Making the simple, complicated
I was poking around at a yard sale one day and found a small windmill that I thought might go well somewhere in my yard. So I bought it for $3.
The windmill, which was designed to chase away moles (yes moles) was still in the box and sealed. The original price tag of $8 was still on it too. When I got it home I opened the box and found to my amazement a six page instruction sheet on how to put the thing together. I mean the device was pretty straight forward; it only had seven pieces to assemble and three of those were the nuts and bolts.
Still as I first opened it I was impressed. Most things that are much more complicated don't even have this many pages of instructions.
Upon closer examination, however, most of what was on the pages was warnings and cautions.
Now this seven piece windmill, was about eight inches wide and with the extension that goes in the ground it stood about four feet tall. It was simple.
Okay there is danger in everything if you take it to extreme. But to waste three pages of paper to tell me how to be safe putting together a seven piece, four foot high windmill seemed ridiculous.
Actually reading the instructions was quite amusing. First it told me to save the manual because I might need it for maintenance purposes. Maintenance? This is a simple windmill, on a rod with not even one grease zerk on it. What maintenance? I was also told to "keep the manual in a safe and dry place for future reference."
Who comes up with this stuff?
But even more amusing were the safety precautions I was to take while assembling it (which ultimately took me about three minutes). This is not a list of all of them, but the ones I thought were kind of funny.
1. Keep the work area clean. Does that mean I need to clean my garage before I put it together? If so then it would have been a 20 hour project.
2. Observe work area conditions. I wondered what I was supposed to observe? It said to make sure the area was well lighted. I guess they were concerned I might put the wrong bolt in the wrong hole.
3. Dress properly. Oh my flip flops and baggy shorts must not be appropriate. It said not to wear loose clothes or jewelry that might get caught in moving parts (how could the windmill move laying on my work bench?) It told me to wear a hair net if my hair was long (it used to be, but nowadays much of it is gone). Don't wear electrically conductive clothing. It made me wonder if I was building a real wind turbine. And I haven't owned a copper covered shirt since, gee, never.
4. Do no over reach. It said to keep proper footing and balance at all times. I followed that one. I kept a beer in one hand as I put together the blades, creating a symbiosis that could not be outdone.
5. Stay alert. My wife says I have been a lert for my whole life, so I didn't worry about that one.
6. Do not assemble the windmill if under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Okay by the time I got to that warning I had already put the blades together (see #4). I was also wondering if my Lipitor counted.
There were also many other warnings, how to perform maintenance (duh), where to get parts if one of the seven were missing, and other stuff.
My favorite, however was the warning at the end of the cautions. This is what it said.
Warning: The warnings, cautions, and instructions discussed in this instruction manual cannot cover all possible conditions and situations that may occur. It must be understood by the operator that common sense and cautions are factors which cannot be built into this product, but must be supplied by the operator.
That's just how it appeared, bold and all. Common sense should apply to anything we buy, put together or use. Yet this very statement, and the precautions above it show how little common sense we as the public are believed to have nowadays.
Manufacturers of products have only came up with this kind of thing for one reason; To protect themselves from those with no common sense.
We can't blame anyone but ourselves for this idiocy. We have allowed the legal system in our country to get so tangled that every time someone is injured and claims the manufacturer or seller of something didn't tell them about the danger of the product, juries give them big awards.
Most people blame lawyers for this. I have a lot of friends who are lawyers. When I bring up stuff like this to one in particular he just says "No one likes a lawyer until they need one."
While it is true that manufacturers have knowingly made products that were dangerous and used deception to continue to make them, most things that happen to people by the use of a product are either caused by their own mistake or by someone elses carelessness in using a product.
Many years ago, while in college, I worked in a service station in Salt Lake. One afternoon, when I wasn't working, a man in a truck came in and got gas. The owner of the station was the one who took care of him. Thirty five miles north of our station he rolled his truck over and it started on fire. Two people in the truck were killed and he suffered horrible injuries. Not long after my boss got notice that he was being sued for not putting the gas cap back on the tank spout after he sold they guy fuel. The claim was that caused the fire, although the man sued the vehicle manufacturer, the people who made the tires and multiple other businesses that were somehow involved with the vehicle before the accident.
In times of pain we all grasp for straws, but the fact was in this case the man was driving too fast for existing conditions. My recollection is that he only won the suit against one of the companies he sued, for a faulty gas tank design.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said "Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes."
I think at one time our society had a lot more common sense than it does today.
I wonder if we will ever be able to find that again?