I gave my students the assignment to write three paragraphs summarizing their weekend. One of the kids wrote hundreds. He has unlimited screen time so you imagine how boring his summaries are. Check out his report this week. I’ll need some feedback.
This weekend me and my brother Billy watched a lot of Netflix. I wanted to watch Amphibious Ninjas, but my brother said he wanted to watch a stupid show about making cakes that look like hamburgers, so we kept scrolling down the Netflix menu.
That’s when it got super weird. The categories started talking to us. It said – Since you watched 30 seconds of a movie you didn’t realize was a musical you might enjoy this.
That’s not too weird but me and my brother both said no thanks and kept looking.
Since you enjoy watching TV on days when you should be outside, here are a few vampire-themed shows.
That was a little personal, but nope.
Since you were born on a Tuesday and your brother on a Sunday …
What does that have to do with what shows I like? No way, but there is more.
Since your Mom is still asleep …
Five movies we added since you turned on Netflix this morning.
It was so crazy. How did Netflix get into my brain? My brother said Netflix was in the room. Like, watching us, watching them, watching us.
Because you dip potato chips in mayonnaise, you’ll love watching this.
Doesn’t everyone like dipping chips in mayo? It gave us choices about weird foods.
Because you left your hot cocoa in the microwave every day last winter, check out these cozy classics.
Feeling judged. Then we got…
Since you were named after your great grandfather, here’s a kid-friendly World War II documentary.
The menu knows everything about us. We kept going down the list, even though I was getting creeped out and so was my brother.
Because you’re getting creeped out, here’s a show.
They showed me a show called Creeped Out. I got goosebumps.
Since you have goosebumps …
It showed me the Goosebumps movies! We were freaking out. Like, terrified. My brother told me to turn it off, but there was only one more category left.
Because anyone can be a hero, here are some movies you may like. And when I say ‘anyone,’ I mean like two kids from Middletown Middle. Like, help.
It recommended these actual movies.
Can’t Hardly Wait
Now is Good
Freaks and Geeks
I’ll admit it; my brother figured it out first. The menu was like a message. When you put the titles together it read: Save me, the wizard can’t hardly wait. Now is good. Go, freaks and geeks.
So we decided to help whoever it was, but before we left we watched Despicable Me for the 43rd time. Then we got on a smelly bus that took us into town where the Netflix’s Kansas office is. It’s not like a movie studio or anything. It’s just a small building that looks like it sells broken vacuums. Or maybe repairs them.
Inside, a woman was at a desk. I think she was a robot. She talked weirdly, smiled the entire time, and she didn’t even blink.
We told her we need to talk to the person in charge of the browsing menus. She said they weren’t available. I think she said that because we were a couple of kids. So we left, but that’s not the end of the story. Next door, there was a place that sold old, used clothes for real cheap. We bought one of those old coats that detectives used to wear for less money than a can of soda. My brother even had enough money for a cowboy hat and a fake mustache.
I climbed on my brother’s shoulders and put on the long coat, slapped on the fake mustache, and put the hat on. Now, instead of looking like two kids, we looked like one tall, weird-shaped man. My brother’s not that strong so we had to move fast.
We went back into the Netflix office. I said in a deep voice, “Afternoon, Mary,” gave her an army salute, and walked right past her. She was likely a robot because I don’t think her name was Mary and she didn’t stop us.
In the back, not much was going on. They had a kitchen that smelled like chicken soup and tuna. One time I went to my Mom’s work, and it looked and smelled the same way.
Across the hall, we found an elevator, so we got on. The building was only one floor, so all the choices were down. We took the elevator to the basement. Even though it was only one floor, the ride took forever. It opened in this big room; like, the biggest room ever. The kind they make for parking blimps only it was a mile underground.
We saw thousands of TV on the wall. Towards the bottom, we saw old-style TVs with big boxes streaming black and white shows. New style flat-screen TVs were stacked on the old TVs all the way to the ceiling. The wall was as big as a football field, with all these wires everywhere. It was loud too. Real loud. Nothing was muted. Every single TV streamed a different show with the sound on. My dad said when he was a kid, there were only like three channels and you couldn’t fast forward. He’s always making things up trying to be funny.
In the big TV room, only one person was in charge of all these TVs. It wasn’t like a normal person, though. It was a half-man, half-octopus creature, with super-big buggy eyes. It had all these tentacles with fingers at the end, so one tentacle could type out recommended shows for everyone to watch, and it was typing on dozens of computers at one time. I guess it had evolved to become the perfect show recommender.
We stood behind the binging beast that was watching the flickering televisions. It was hypnotic, and after a minute or two we discovered a rhythm. If you looked at the wall of moving images long enough, your eyes would get blurry and the combination of televisions becomes one single stream. It was like each TV was one pixel, and if you combine the pixels you get one video. It was a video of my brother and me. Like a security camera, but there was no camera behind us. If you watched all of Netflix at once, it would be the story of my life. Like a puzzle.
It may sound scary or weird, but it wasn’t, and neither was the savage streamer. I climbed off my brother’s shoulders and walked over to the menu monster. The wrecked recommender ignored us at first; its eyes were bloodshot and crazed; it looked older than Dumbledore’s dad. Its dozens of tentacles moved around me like I wasn’t there. I noticed it wore an old Middletown Middle shirt from back when they were called the tornados.
To get its attention, my brother waved his arms and jumped around, but the startling streamer continued its mission. It wasn’t until my brother started pulling plugs from the wall that the creature panicked. It started running around, trying to plug them back in. A door opened, and a dozen more televisions with brand new shows were sent in on a conveyer belt. The robot receptionist came in and began to plug them in. This is all happening like a short bus ride from where I sit.
Billy kept unplugging TVs. The Menu Monster couldn’t keep up and cried like an elk. It was a sad sound, but I knew we were doing something good. We were saving it.
While the TV beastie was occupied, I jumped on a computer and saw the categorizer and started deleting every category the feature creature had made. I put the entire library of programs under three categories: Wizard Stuff, Not Wizard Stuff, and For your Baby Sister.
“We’re here to save you,” I yelled at the monster. “And stop showing us shows we already saw! The menu is out of control.”
Eventually, the monster broke down and grew more interested in the cowboy hat and my M&Ms.
It clearly hadn’t rested in a really long time. Its eyes bounced around like fish in its head while we kept unplugging the TVs until all one million of them were off. I thought the monster would be angry, but he wasn’t. The thing, whose real name is Tim, smiled and hugged us.
Tim quit his job, we put the trench coat and cowboy hat on him and we took him back to our house. People on the bus gave us some weird looks for bringing on a multi-armed monster in a trench coat and cowboy hat.
My mom was too busy checking Instagram and didn’t notice us sneak our new friend into the house. We went down to the basement and watched Despicable Me 3 again and played video games. He’s super good. Billy said the monster went from programmer to pro-gamer in three hours. His eyes shrank down and his arms started dropping off like palm tree leaves. He could even talk, and he said he’d eventually get completely back to normal, but 36,000 hours of screen time is too much.
That was my weekend. Really just my Saturday. Sunday we watched The Mandalorian on Disney Plus and played Battle Elf with our new friend. The weather looked nice through the basement window.