Play First, Read Instructions Later
(Andy Rooney is on vacation. In his absence, we are reprinting this classic, originally published July 27, 1999.)
The directions that come with any new appliance or tool must all be written in one place in some remote foreign country because they all sound the same.
They also sound as if they've been written by someone who knows almost no English.
As part of my vacation pleasure, I've just treated myself to a new, heavy-duty cordless drill. The book of instructions that came with it clearly states, in big, bold letters:
WARNING! READ ALL INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE OPERATING THIS TOOL!
I don't do that. From many years experience buying new tools, gadgets and appliances, I've learned that the best thing to do is ignore the instructions, put the manual aside and start trying to use the new toy right away.
If you don't try to use it, you can't understand the instructions. If you fool with it for a while and run into some problems using it, then you're better equipped to understand what the instructions are talking about. I realize, of course, that I'm never going to get a book of instructions that says:
FOOL WITH YOUR NEW TOOL FIRST, THEN READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!
As careful as they want me to be, the instructions I now have in front of me don't give me a lot of confidence in whoever wrote them. I already owned an electric drill but I decided it would be handy if I had one that didn't have to be plugged in, so I got this cordless model with a big battery. The fourth paragraph in the manual advises me: DO NOT ABUSE CORD. NEVER USE CORD TO CARRY TOOL. KEEP CORD AWAY FROM HEAT, OIL, SHARP EDGES OR MOVING PARTS.
What's that all about? I bought this piece of equipment because I wanted a drill that doesn't have a cord. It has a battery. Why do they tell me not to abuse the cord when it doesn't have one? They must be saving money by writing a single, all-purpose manual for every tool they make. All they have to say is generalities like KEEP YOUR WORK AREA CLEAN AND WELL LIT.
Whether my work area is clean or not is my business, and I'll thank this big corporation to mind its own business. Do I write telling them to keep their factory clean? Next thing you know, the manual will be telling me to make my bed in the morning and wash the dishes before watching television.
DO NOT OPERATE TOOL WHEN YOU ARE TIRED.
Oh, fine. If I didn't operate the tool when I'm tired I'd never operate it, because woodworking is my hobby and I only do it when I'm tired of working.
DO NOT IMMERSE IN WATER!
Gosh, it's a lucky thing you told me that. I was just going to fill the bathtub and put my new drill in there to soak. They ought to have an instruction manual you'd have to read before they'd allow you to buy a tool.
ATTENTION! DO NOT BUY THIS TOOL UNLESS YOU ARE CERTAIN YOU REALLY WANT IT.
MAKE SURE THIS TOOL DOES WHAT YOU WANT IT TO DO BEFORE YOU WASTE A LOT OF MONEY ON SOMETHING YOU DON'T REALLY NEED!
"For service," the booklet says, "contact your nearest factory service center. A list of the factory service centers nearest you appears on page 14."
My nearest factory service center is always someplace like Phoenix, Ariz. I suppose I could just drive by someday and drop the tool off in Phoenix when it breaks, except that Phoenix just doesn't happen to be on my way to anyplace I go these days.
(Write to Andy Rooney at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207, or via email at email@example.com)
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