The other day, as I was performing the weekly ritual of moving various bins (garbage, recycling, glass, yard waste, last-year’s-leftovers, Neighbor’s-dog-who-won’t-quit-barking-at-night, Neighbor’s-whose-dogs-won’t-quit-barking-at-night, etc) out to the curb for pick-up I noticed, for the first time, that the dog’s barking is just as loud inside the bin as it is outside. Also, I noticed that there are instructions imprinted on each bin detailing how to move it from one place to another. The instructions are as follows:
- Grasp handle
- Push or Pull to desired location and insert self into bin if you had to read these instructions in order to know how to move it from one place to another
These may not be the word-for-word instructions but it doesn’t matter because, if you are anything like me, you never read the instructions. I don’t disregard instructions because I’m a stereo-typical manly man who doesn’t need to follow instructions to build a nuclear submarine out of bubble gum wrappers or some such thing; I don’t read them because I’m the stereo-typical lazy guy who assumes that regardless of whether I read the instructions or not I’m going to end up with several “spare parts” and my wife will end up building it properly when I’m not looking. Also the majority of instructions that are now printed on everything from bubble gum (open package, remove piece of gum from foil, insert in mouth, chew, when flavor is gone place gum underneath nearest surface) to produce at the grocery market (pick a piece of produce, insert in plastic bag, purchase, put in refrigerator at your house, leave it there until it has grown some other type of produce on it then discard), are obviously meant for someone with the IQ of a politician. Not me, in other words.
While I do regularly skip reading the instructions that were written for the common sense impaired, I do tend to read the instructions when we have just bought some new high-tech piece of equipment such as a frozen dinner. Even then, however, I just skim the instructions looking for keywords like, WARNING, DO NOT INSERT IN NOSE, DO NOT GO INTO THE LIGHT and HEALTHY so that I know what not to do. For example, if it says HEALTHY somewhere in, or around, the instructions I know that I should not eat the frozen dinner and should instead let it sit in the freezer until my in-laws come and offer it to them. Because of this skimming there have been a number of times where I have ended up having half of the already inedible Swanson’s Hungry Man Salisbury Steak melted to the plastic tray because I saw the number three and assumed it meant hours rather than minutes. While this has made for some interesting, and perhaps toxic, meals the thing that I really find interesting is that instructions are not provided for really complicated products such as a smart phone or a kid.
Over the last six-or-so years I have purchased a number of smart phones and had, not in the literal sense, two kids, none of which came with instructions. Due to this lack of instructions for both the kids and the smart phones I’ve had to rely heavily on intuition (which is French for “wild guess”) in order to figure out how to:
- Make them work
Prevent them from breaking
- Do what I want them to do
My intuition has worked great in regards to the phones in that even if it doesn’t work, breaks or doesn’t do what I want it to do I can quite easily, via my intuition, pretend that it does work, isn’t broken or is doing what I want it to do. My intuition doesn’t work quite as well on the kids however. I rarely get away with pretending to have gotten the kids to clean their rooms, stop hitting each other or eating their dinner because…
- My wife is smarter than my intuition
- The kids aren’t as good at lying as I am
- My wife is smarter than me in general
…all of which leads me back to my amazement that kids don’t come with instructions. Just think of how much grief parents would be spared if each child had their own set of instructions. Parents would no longer have to go through the typical 18-step progression of problem solving which includes: changing a diaper, feeding, burping, singing, pacing, becoming frantic, praying for hearing loss, ripping their own hair out, etc, but could instead turn to page 48 of the manual that explains that, “When this child cries in such-and-such a manner you simply need to put in ear plugs so that you can’t hear them anymore.” Or, when a child gets older and is asked to clean their room and they refuse, the parent could simply turn to page 197 and read, “If this child refuses to clean their room, try explaining to them the importance of cleanliness and tidiness. If this fails to work please call the customer service number below and explain to the child that, if they don’t clean their room, you will be shipping them off to whatever country the customer service representative lives in.”
This would be a set of instructions that I would thoroughly read so as to better explain to my kids, when they inevitably ask, why I am dragging the trash cans to the elevated platform that we keep on a steep slope rather than grabbing the handle, tilting it back and pushing/pulling it to the curb.