|Sage Grass & Cedars|
|Who Needs Instructions?|
by Darrell Thompson
If there is one thing that can swing the whole pendulum from useless to invaluable, it would have to be instructions. There are probably about as many jokes about men using instructions as there are about blondes and intelligence. The only difference is that normally the jokes about men using instructions usually hit the nail right on the head.
When it comes to instructions, we men cannot be satisfied. If a product requiring "some" assembly has a set of instructions with it, the instructions are usually discarded and we go it on our own. We also fail to appreciate the luxury of being able to have our choice of several different languages. When I do have to consult the instructions, I’m often wondering if one of those other languages might have done a better job explaining the process than the English version does. On those rare occasions when there are no instructions, we usually are heard making a statement such as "You mean to tell me that they didn’t even put any instructions in here?"
But, after all, we are men and we are mechanically and technologically inclined. If someone else is smart enough to design this thing and get it to the point that only "some" assembly is required, then we are smart enough to take these pieces and put them together. After all, if you can make it fit, it must be right.
It’s kind of like putting a puzzle together. No one ever complains about instructions not being included in with a 500 or 1000 piece puzzle. You don’t need to be told to take piece 397 and interlock it with piece 202. If it fits and the colors match, then it is correct. Common sense would tell you that the same principle works with assembling a grill or a bicycle. The real underlying problem is having cooked on a grill hundreds of times and ridden a bicycle thousands of times, I don’t want to admit to my wife that "I really don’t know how this is supposed to go."
"No additional tools required" is another catchy phrase you will often see in the instructions. I’m thinking that it was awfully nice of them to put me a set of tools in there, too. Then I find that the tool set includes a cheap pair of pliers that you better not squeeze too hard or you’ll need a band-aid (not included). The rest of the tool set is a small allen wrench and another wrench made of a flat piece of metal with two or three hexagon shaped holes of various sizes. They really didn’t have the heart to tell you that it will also need a hammer (very important), a long screwdriver for use as a pry bar, a cutting torch and a mig welder.
If you think the bicycle and grill are adventures, just wait until you get into hooking the new VCR/DVD player to the TV and to the box for your satellite receiver. There is no way a set of directions smaller than a New Testament and Psalms combination can explain all the possible variations of what you will need to do in each situation. Not only do you need a glossary of terms to explain the various gadgets, but those line art illustrations don’t begin to resemble anything that you have yet seen. This part of the instructions is not meant to be understood. What they are trying to say is, "We don’t know how to explain this, so you will just have to figure it out for yourself." So, go ahead, throw those instructions away. All those years you’ve spent trouble shooting problems on the electric fence and becoming an expert in circuitry ought to come in real handy now.
I didn’t realize until a few days ago how dependent we are (or how dependent we are thought to be) on directions. I was going into one of those big box stores the other day and noticed the rocking chairs out front. I eased over to check out the price. Instead of a price sticker on it, there was a sticker that read "front." We have sunk to a new low if that was intended to be instructions on how to operate a rocking chair. Of course, the manufacturer may know of someone who has operated a rocking chair in a manner inconsistent with its intended use. It kind of reminded me of a one gallon gas can that I saw years ago that had a warning label that read "Not intended for use with flammable liquids." Try to figure that one out.
Darrell Thompson is the Moulton store manager of Lawrence County Exchange.