Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Read the damn instructions.

I recently picked up the latest issue of SWAT magazine and found myself laughing at Louis Awerbuck's "Here's Your Sign" article.  In essence he points to the common habit of people to avoid written instructions as if they're the plague, and the ensuing hours pounding of foreheads against walls that could have been avoided if people would just read the damn instructions. 

My only quibble is that he thinks men are most guilty of this (maybe deliberately playing to the stereotype), while it has been my personal experience that women have just as much of a 'I don't need no stinkin' badges' attitude when it comes to reading the instruction manual.

I completely agree with Awerbuck (which isn't always the case).  Unless you have personal experience with that particular piece of equipment you are only hurting yourself by not at least skimming the instruction manual.  This can be literal hurt in the case of anything that has the ability to cause you injury if misused.  At the very least, reading the instructions can save you time and money. 

That said, I've lost count of the times I've had people sneer, laugh, or roll their eyes at me for reading directions. 

Back when I was working for an electrician I used to read the directions anytime I was working with something new.  I got plenty of raised eye brows and it was even hinted that I was wasting time. 

Then there was this one time we did a kitchen remodel for a very affluent customer.  One of my task was wiring the customer's state of the art, touch screen Bosch dish washer.  It was a task which I was given because I was low man on the totem pole and wiring a dish washer means lying on your belly on the hard floor and working in a very cramped compartment at the very bottom of the appliance.  Not fun.

Anyway, I wired this expensive and very high quality piece of equipment.  A few days later, while we were on our way back the shop after a long day, the customer calls my boss and tells him her dish washer will not turn on.  He sighs and says we'll head right over.  He was obviously not happy because he was ready to be home and did not want to pay me and his other employee overtime because someone didn't do their job correctly.

I was sweating.  I knew I had wired the dish washer correctly, and the customer had checked the breakers before calling us, but the damned thing wasn't working so something was wrong.  I liked my boss, had a lot of respect for him, and I didn't want to disappoint or cause problems.

When we arrived at the customer's home I grabbed some a volt meter and the tools I'd need to access the wiring compartment. If I had screwed it up I wanted to fix it and own up to my mistake.  I opened the compartment and everything appeared to be correct from a visual inspection.  I tested the voltage and the voltage was correct.  My coworker double checked and confirmed everything on our end was correct.

We all tried pushing the "ON' button to no success.  Standing around with the customer's husband we were all wondering what the problem was.  It wasn't our fault.  Maybe the dishwasher was DOA?

All the while I'm standing there staring as this damned thing wondering what the hell the problem was.  I was determined to figure it out just to nail the coffin shut on any blame being placed on me.  I'd been the victim of plenty of jibes on the way to the customer's home and I was a little pissed about the whole situation.  So I finally asked the husband, "Where is the owner's manual?"  I've encountered enough high tech machinery to know that some of it requires you to hold your tongue between your teeth, stand on one leg, and chant mystical equations to get the motherfucker to work. 

The husband pointed to a drawer and I pulled it open and took out a stack of papers still neatly wrapped in their plastic wrappers.  I flipped through the various appliance manuals until I came to the correct one.  I tore open the plastic, flipped it open to the instructions for use, and read. 

Then I calmly walked over to the dishwasher, pushed and held the 'on' button for three seconds, and smiled when the screen lit up and said "Congratulations on your purchase of a Bosch dish washer.  Please select your language."

Everyone wanted to know what the hell I'd done to make it work.  "The owner's manual says push and hold the 'on' button for three seconds."

The reactions went something like, "Oh."  "Well, that's dumb."  "Really?!"   

I don't think it was dumb, I think that's how the damned thing worked.  It was designed so that you wouldn't turn it on except deliberately, and if an intelligent woman would have bothered to read the directions instead of assuming she knew how to operate a piece of equipment she'd never encountered before we'd both have been saved some stress, and my boss would have been saved some time and money.

So, read the damned instructions. 


eiaftinfo said...

Yep, could not agree more. Most of my real life is spent in the computer and high tech world. Working with clients who are anything but . . . well . . . high tech.

The bad news - they pay me alot of money to come to their facility and read the manual.

The GOOD NEWS - they pay me alot of money to come to their facility and read the manual!! :)

It is truly odd though how resistant folks can be to such a simple thing.

Old NFO said...

Yep, and whats even MORE fun is 'trying' to WRITE the owners manual... sigh...

RobertM said...

Since I give hands on instruction to people every day at work I can only imagine the nightmare it must be to try and come up with written instructions that will get the point across to the drooling masses.

Rose said...

My parents always said, "When all else fails, read the directions."

Old NFO said...

Robert, THAT is why I have no hair left... sigh