Tuesday, April 10, 2012

You Are Instructed To Read This

Instructions for reading this blog post:

Reading left to right, begin with the first word on the first line. Make your way across the line, until you reach the end. Then return to the first word (on the left hand side) of the next line. Continue on in this fashion until you reach the end of the entry.

Some things require instruction, while others (you would think) do not. More often than not, I tend to eschew (which means “chew up and spit out”) assembly instructions for items like barbecues, furniture, and microwave ovens. Thankfully, most microwave ovens are already assembled and your only instruction is to place the microwave turntable plate inside.

Recently I had to assemble an Ikea-like kitchen table that had no instructions included with it. There was, however, a drawing on the box of what it should look like when assembled. I somehow improvised my way through it and, incredibly, it's still standing.

I usually don’t bother with barbecue assembly instructions generally because they have perplexing wordless guides with illustrations like this:

I may have left that part out.

Ikea is known for having some of the head-scratchingest assembly instructions ever devised. I found the following posted on the web:

Are the screws supposed to remain floating in the air?

When assembling a table or chair from Ikea
The instructions may give you the following idea,
"I'd be better off figuring this out myself.
But what are these parts and what's with this shelf?
Then it's assembled without the dumb guide
And you look the job over with satisfied pride.
"Hey, hold on a sec" you then say, "how do I use
all of these leftover bolts, nuts, and screws?"

If anyone has an old car and wants to install a carburetor, here are some simple instructions:

That looks easy enough.

Yet sometimes the simplest instructions are not so simple. Directions for opening a package of food are good examples of this. I recently had to use a pipe wrench to open a bottle of maple syrup (I’m not kidding). But it’s the boxes and cartons that really drive me nuts. I have no patience for containers of food.

Here’s a picture of how boxes typically look once I’m done opening them:

Washing clothes can be puzzling. I’ve never understood what those codes on the tags of clothing meant. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see “Just wash the damned thing” on one of those tags?

Here's a funny spoof from The Onion.

There are some well-known instructions that seemed to have originated in another language and then got mangled on their way to the English-speaking world. One of my favorites is this instruction allegedly from a car rental brochure in Tokyo:

When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor.

Trumpet him melodiously!!!! I love that. I wish I had a horn on my car that would play Leroy Anderson’s Trumpeter’s Lullaby.

Another famous instruction that you may have seen is the warning from a hair dryer that advises the user to "never use while sleeping". I actually have a copy of a booklet with that advice. That same guide also has the following caveat:

Always "unplug it" immediately after using.

I don't know why they put unplug it in quotation marks. Must be some odd euphemism that I haven't figured out yet. Maybe they want you to go crazy with your new hairdo after using their product.

I'm just going to go a little off topic here and mention a bottle of liquid soap that we have in our shower. Every time I see the darned thing, I can't help thinking that it looks like it's sporting a mohawk.

I haven’t looked at the directions on the bottle, but it might say, “To dispense soap, invert bottle, flip mohawk cap downward, and squeeze”.

I think I'm actually developing a phobia to all of this.

Is there such a thing as an instructiphobe?


  1. Still laughing! I love the LIES photo - so true! "Head-scratchingest" - I am stealing that word. Thankfully snow shovels don't come with instructions otherwise you might be out a job.:)

    1. And I will never buy a snow shovel that I have to assemble.