My Television Froze by
(40 Stories)

Prompted By Group Photos

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On Saturday morning I awoke clear-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to write something in response to this week’s GROUP PHOTOS prompt.  But I was distracted from writing by a series of aggravating and delaying techno snags: 


On Saturday morning I awoke clear-eyed and bushy-tailed, eager to write something in response to this week’s GROUP PHOTOS prompt.  But I was distracted from writing by a series of aggravating and delaying techno snags. 



My television froze I called Xfinity (my cable carrier), and after a slog through their computer’s proffered options (which steadfastly diverted me from the availability of a human customer service intervention), I ok’d a computer-generated re-boot, which (to my amazement) seemed to work.


I hate being diverted from human customer service representatives, whom I like to yell at.


Last week I signed up for ESPN+ on my I-phone (for about $7.00/month, in order to watch the Tom Brady docudrama “Man in the Arena”, and other important sports stuff). This morning I couldn’t find ESPN+ on my phone dashboard.


I found it.  It’s embedded in the ESPN regular app, if you know where to look for it, if you are patient. I’m not patient.
After I found ESPN+ on my phone, I tried to move it onto my television screen (recently unfrozen by the re-boot). Impossible (I found instructions on how to do it, but they went way beyond my brain capacity.  I don’t do well with tech instructions, or any instructions for that matter).


I feel old and incompetent.
I downloaded the new Apple update (IOS 15.2.1) on my I-phone.  Apple wouldn’t let me complete the update unless I accepted Siri. I don’t want Siri. By luck, I was at the Chestnut Hill Mall (picking up my new warm winter pants at Bloomingdales; they were ready for pick-up a month ago; I figured I should pick them up before May).  There is an Apple Store at the Mall.  I walked in.  The Apple helper talked me through my problem.  It turns out that I can’t stop Siri from seeking to intrude and control (which I guess is part of Siri’s masterplan), but I was able to defer her intrusion until later (whenever that is).


Why should I have to have to accept Siri hovering over my shoulder all the time?  Siri feels like the evolution to “no need for fingers” (like dependance upon Hal in “2001 A Space Odyssey”).  Although, upon reflection, my guess is that Siri could have found ESPN+ for me no sweat, and probably could have zipped it onto my television.  Maybe I need Siri after all.
I sent an email to multiple people, with a photo attachment.  It showed that it had been sent, but did not appear in my in-box as received by me (all of my emails are programmed to include me as a bcc). I worried that it was lost in the ether. Did I have to re-send?


After prolonged examination, I realized that my sent email did not include me as a bcc.  Why? A mystery. Note to brain:  please confirm that I am shown as a bcc if I want to receive a bcc copy of an email.
[Bonus tech-related snafus: two recent automatic renewal disputes, one with Sirius XM, one with Survey Monkey] [Long telephone waits for a representative, long tense telephone talks, multiple requests to speak to “your supervisor” or to the “person in charge of customer relations” or to “anyone else.”

With Sirius XM the deal point in renewing at my old price was to say, “No, I don’t want Howard Stern.”

With Survey Monkey the deal point was to find and produce the email establishing that the automatically renewing contract was terminated.]


[I don’t think these automatic renewal disputes are good for my blood pressure.]

Which leads me to my thoughts about the GROUP PHOTOS hanging on my walls, and piled into boxes, drawers, and albums, of my immediate family, and of parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins and other relations going backward in time to include people I never knew and can’t identify, of formal events, and passing moments, at the beach, at the dinner table, with stiff smiles and glowing smiles, and all except for the pics I have snapped with my I-phone over the last few years and are at my fingertips, receding into a world gone by, reminding me (as if I need reminding) that the past is past and is prologue to the future when my I-phone pics will themselves recede into a world gone by.

Yes, I love many of the old ones, but in general they make me sad.  In this recitation, the time I allotted to dwell on them, look deep into the eyes of, get sad because of, has to my relief zipped by as I grappled with my techno snags.  There goes the buzzer.


Profile photo of jonathancanter jonathancanter
Here is what I said about myself on the back page of my 2020 humor/drama/politico novel "The Debutante (and the Bomb Factory)" (edited here, for clarity):

"Jonathan Canter Is a retIred attorney; widower; devoted father and grandfather (sounds like my obit); lifelong resident of Greater Boston; graduate of Harvard College (where he was an editor of The Harvard Lampoon); fan of waves and wolves; sporadic writer of dry and sometimes dark humor (see "Lucky Leonardo" (Sourcebooks, 2004), funny to the edge of tears); gamesman (see "A Crapshooter’s Companion"(2019), existential thriller and life manual); and part-time student of various ephemeral things."

The Deb and Lucky are available on Amazon. The Crapshooter is available by request to the author in exchange for a dinner invitation.

Characterizations: funny, moving, well written


  1. Marian says:

    Jon, I empathize with your techno-travails and wish you the best. At least my old group photos show real carbon-based life forms instead of silicon-based images. Now wish me luck for tomorrow: Xfinity is replacing all the fiber optic cable in our neighborhood and will take our phones, TV, and internet down at some point for who knows how long? What are the chances everything will come back without a hitch?

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Tech problems–you have lots of company there! Sometimes it is hard to know whether remembering people and times gone by means anything, as it all fades away. But as Retrospect has shown me, there is still insight and new appreciation in thinking back over all that has brought us here.

  3. Suzy says:

    Now that the allotted time to dwell on, look at, get sad because of has passed, it would be great if you took your phone and snapped a pic of one of the group photos hanging on your wall, perhaps the one that makes you least sad, and made it your featured image instead of the image that is there now, which isn’t a group of anything.

    • Yes, you are of course correct. The pic I picked is not a group of my deceased relatives, or otherwise associated with familial bonds and affections. It is an example of the pics I take these days, featuring the horizontal lines of sea grass, beach, ocean, horizon and sky; a non-human grouping, arguably with some resonance, arguably with some strength of character, arguably a family of its own nature and dimensions, and a source of comfort, cold comfort to be sure. If this pic does not fit the traditional or expected mold for a group photo, I hope it will not ruffle, and that it will be deemed just an alternative perspective.

  4. Poor Jonathan, sounds like tech is getting the better of you!

    I solve all my tech problems by calling our wonderful tech guy – he screen-shares, and altho he charges a goodly hourly fee, it’s well worth it for the time and aggravation saved. And if you can live without Siri, you can do what I did – go to Settings and turn her the hell off!

  5. Suzy, upon further retrospection I acknowledge some passive aggression in my selection of a non-human group photo in my response to this prompt. Overt sentimentality, and wistful nostalgia (which is how I perceived the intended direction of the prompt) tend to provoke my nerve endings. I gasped for fresh ocean air, and a limitless horizon (an escape from my grandmother’s stuffy, darkening parlor, for example). I delayed stepping into it with my techno prologue.

  6. Love the groupings of dune grass in your featured photo, Jonathan! They sadden me, however. Their time of greenery under the summer sun has passed and they remain, mere husks of their former selves. Oh, woe!

  7. Laurie Levy says:

    I loved your techno rant, Jon. I also tried to get rid of Siri because she kept popping up on my phone when I was trying to do something else. After I turned her off, I couldn’t get the flashlight to work. Turned her back on and just asked. Voila! When anything technical freezes in our house, we just unplug it and plug it back in. 99% of the time, it works. Even worked on my computer, although I have been told it’s not good to do this. Same with my phone. Turn it off and back on. Wish I had a plug for my brain some days.

    • Siri is a wily and resilient foe. She won’t take “no” for an answer, rather she is programmed (by the best programmers money can buy) to make tactical pauses while she plans her next assault. I am sure she will prevail, and that I will become as dependent upon her as I have become upon the other wondrous features of my I-phone (she reminds me of the insidious invasive vine which creeps under my back yard soil, rising to choke my hydrangeas, impervious to my vain and foolish efforts to weed her out).

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Oh Jon, I understand your rant completely. Here’s one for you. I never got a notice from Retrospect that you or Dale had posted new stories (I follow both of you and should be notified). And I’ve been on Retro recently, editing upcoming stories. So I’m baffled by that tech snafu. I assure you, I wasn’t ignoring you. By the way, I live less than a mile from the Chestnut Hill Mall, if you want to meet up sometime. I drive through there often to get across Rte 9 to my club (Equinox).

    I also HATE that I it takes forever to actually talk to a human these days and then the person invariably is overseas with a heavy accent and is almost impossible to understand. Yesterday I was notified that a Substack column I subscribed to last year would be automatically renewed in 6 days! It was not as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be and I did not care to renew it (I could still read it free; the only thing to pay for was the ability to comment, read the comments and on Friday he does a Zoom interview with someone “interesting”; I never partake of that either, so definitely not worth my money). So I clicked on the link, but it just took me to terms and conditions, nothing about MY account. I responded to the email, got back an email saying that wasn’t a monitored email, but gave a link to one that was. I responded to that, gave the name of site that I wanted to discontinue, my email, the reasons I just enumerated and got back a very pleasant email confirming that my subscription would be cancelled (I never knew it was auto-renewal in the first place). Persistence does pay off.

    I rather like your grouping of seagrass, particularly as it is bitter cold here with that nor’easter on the way. So looking at the blue horizon was a treat this morning (of course, the sky is quite blue, it’s just bitter cold out right now, as you know).

    My iPhone updated a few nights ago too. I am usually not a big fan of what transpires during an update, but I don’t mind Siri. I almost never use it, but it doesn’t get in my way.

    However, unlike you, I love all my family photos from ages ago. I cherish them, for the history they tell about my family. I pared them down to something manageable and didn’t use much text with my story this week, just photos, dating back to the 1880s. So I did go back to those musty old photos. I love ’em!

  9. Betsy,
    Yes, Bloomingdale’s, the Apple Store, your (high end) Equinox gym, the Bagel Table (where I got my morning bagels 🥯), Davio’s (my current favorite restaurant) the Sunoco gas station ⛽️ on Rte 9, the stores on The Street where the old Franklin Simon, Best & Co, and Stearns department stores used to be in the 1950s, when my grandmother would take me to Hammond Pond to feed the ducks ( a not photographed memory), the Star Market at the corner of Hammond and Rte 9 which has been there (in one incarnation or another) since the beginning, the olde Cricket 🦗 Club across from the Star where they used to stage the national amateur tournaments (a beer 🍺 on a warm afternoon, watching the tennis, was not half bad), the olde Chestnut Hill post office (with its wishful mural of peace and sharing between the invasive Pilgrims and the pre-existing inhabitants), and all the other new and trendy places, and monuments and relics of the shifting times, in this neck of my lifelong woods.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      We have lived here 35 years, so the post office and Star Market are well-ingrained, but not all the other lovely stores you mention. I’ve only been to Davios a few time, but we are discussing going (we go to Legal Seafoods often). You know the area well. Thank you for taking me back before I lived here to Best & Co, Stearns, etc. Wonderful.

  10. Susan Bennet says:

    Jonathan, this is HILARIOUS and so well done. Please keep them coming.

    I wonder if the others noticed your mention of the Tom Brady docu? I am outraged that anyone would refer to TB as a Man in the Arena. That’s always to be reserved for TR. Bully!

    • Thank you, Susan. Note, TB at the outset of his docudrama (which is red meat for carnivorous TB fans, although I lost my appetite for him when he left town) gave credit to TR for the title. I understand that revisionist historians are now chipping away at the foundation of the TR legend.

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