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The Battle of the Remote is a constant, but basically friendly, conflict in our house. We have skirmishes, but never outright war.

We might tussle over the remote, even have words on occasion -- "You have got to be kidding, Cath! You've seen that episode of "The Andy Griffith Show" 48 times!" "Well, I'm aimin' to make it 49, mister!" -- even deteriorate into a tickle-fight. But we always keep it civil.

The loser usually winds up going upstairs to watch their program on the bedroom television, or retiring to the living-room to read a book.

Or sometimes, in my case, putting on a pathetic face and pleading that I need to watch "Inside Edition" (and not another installment of "MythBusters") on the "big TV" in the family-room because there's going to be a story about a hero puppy that saved his family when a toilet exploded and flooded their house. (Doug usually coughs up the remote for hero-puppy stories.)

But we aren't barbarians. As I said, most of our clashes are amiable ones, and we always go by the Official Rules of Engagement:

1. The one who gets to the television remote first has dibs and can only be overruled in cases of: serious illness (head colds don't count); during series premiere weeks; and anytime there's a Marx Brothers movie on TCM.

2. A person can also lose control of the remote if they leave the room for longer than five minutes for any reason-including: switching laundry loads; bathroom breaks; or checking to see what that loud noise upstairs was and why one of the cats is now cowering in a corner looking guilty. At that point, the other person has the option to swipe the remote OR finish that person's popcorn.

3. The remote always reverts to Doug when the Philadelphia Eagles are playing football or the Phillies are playing baseball. Period. This is non-negotiable. This last point explains why the other night, when I wanted to watch "America's Got Talent," I was flabbergasted when Doug gave up the remote without a peep!

Usually for a show like that, where the most intellectual performance consists of a guy setting off fireworks in his pants, the chances of Doug letting me choose our after-dinner entertainment are slim to none.

Plus, THE PHILLIES WERE PLAYING on another channel.

"Are you OK?" I asked. "Let me feel your forehead."

"I'm fine," said Doug, then shushed me as Jerry Springer introduced the first act, a group of 24 buxom cheerleaders who wanted to win the million dollars and a chance to be Las Vegas showgirls.

I was starting to see why he was so acquiescent.

Then I noticed that even though Doug was giving the Texas Chainsaw Dancers his full attention, his hand never left the remote. He was clutching it in his right hand, and his trigger finger was twitching.

That's odd, I thought. I didn't have to wait long for an explanation.

After the girls finished their pom-pom boogie, "AGT" cut to a commercial and Mr. Remote cut to the Phillies game on a rival network. I was on the edge of my seat, lest he wait too long to click back and I miss the next act: a 10-year-old girl who could twist herself into the shape of a pretzel while singing, "Shortenin' Bread." We even watched the Phillies-related commercials, one of which prompted Doug to say, "I'm thinking of getting a Phillies tattoo, like that woman in the commercial."

OK, I know there are middle-aged crises that end in little red sports cars, or Just For Men beard dye-even flings on the French Riviera. But not Phillies tattoos. That's where I draw the line.

"Doug, don't even joke about that. I swear, if you get a Phillies tattoo, I'll get one that says 'QVC.' "

"Perfect," he declared, "that's you all over."

Then he changed the channel back to "America's Got Talent" and said, "Quiet, Pretzel Kid is coming on."


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