Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Laughable instructions

Have you ever noticed how instruction manuals can sometimes be hilarious?

There are the manuals that have been awkwardly translated into English from the original language by someone for whom English is neither a first nor second language. Think of the Russian "translator" in Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated and you'll have the idea. (If you haven't read the book, well, you're just a literary loser, clearly out-of-touch with the Young Turks of the publishing world and woefully behind on your contemporary reading list.)

Then there are the instructions that state the obvious. "You must switch the power button to the "on" position for the ______ to work." Uh, well, DUH!

Of course, there are also the instructions without a single written word--only pictures. Only pictures a chimp could decipher. Only pictures which lead one to believe that the instructions you are being given are for, say, a carburetor instead of the bookshelf you are actually trying to assemble.

Then there are the instructions that show incredible solicitousness for your well-being--like the ones I read today about loading a battery into a remote control:

"Gently insert a fingernail in groove [1] and pull out the holder in direction [2]." (If you saw the battery compartment on the remote, you'd note that this part of the instruction falls into the "obvious" category, as there is no other direction in which to pull the holder). Then under the picture in smaller print: "Take care not to break your fingernail." I kid you not.

Can't you just see some pissant (and rather paranoid) lawyer going through the instruction manual with a fine-tooth comb looking for potential liability? Can't you just hear the warning bells going off in the poor SOB's head? "Ooooh, Danger, danger Will Robinson, someone might break a nail--and sue us."

Or perhaps the manual was written by a woman who'd had her expensive and freshly manicured acrylic nails broken one too many times in her many battery changing adventures. Oh, the travails of modern life.

Or scariest of all, maybe the company really does care about each and every one of us--from nose to nails, and wants to do everything in its power to protect the sanctity and integrity of our bodies.

Uh-huh. Yeah. Right.

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