How to read an instruction book – for Dummies

Hi there dummies!

Now, firstly, before you take offence, please be aware that the dummiest dummy of them all when it comes to instruction books is me. So we are all dummies here, right? No-one reading this blog is any dumber than anyone else reading this blog. You’re all people of higher than average intelligence, as evidenced by the fact that you’re reading this blog. You’re probably creative types. That’s why you have trouble coping with the bland, dry, impersonal and humorless writing contained in an instruction manual.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on. It’s a good thing we did, because we have very quickly come to the first tricky part of the instructions on how to read an instruction manual. That’s because, for this exercise, we need an instruction manual. For those of you afflicted with the condition known as “unable to muster up the slightest interest in reading an instruction book,” this may present a level of difficulty right at the outset, because

a. you probably hate instruction books and burn them,

OR

b. you probably subconsciously thwart your own chances of ever finding an instruction book again by storing all your instruction books somewhere obscure so that you can’t recall where you’ve put them and therefore are unable to utilise them,

OR

c. you conscientiously stored all your instruction books in a large shoe-box in the bottom of the linen cupboard which happens to be about two feet away from where you are sitting, but there is no way you are motivated to open the shoe-box and rummage through a pile of boring instruction manuals by the end goal of reading an instruction manual. It seems far more preferable, and reasonable, to try and work out how to use the item without resorting to such measures.

Here we deviate into the scrutiny of a fictional case study.

In this case, our fictional subject – we’ll call her Popsicle – needs to check the oil on her car. The need is very strong, as the mechanic warned her about 5000kms ago, that the car seems to be using up oil too quickly and that the oil must be checked on more frequently than the standard 10,000km service done by the mechanic. (*the fictional car in this case is a 2008 Ford Focus, which our fictional character does not recommend anyone buy.)

Now, for the record, Popsicle has competently checked the oil on all the other cars she has previously owned ( a Valiant, a Mitsubishi, a Toyota and a Holden) without needing to resort to an instruction manual, but unfortunately on this *#$%%*!* car, merely opening the bonnet is a feat that requires a qualification in safe-cracking, and this is where the need for the instruction manual comes in, bringing us neatly back to –

Step 1: locate the instruction manual.

In this case, Popsicle thought the instruction manual would be in the neat little indentation in the door of the car, made specifically to store such documents as the car manual and a large, olden day map like the Melways in. (remember, this fictional car is from 2008). However, the manual is not to be found in the pocket, and thus the hunt is deemed too hard, and temporarily disbanded, and the car driven about another 200km, before Popsicle has another free morning and decides that checking the oil on the car, whilst a painfully tedious thing to have to put ones mind, and time, towards, is now a Very.High.Priority. The search is resumed.

Fortunately, without too much kerfuffle, a mere three and a half minutes later, the car manual is located in the next most likely place, i.e, the glove-box of the car.

Step 2: open the instruction manual. 

This step is easy for most people. Popsicle achieved this step with only the aid of a strong coffee.

Step 3: locate the topic you need help with.

This step can be a challenge for those who suffer from a low boredom threshold.

You could throw a quick glance at the index, as Popsicle did, but you’d almost certainly discount it immediately, as too uninteresting to persevere with, which is what she did. You could then try flicking through the pages randomly, which is what Popsicle tried next. Perhaps during your flicking, you’ll spot an illustration of someone opening the bonnet of the car. That’s what Popsicle hoped, anyway. A few flicks through the book revealed no such illustration, however, nor an illustration of an oil can, nor of an oil rig, nor of someone beating their own head with their fist in frustration, nor any other image that clearly signposted a section on how to check or refill the oil.

A lovely, and useful, hand-drawn illustration of a can of oil, not from my car manual.

Pic: © Blathering

Step 4: Resort to actually reading the index.

Run your eyes down the headings in the index. Nothing sounds relevant. This was obviously why you didn’t bother to read the index in the first place, it’s a complete waste of time. Who would have thought that things could come to this – here we are in 2017, and neither oil, nor opening the bonnet, are topics worthy of listing in the index of a car manual! Or maybe it’s just the Ford Focus that has no need to dilly-dally with such trivialities. They probably decided that as the owner of the Focus, you would mostly need to head straight to electrical faults, with no distractions, but that’s a topic for another post.

Step 5: turn to the back of the  book, hoping for a section with topics ordered alphabetically. Fortunately, there is such a section, and oil is considered worthy of being listed in the alphabetical index.

Step 6: turn to the listed page to find out how to check the oil

Helpfully, this section begins, open the bonnet. It then goes on to explain how to achieve this mysterious feat. To open the bonnet on a Ford Focus, one must wiggle the Ford badge out of the way, then insert the key into the locking mechanism, turn anti-clockwise, but only a little bit, get your fingers underneath the bonnet and lift the bonnet slightly, then turn the key the whole way clockwise, hop on one foot, turn around three times while chanting Flea Fly Flo, and then lift the bonnet the whole way.

Step 7: Follow these instructions

This step came undone for Popsicle. She wiggled the Ford badge out of the way, stuck the key in and attempted to turn it slightly, anti-clockwise. But it didn’t feel as if the key was turning at all, and forcing the key to turn in the lock doesn’t seem like a smart thing to do. Just for laughs, she checks whether she can turn it clockwise but that also has no traction. She tries skipping to the hopping on one foot and chanting part of the instructions but that only causes the neighbour over the road to pick his toddler up from the verandah and hurry indoors.

Step 8: phone your mechanic

Hopefully you have a nice mechanic, like the mechanic that Popsicle goes to, because some mechanics would probably make you feel like a right twit if you phoned to ask if they would kindly check the oil on your car. In this case the Very Nice Mechanic said yes, no worries, drop it in anytime, just don’t come at lunchtime. Fair enough.

Step 9: Drop you car at the mechanics, and watch him open the bonnet without any trouble.

Well that’s what he did an apprenticeship for!

Step 10: Be told that the oil is totally empty and requires 3 litres to top it up.

Poor old Popsicle! The mechanic’s advice was that she should probably get rid of the 2nd-hand car she’s had for two years, because there is something wrong with the motor if it’s using oil that quickly. Popsicle remarked that there is also something wrong with the electronics in that case, as the oil light on the dashboard was not coming on to indicate that the oil was dangerously low. In any case, she was very thankful that she had decided to prioritise a boring task like checking the oil on the car, instead of doing something much more fun like writing a post on her blog.

 

 

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