The Cussedness of Inanimate Objects: The Case of a Missing TV Remote

What a strange adage. More like the title of a PhD thesis in Philosophy than a high-falutin term for the seemingly intentional behaviours or happenings with non-sentient objects.

To pass time whilst jogging, runners often engage in inane conversations about the most frivolous topics. It was one such runner, Elbert Loubser, who introduced me to this concept.

Main picture: The remote that flumoxed the Loubser household

Firstly, what does the cussedness of inanimate objects imply. Simply put, it describes how objects seem to have a mind of their own – and seemingly can perform – without any assistance from us humans – tricks which we would struggle to make them do, if we were to try.

Let us listen to Elbert’s latest example of this phenomenon which he related to me whilst running the Irene 21km race last Sunday.

Apparently, the Loubser household has remotes for various appliances from fans, the TVs, to the speakers. So as not to mislay them, they are all kept in one box in the lounge. This would prevent the perpetual frustrations of having to track down misplaced ones. Apparently, this faultless logic was defied during the previous week when a remote wandered off unsupervised by itself. It was first thought that the remote was up to its old tricks of hiding on the sides of the couch cushions. No luck. Perhaps under the cushions. No luck either. What happened if they were sneakier still and had fallen off the couch and hidden under an item of furniture. Nope. Not there too. Where was this naughty remote playing hide-and-go-seek while the Loubser family wished to watch their favourite show. How inconvenient.

Now it was time to send out a professional team of dedicated searchers to scour the lounge. Knowing that it could not defy gravity, its lair had to be at a level beneath the box in which it called home. Finally after much searching and calling its name, a breakthrough was made. The thorough search had revealed that a shelf of a piece of lounge furniture was in cahoots with the remote. The only reasonable explanation that can be imagined for this disobedience was that the furniture alerted the remote to the fact that in one of its far corners out of “eye-shot” of prying human eyes, was a slot bearing the exact same dimensions as the remote. How the remote was able to manoeuvre itself into the corner will forever remain a mystery. Moreover it even managed to enter the hole at the required angle to ensure that any hand wiping across the surface of the shelf would feel a continuous surface.

Other examples

  1. The car keys that slip out of your hand as one exits the car and falls into a storm drain.
  2. The lever arch door handle that manages to lodge itself in your pocket as you leave the room, ripping the pocket off.
  3. The pen that manages to fall out of your hand in the car and fall down between the seats, lodging forever in the channel the seat runs on.
  4. The mobile phone that slips out of one’s shirt pocket while one is having a pee and falls into the loo.
  5. The glasses you were wearing when you nodded off reading in bed, which, despite a full search, can never be found again.


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