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Front Page » November 29, 2011 » Opinion » Read all the directions, you dummy
Published 975 days ago

Read all the directions, you dummy


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

I looked around, and despite my best effort, parts to the cabinet my wife had purchased were left over, laying all over the living room floor.

"It's done," I yelled down the hall. "I need some help to hang it."

It was an odd little cabinet, seemingly a little out of balance, but yet cute.

She came down the hall with that guilty look on her face as if she had just been planting crops on Farmville, instead of helping me with the project. I didn't care. Often I don't like much help putting things together unless those things are physically too large for me to handle.

"It doesn't look right," she said as we stood it up. "The one side is higher than the other."

"That can't be," I said increduously. "I followed the instructions to the letter...."

She looked down at the instruction sheet that was laying on the dining room table, then she looked at the floor where the "extra" parts lay.

"I think these need to be used," she said. "Why would there be extra parts?"

I stood there looking at her. It had taken me two hours to put that damn thing together and she was asking me why there were extra parts left over.

"You know how it is," I said calmly while boiling over inside. Picking lint off the carpet would have been more fun than putting that cabinet together. Well almost anyway. "They package these things so that they send you extra parts because there are a number of different models and each plastic bag that holds parts is made so that they have the same standard parts for all of them."

She looked at the photo on the box and compared it with my finished product.

"I think this part goes there and that part goes here," she pointed out on the actual object of my frustration sitting on the floor. "That way this sticks up this way and that sticks up that way and then it would be even..." she said rather cautiously, knowing that the pressure cooker that was inside my head was about to pop its top.

"That.....can't.... be," I said as I tried to relieve that pressure by breathing deeply and by looking again at the instructions.

She took the piece of paper from me and looked a the directions which I swore must have been written by the devil himself, or at the least one of his disciples. She turned it over.

"Did you read this side?" she asked.

"No," I said as I looked out the window hoping a tree would fall down in our yard so I would have an excuse to go out and cut some wood with my chain saw rather than have to build something from it. "That's just...you know...cautions telling you to not trip on tools and parts and to wear your safety glasses in case your hand slips off the phillips screwdriver and somehow the tool ends up hitting you in the vision perception area of your body. It's all just there for the lawyers to argue over should somebody sue the company that made the cabinet."

After the two hours I spent putting it together I wanted to call it something else, but words for that kind of frustration did not exist.

"It was a real pain in the petute putting that thing together," I said. "Nothing fit together right."

She was calmly sitting there reading the turned over sheet. I could tell she was hesitant to say anything, but due to the way the cabinet looked in its presently constructed form she couldn't resist.

"The preface to the assembly here says to be sure not to get the two side panels mixed up because if you do the cabinet will not come out... square," she squeamishly told me.

"The preface...THE PREFACE," I grabbed the paper from her. Right there with the cautions and a list of the parts was a statement in bold print telling me I had screwed up. I went into a rant. "Nobody reads the damn preface to anything. Why would they put that there. That should have been in the instructions. That's like putting the plot of a novel in the introduction, where the author thanks his wife, brother-in-law and his unborn children for inspiring him to write a book about death and mayhem. Who'd put that there? I bet this damn cabinet was made in China and somebody who doesn't understand English or how we think wrote that there. In the preface...hell who reads the damn preface to anything anyway..."

"I do," said my wife sheepishly. I looked at her.

"You mean you read the preface in those novels you read?"

By this time I was waving may arms around kicking the cabinet, the table, the dog toys laying on the floor. The dog was hiding under the kitchen table hoping she would not be next.

"I find that they usually add to the book or whatever I am reading," she said.

"Well I don't," I yelled, now turning the discussion into one about literature. "Why bother with reading that instead of spending time on the book itself? I want to get to the meat of the matter, not deal with the fat around it. No one writes anything important in a preface or an introduction that anyone wants to see except the people they mention in it."

She put the piece of paper on the table.

"You're right," she said as she walked back down the hall to her electronic cows and sheep. "I will never read a preface to you again."

Two hours later I had taken the cabinet apart and reassembled it per the complete instructions. I had even read the part about how sawdust from the drilled holes can make you sneeze, which could result in death. And you know what?

The cabinet came out looking just like the picture on the box and there were no extra parts laying around.

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