Went to Best Buy this morning to get an XM receiver for a home theater system. What? You say. Those words make no sense, strung together thus. Speak English. I repeat: an XM receiver for a home theater system. The new receiver is XM Ready, which means it will accept satellite input if you hook up a small dealybob. They’re cheap, and I got a BestBuy gift card for Christmas, so it was time to  assemble all the parts.

I wandered around the store looking for the proper aisle, but couldn’t locate what I wanted. A Blueshirt came over and asked if he could help me. I said in a clear distinct voice:

"I want an XM radio receiver for a home theater system."

“What?” he said.

I paused, thinking I’d just said “Gort fizbin jorgo klumnutz gazebo,” felt the side of my face for the tell-tale droopyness that indicates a stroke, which would make my speech blurred and slurry; finding no indication of neurological trauma, I repeated myself.

"I want an XM radio receiver for a home theater system."

“Oh,” he said. He walked me over to Auto Stereo, where another blueshirt was finishing up with a customer.

“He wants an XM receiver,” BS #1 said to BS #2.

“For a home theater system,” I added.

Blueshirt #2 said okay to BS #1 and then asked me what I needed.

“I want an XM radio receiver for a home theater system,” I said. He looked confused. “I have a receiver that says ‘XM ready,’” I elaborated, “and that means I need an XM unit to grab the signal and pass it along to the receiver. The brand name for XM is ‘Passport,’ I think. There’s a charging cradle, the receiver, and an antennae.”

“Ummm . . . “ BS#2 looked at the rack of products. “I get people who say their car has XM, you know, they just bought it . . . but they need this?” He handed me an in-dash unit that said AUTO on the box.

“Actually, it’s for a home theater system,” I said. Ninth time’s the charm. I realized that the mysteries of home theater satellite radio interfaces must be a closely guarded secret, held only by the vestal dudes over in Plasmaland. Hold on: right next to the unit he’d given me was an item that said XM HOME RECEIVER. I picked it up.   Charging cradle, the receiver, and an antennae. “This will do!” I smiled. “Thanks.”

“Uh -  sure!”

I walked away and headed over to Plasmaland, where they usually knew what they were talking about. I found my receiver, then waited for a Blueshirt to wander over. BS#3 appeared after a minute, and asked if he could help.

“I have this receiver,” I said, “or a recent variant. It’s XM ready. Is this the device I need?”

He nodded. Didn’t say yes. Didn’t say no.

I showed him the box, which had a small device with a screen showing track and station information. “Is this how I change the channel? With this? Does 'XM ready' just mean it has an input, and you can’t select stations from the main receiver?”

“That’s right,” he said.

“So you can’t use the receiver remote to change stations.”


“Okay, thanks.” Thus edified, I checked out and went home, where I examined the package again: the small device with the screen was not actually included. I checked the main receiver’s manual: six pages about controlling the XM feed with the remote.

I’ve had days at BestBuy where everyone knew everything. This was not one of them.

Wrote three columns today, after which my desire to write anything else was rather low. So I knocked out a fun little Diner for tomorrow. When I went downstairs to get some fine, fine Australian wine I noticed a stack of CD-ROM games on the counter. Gnat had chosen the cast-offs to give to her younger cousin. I browsed through the discs. Each one, a stab in the heart. She doesn’t play them anymore, and I can’t blame her; they’re kiddy stuff, and she’s moved way beyond them. But these were the soundtracks of the morning, years ago. (Years? Oy, yes. Years.) Each game had a distinct  musical score, and I would hear these melodies at 10 AM as I cleaned or fixed a column or read the latest grim news or made the daily internet rounds.

Nothing sums up the gentle placid world of Pooh like this interstitial bit, from “Winnie the Pooh Preschool.” (C. now-and-forever by Disney Interactive, used here for review purposes, and come ‘n’ get me copper.)

It was a sweet game, and I always noted how the plummy-voiced narrator pronounced blue: Baloo.  One more syllable than necessary, perhaps. Then there was Mr. Potato Head’s Treehouse Adventure, which was the main musical motif in the house during the runup to the second Iraq War:

I played that for Gnat tonight, and she lit up. I also played her the Pooh piece, and she said “Baloo,” grinning. We’d made a joke of that.

Then there’s the Busytown score, which was like having someone pound a railroad spike in your head with a jackhammer. Imagine this playing on an unintended computer for an hour:

Poor Jasper. I’m sure we left the house a few times with that thing playing.

I asked her how she decided which games should go, and she said they were the old ones that were kinda boring now. We talked about the parts she’d liked – the sandwich shop in the Busytown game, painting cars in the Mickey Mouse preschool. I whistled the theme, which is stamped eternally in my neurons:

“Oh yeah!” she said. She brightened. “Good times. Good times.”

She’ll forget them, but I won’t. I loaded up the discs tonight, extracted some songs, made some screen shots, and printed them off for the family archives. Then I put the discs back in the envelope and left them on the counter so my wife can hand them off tomorrow. Gnat didn’t care, but I tend to side with Mr. Potato Head:

If you have to ask, pal, it’s way past time. And that reminded me: we used to have this Mr. Potato Head set; played with it every other day. It always kept the closet door from closing securely, and tended to split open and dump out Head parts. Long gone; I have no idea where it went. I wonder which day saw the last time we played with it.

It’s a good thing childrearing has some many Firsts; takes your mind off the endless little Lasts.

And what would your mood be then?