything. Therefore, it’s just plain common courtesy as soon as the caller responds to your hello, to say immediately — before even saying, “How are you?” — “Have you DVRed anything?”

Actually, if you’re a Giant fan this season, what can you do? If a friend calls you, and he hears you crying, he’s going to ask what’s wrong; and what are you supposed to do, lie? Are you supposed to tell him a relative died, when in reality it’s your dreams of another Super Bowl that have?

As for etiquette when texting or on Facebook, don’t ask me. Yes, I’ve given myself over to my DVR, but that’s such a good relationship, relatively speaking. It never buzzes me at a restaurant or tells me how wonderful things are in everyone else’s life. How could our society possibly have gotten along without this stuff?!