Pressing the Big Red Button

Not really the episode I was talking about, but this is much more cinematic, don’t you think? (This one’s from the 50th Anniversary, “The Day of the Doctor” and it also has a Big Red Button.)

In the first Christmas special of the rebooted Doctor Who in 2005/2006 (I can’t quite remember when it was first broadcast), David Tennant — playing the freshly-regenerated Tenth Doctor for the first time in his pajamas and robe and with his hair all sticking up — talks about a big red button. Granted, he was on an alien spaceship and giving a very good, if blustering, speech about Lion King and tannins in tea, but really, he was looking for that Big Red Button that he could press and release (what we assume to be) a lot of people standing on top of their roofs, waiting to be mind (well, blood)-controlled into jumping from that height. When he finds it, he grins and slams his hand on top of it in a satisfying manner, thereby ending an alien race’s control over the human population of Great Britain.

(I’m sure you know the rest of it – the Doctor always saves the day, until he doesn’t. In this case, he is able to save the day. Everybody lives.)

Big Red Buttons are big and obvious and tempting to press. We’ve seen this is a million and one films and TV shows and stories. But when you press the BRB (an abbreviation I totally made up), there’s no turning back. You did the thing. You pressed it. Whatever had to be activated was activated. A timer was started. Launch codes are revealed. The virus is uploaded on to the Dark Web. You know the drill. We know that the BRB signifies that shit’s about to go down and the protagonist needs to act. The time for waiting and wiggling your thumbs is over. It’s time to move.

The Simpsons Season 3 Episode 5: “Homer Defined”

I just pressed my own Big Red Button today. I bought my plane ticket for Pittsburgh. I leave on August 5.

Now, you might be wondering, “Hey G, why are you going to Pittsburgh?” Or even “Where is Pittsburgh?” Or even “Hey aren’t we still in a pandemic? What the heck are you doing, going on a metal tube thousands of feet in the air and sharing the gross recycled air of a bunch of people around you?”

All excellent questions, let me tell you. But to briefly explain: Pittsburgh is in Pennsylvania, which is roughly in the east coast of the US. I’ll be starting my Ph.D at the University of Pittsburgh (still makes me a little bit gleeful to say that), where I’ll be taking up Children’s Literature and Childhood Studies at their English Department, and I’ll probably talk about that some other time. But my brief timeline is that I applied for the program in 2019, got accepted in 2020, and then the pandemic happened and I had to defer my studies. Everyone was very kind and accommodating and supportive, so I really feel like I’m starting this crazy-ass journey in the best of ways.

Oh and yes, I got vaccinated already, which makes me feel slightly better about taking my very first transatlantic flight in my entire life, which is to say that I am mildly freaking out.

So yeah, I pressed the Big Red Button. There’s no backing out of this now. I am scared and exhilarated and frightened and excited, but as my mother aptly put it: you made this decision, so you’d better see it through.

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