The Case of
The Disappearing Video
Well, the little grey cells are abandoning their posts on all sides. At one time, I could notice them going out of action one at a time: a faint voice would intone "This is neuron Number 6,498,205,311 SIGNING OFF", then there would be the national anthem followed by dead air. But lately they really have been rushing for the exits.

For relaxation, I recently rented the video of an old B & W movie --- Orson Welles' 1946 The Stranger, a classic, noir favorite of film buffs. After watching it, I naturally pressed the REWIND button on my remote control: nothing happened. Then I pressed the STOP button: nothing again. So I went to the VCR console itself, and pressed STOP right on the console, in case the remote wasn't working: again nothing happened. When I pressed EJECT on the console, nothing was ejected. Apparently, the machine had frozen up with the rental film, due back in two days, inside. How was I to return it? I was beside myself. Would I have to call a TV repairman to come to the house?

I called my friend Leslie who had in fact given me the elderly VCR. She had not run into this kind of trouble with the machine, and could only suggest that I open the little door and try to pry the casette out by hand, or by screwdriver, reminding me that a VCR would now be very cheap to replace. So, I opened the little door, and peered into the opening under the light of my brightest searchlight. I couldn't detect any videotape at all. Apparently, it had somehow been swallowed deep into the machine's innards, so that it was no longer visible.

Next morning, I telephoned the video rental store and explained my predicament. Could I, I asked the clerk, disconnect my VCR and bring it over to him, in the hopes that someone there might know how to extract the swallowed videotape somewhere in its innards? Maybe, he replied, although we've never heard of this problem before. Let me look up your account, he said.

When he had looked it up, he said: "Hmmm, According to the account, you rented The Stranger on a DVD disc, not a videotape."

I was struck dumb for a moment at this news. Then I thanked the clerk civilly for explaining the mystery. No wonder the VCR controls had not done anything and I couldn't see any videotape inside the VCR. There wasn't one. I had rented the movie as a DVD, and had simply forgotten that I had played it on my separate DVD player.

What comes next? When I actually do rent a videotape next time, will I try to play it in the toaster? Will I try to cook tomorrow's breakfast sausages in one of my computer ports? Is that CD I haven't been able to locate actually in the microwave? I am apparently reaching electronic overload. Is there medication for this symptom? There undoubtedly is, but how will I decide whether to swallow the pills, play them in my clock radio, or insert them into my new, high-tech toilet?

--- Dr. Phage
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