Give Me the Manual

reading the instructionsI just listened to a podcast where a political commentator talked about covering a speech Bill Clinton recently gave on his wife’s behalf. He said the thing he couldn’t get over was the way Clinton “did this thing your uncle or your grandpa would do: He kept saying ‘there was an article on the Internet that I saw this morning,’ and ‘I read on the Internet where…’  “It was so…endearing!” the podcaster chuckled and his team chuckled with him.

Now if you’re like me and you too don’t see why someone would find it richly comical for a person to say he or she read something on the Internet, it’s because you and I, dear reader, are ourselves no different from our own old uncles and grandpas: We just don’t ‘get’ what younger folks assume, which is “OF COURSE you read something on the Internet! Where else does anyone read anything?”

Well now.

Some of us read things in the paper. And in magazines. And in books.

Me, I love reading an instruction manual.

Time was, we had in this house a first-generation sprinkler system with a big old wheel showing the days of the week and the hours of the day, all represented by wee white buttons that you pulled out or pushed in to arrange your irrigation. My dog could have operated it, and yet it came with a manual.

Time was, we had a car with a clock whose time you could change just by poking the point of a ballpoint pen into this little bellybutton of a place right under the display. It had a manual too, but it’s sure not like that now, boy.

A kind of missionary from an energy-saving arm of our state came to look at our thermostats and ended up replacing what he called the “outmoded” one in the kitchen.

“Ok, here’s how you program this baby,” he told us breezily, talking a mile a minute as his fingers went boop, boop, boop on the instrument panel.

“Then you do this to change your hours, – boop- and this to change your temperature, and then you save your settings this way – boop – and that’s it!”

There was no printed set of instructions. He left us with nothing but our puzzlement.

David and I actually read quite a lot “on the Internet” so I suppose we could go there and start noodling around for a tutorial on the darn thing, but … I don’t know. I feel too cranky to do that, so we’re mostly hollering to each other to ask, “Did you turn the heat [up] down in the kitchen?”

I guess I’m just a give-me-the-manual kind of a gal. And if it takes me 30 minutes in the car rental garage to go over all the operating instructions for the vehicle I am about to cross some entire state in, so be it. At least I’ll be able to quick turn on the wipers when the next frog-strangler of a rainstorm hits.


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5 thoughts on “ Give Me the Manual

  1. My husband never read the manual on anything. It’s like never asking for driving directions.

    As for grandpa reading something on the internet– it never happened. Never heard of it.

    When I go for “Help,” with something on the internet, the answer contains so much specialized gobbledegook, I am worse off than before I started.

    Am I beginning to sound like Andy Rooney?

  2. Ha! And for us, the manual is the hardest part. We just installed a baby gate….I mean, really? a BABY gate…and the manual instructions seemed to be written is Swahili. Give me a nice YouTube Video for idiots any day!

  3. Terry: You might be able to get the manual for your new thermostat by doing a google using the brand and model number.

  4. Dear Terry —

    I have been meaning to contact you ever since you acknowledged my response to Olga B (I think it was?) a few years back.

    But the title on this latest piece finally woke me up to do it. I was an editor all my life, first at Little, Brown and later in several software companies — editing manuals and help systems. So you and I have something in common.

    This has to be brief, but I want to salute Cal too. Fond memories — of her and Grace and so many at Fernwood. BTW: I got to Fernwood through my mom, who knew Grace from Holyoke (right? Didn’t she and Cal grow up there?). Loved my two seasons at Fernwood.

    Now my husband (Juan) and I are retired and living in what was my parents’ retirement home in Portsmouth, RI. We love it here. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer several years ago. But things are pretty stable, luckily, and I am still enjoying life. Looking forward to the summer weather — as soon as it starts.

    My very best to you. I enjoy your blog. And of course, if you’re ever in RI, please get in touch!

    Fondly, Mary

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