Every household, it seems, has an instruction reader. And unfortunately also one that just poo- poos the instructions when building, installing, learning or otherwise taking on a project which comes with instructions and requires any normal human to read. Did you know that companies pay, yes actually pay people to write instructions? They put, say a toaster, in front of a guy, or gal–(Again, I am an equal opportunity oriented, least I would be called onto the carpet, and I have gotten enough rug burns in my past!) — back to the toaster…
Can’t you just see it? Okay this person comfortably sits down, is given a pencil and paper and a toaster and some bread and is told to write down step by step instructions as to how the toaster works. “Take bread, diagram A and place in slot, diagram B, slide handle, diagram C down,” and in my case wait for the smoke to clear so you can have toast. Laugh if you will but I understand that instruction writing is big business. So for goodness sakes if some poor schmuck has taken the time to write them, why not read and use them. I’m pretty sure there have been some trial and error “smoke tests” while developing toaster instructions. A note here, my husband loves to tell his friends and even just casual acquaintances, that sometimes the dinner bell at our house has been the smoke alarm going off. Yes sir, nothing gets ‘em up of the couch and running to the dinner table like the loud, high pitched shrill scream of the smoke alarm! Yum yum.
Reading the instructions, or rather the lack thereof, can be to blame for many a malfunction. Here are two times I have been lucky enough to hear about.
First; two or maybe it was three guys were installing a dishwasher. (That sounds like the beginning of a joke huh?) They did all the hook-up stuff, were stuffing it in the space, getting ready to screw it into place when the woman in the room sweetly asks which one of the guys pulled the plastic plug thingy out of the drain hose? What? There is a plug inside the drain hose? Well what the….. So upon reading the instructions they discovered that yes there was a plug inside the drain hose. The only reason I can imagine there being a plug inside the drain hose was to keep small critters from getting up inside the workings of the dishwasher during transit. Anyway the plug was removed the installation was completed and the woman was saved from what surely would have been an ugly event in her kitchen had the instructions not been read.
Second; a couple, who shall remain nameless, buy a new car with all the bells and whistles. One fine day they get a flat tire. No problem, they both know how to fix a flat, it was part of his farm upbringing and part of her driver’s education class. So they get the jack out of the hidden compartment along with the funky little lug wrench that also serves as the jack handle and after some recon work they get the jack situated to begin the lift. For those of you who have not ever had the experience of changing a tire, you have to loosen the lug nuts before you lift the car tire off the ground or the tire will just spin. Here is where the problem began. The man cannot for the life of him figure out why the lug nuts will not come off. There is sweat, mumbling, some grunting and then the woman sweetly says something about reading in the instruction book about the locking lug nuts and isn’t this lug nut lock thingy that was in the glove box supposed to be used? She found said lug nut lock thingy while looking for and then reading the instruction book, as taught to her by her woman drivers ed teacher. In short, lug nuts off, tire changed, a really quiet ride followed and the incident was never discussed again. Until now! I’m sure that woman finally feels vindicated.
There will always be those, including my mother, who just push buttons, flip switches and pull tabs without the aid of instructions. A new car to her was just a playground of buttons and do- dads, she drove my dad nuts. Conversely there are those who read and read and read those silly instructions until they take the fun out of discovering just what happens if you touch wire A to wire C without taking into account wire B. ZAP, crackle, smoke alarm, dinner!
Trina Machacek lives in Eureka. Her book ITY BITS can be found on Kindle. Share your thoughts and opinions with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.