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Danny's Advanced Reading Practice

Average: 3.2 (17 votes)

Danny is a teacher at EC Malta English language school with many years of teaching experience. I strongly suggest you take the time to read through his articles. They are excellent reading practice for advanced English learners.

I have a brown, green, red, blue and yellow coffee table in my living-room. It used to be just a uniform brown once, but I've got a two-year-old kid now, and my two-year-old kid has got a box of crayons and no concept of what 'don't go over the lines' means.

Anyway, up until a week ago, this coffee-table was the home to a large number of remote control boxes. There was the TV remote, the video remote, the DVD remote, the CD remote, the cable remote, the air-conditioner remote and another fifteen to twenty remote control units which probably did something to something somewhere, but I have no idea what or where. Or why, for that matter.

So last week I put my foot down, threw away every single one of them, and popped out to the shops to buy one of those universal remote control units that, as the name implies, controls practically everything in the universe with the click of a button. The kind of clicker that God uses in order to switch through the seasons of the year, or flick from night to day and back again. It had about ten billion buttons on it, and came complete with an instruction manual as thick as a telephone directory which had been translated into every known language in the world, including a couple which are only spoken in places where they haven't even discovered electricity yet, let alone TVs and DVDs.

Now, I'm one of those annoying kinds of people who would rather try and figure things out for themselves before wading through five thousand pages of labeled diagrams and complicated instructions, so I casually tossed the manual unopened onto the sofa, aimed the remote at the telly, and clicked a random button. A tiny red light flickered on the remote control unit, and nothing else happened. Not one to give up that easily, I pressed another button.

Nothing continued to happen. Not even the tiny red light.

I shook the remote control and rapped it sharply against my other hand. This never actually makes any difference whatsoever, but everybody does it, although none of us know why.

Approximately fifty-seven buttons and as many seconds later, I sighed and reached for the instruction manual. The first page politely thanked me for choosing to buy a TVRC Multi-Zappo Remote Control. I didn't have the heart to inform it that it had been the only one available in the shop, so I quickly turned to the second page, which was entitled 'How To Program The Remote Control'.

'Step One: Switch on the TV.' This was, apparently, going to be much easier than anticipated. So I turned on the TV. Piece of cake. Sorted.

'Step Two: Look for the brand of TV you want to program in the TV code list and make a note of the corresponding TV code alongside the TV code in the TV code list which refers to the TV brand that you wish to program, using the TV code, according to TV brand, in the TV code list. If you can't find the TV code list, then decode the TV code before recoding. Use the TV code list that you can't actually find as a guide.'


I read Step Two again, only this time at half the speed and muttering each word under my breath as if talking to an idiot, which, since I was the only person in the room at the time, I arguably was. This too is something that never works that we all do without knowing why.

Eventually, I gave up and skipped ahead to Step Three, in the hope that Step Two was optional and could, in fact, be ignored…

'Step Three: Now that you have completed Step Two, and ONLY if you have completed Step Two - (see 'Warnings' from pages 23 to 487 for further information about the vast number of global calamities that may occur should you leave out Step Two) - you may now press the button marked 'Not Before Step Two, Whatever You Do!!!' Your remote control is now ready for use.'

I slowly closed the instruction manual and went back to the remote control. I took a deep breath, and then, in a sudden frenzy of frustration, stabbed almost every single button available.

In the bathroom upstairs, the toilet flushed itself. The sandwich toaster in the kitchen made a cheese and ham toastie. My neighbour's garage door creaked open. And the clock on the wall rewound itself to the day before.

The TV, on the other hand, just sat there looking bored.

My finger hovered over the last button – a big red one that gave off ominous 'don't push me' vibes.

I pushed the red button...

"Never push the red button", said the TV repairman, three hours later, as he sat casually in my favourite armchair, eating the ham and cheese toastie.

I glowered at him.

"Can you fix the TV?" I growled.

"No problem". He polished off the toastie, went over to the TV, whacked it on the side with a hammer, and handed me a bill for a hundred and twenty euro.

"But you just whacked it with a hammer!" I protested, trying not to cry.

He shrugged. "That cost you two euro", he explained. "The other hundred and eighteen is for knowing where to whack it".

I gave him a hundred and twenty euro, and a dirty look.

"Incidentally", he said, once the money was safely pocketed, "the reason your universal remote didn't work is because your TV is so old that it was actually created before the universe. You'd be better off buying a new one. See ya!"

So I went out and bought a new television. It's brilliant. It has four remote controls, and none of them has a single red button on them.

As for the universal remote...well, it wasn't a complete waste of money. Just let me know when your toilet needs flushing...

Key Words

1. to have no concept of... - to not understand about something
2. to put your foot down - to use your authority to stop something happening
3. to wade through - to do something slowly and with great difficulty
4. to not have the heart to do something - to lack the necessary courage to do something
5. piece of cake - something easy to do
6. sorted - successfully completed (British English Slang)
7. a frenzy - uncontrolled and excited behaviour or emotion
8. ominous - suggesting that something unpleasant is likely to happen
9. vibes - the general mood a person and the way they make you feel (informal)
10. to glower at someone - to look very angry, annoyed or threatening
11. to whack something - to hit someone or something noisily
12. to be better off - to be in a better situation, if or after something happens

Link: Danny on Computers