My Perfect World for week of November 10, 2011

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Read All About It!

By Kathy Jeffers Smith

I just couldn’t figure out why the blasted air hose wasn’t working properly for me. I had watched the guy in front of me air up his truck tire at this gas station’s free air dispenser, but when I tried to fill up my portable air tank in turn, no such luck.

In fact my tank was losing pressure. The station’s hose was hissing loud enough and my tank’s intake valve was turned on, so why wasn’t this working? After several attempts, I gave up -- deciding maybe the two devices just weren’t compatible. I know, that doesn’t sound reasonable, but when all else fails, blame the equipment, not the operator!
The next week or so my car’s tires needed some air pressure, so I prudently decided to go to a different gas station and pay for the air this time. The thinking was, if it costs money, it must work better.

So after removing all the tires’ valve caps and arming myself with a tire gauge, I dropped the required coin into the air dispenser’s slot. The machine started what seemed to be the proper noise, the hose hissed adequately as I applied the nozzle to my tire’s valve. "Yeah!", I thought. Then I used my gauge on the tire. "What’s this? Losing pressure? Oh no, not again!", I shrieked to no one in particular.

Dumfounded and exasperated at my expensive air time ebbing away, I happened to take a closer look at the dispenser. Ah, instructions for use and even little pictures. Well then, after discovering the clandestine technique, I was able to master this task of airing up the tires and all before the air time expired. The moral of this lesson is, read the directions.
It’s not that I’m so self-assured that I think reading directions before starting a project is beneath me. It’s just that written instructions don’t always connect with my brain this naturally leads me to reason that it’s just as well to skip that process. Maybe you can relate if you have ever tried to follow the "quick set-up" instructions to connect a new computer or DVD recorder. And there’s the frustration of those toys or pieces of furniture that come with "some assembly required." Reading that the top side of part "A" connects to the middle slot in the left side of part "B" using bolt "4G" with the corresponding nut and so on and so forth, and then examining the sea of actual pieces and parts, makes me wonder if maybe I haven’t been reading the English side of the instructions. Evidently, I need to be able to picture what the heck those directions are trying to describe. And so illustrations help sometimes, but too many times they look like the author’s kid helped out with those.
Thank goodness for times like when our neighbor worked on repairing the old Bush Hog last summer, my job was just reading the manual out loud. His job was interpreting. No such break in my previous corporate work where I had to occasionally delve into reference books like the huge tax code volumes to make sure we were following some picky regulations. Oh the horror! "Technical speak" and "legal speak" run neck and neck in the race to make you question your intelligence, if you ask me.
 I like to read, mind you at least human interest subjects. For instance, reading a well-written newspaper account of any city council or county commission meeting shenanigans brings the episodes to life and is almost as good as being there in person. And I find reading biographies of the likes of Billy Graham clearly illuminate the ordinary side of the man and his extraordinary life journey. My favorite reads are stories of fictional people and the interesting sagas their author vividly unfolds. So maybe the trouble with reading directions for me is that they are too impersonal, too inanimate, and -- let’s face it -- too boring.
Nevertheless, there is no getting around following mundane instructions in some form or fashion. Skip over an ingredient or precise measurement from a recipe and you may end up with Jell-O soup instead of a Jell-O mold for the church luncheon. Fail to read the recommended dosage of your cough medicine and you may subdue your cough as well as any capacity to stay awake for several hours. Not paying attention to the voting booth instructions may cause you to inadvertently vote another liberal Democrat into office, God forbid. So unless I find a way to tote a personal assistant around everywhere, looks like I’ll have to slow down and plow through all those directions for myself. My advice to you also is always read the directions -- first, and if the task still doesn’t turn out right, blame someone else.

 In my perfect world, written instructions would be more user friendly.

 And by the way, in my perfect world, we’d all be more diligent to read the world’s most successful directions -- God’s manual for living -- the Bible.