FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS


Manufacturers of complex machinery must view Canadians as a nation of incompetent idiots. I say this because I recently bought a vacuum cleaner. It came with an instruction manual the size of The Encyclopedia Britannica.

The manual gave me more information than I ever really needed to know. Believe me, I know how a vacuum cleaner works. You plug it in and run it over your dirty dishes. The spinning brush gizmo in the front picks off the bits of food, then a fan-like contraption shoots it through the cord and into the wall. When the wall is full, you move out.

It is an insult to my intelligence when the manual suggests I need a dirt bag to intervene in the process. What’s the point? Dirt bags simply contribute to planetary pollution.

I also recently bought a watch. It is digital rather than analogue. I had to use a manual the size of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary to find out what time it is.

Thankfully, there are some items one can buy that contain no instructions at all. These are Low Tech items. Some of the Low Tech items, however, could use one.

I melted my tea kettle yesterday. This meant I had to buy another tea kettle, or else suffer the pains of caffeine withdrawal. My new kettle has two pieces: the kettle, and a whistle for the spout. It came in a box. The only writing on the box said, “Stainless steel tea kettle – 2 1/2 quarts,” (whatever quarts are – we use liters in Canada).

I know how a tea kettle works. You take the whistle off, fill the kettle with water. Then you put it on the stove, and wait a week to hear the whistle. Impatient tea drinkers remember to turn the stove on.

The tea kettle company might have included one instruction. How do you get the hot whistle off the hotter kettle without peeling the hide off your fingers or poaching your flesh with the venting superheated steam? I would have appreciated those instructions.

I pried it off with a chopstick. The angular momentum of the chopstick catapulted it off the kettle, across the kitchen, and behind the fridge.

Now I have a silent whistling tea kettle. I’m not going behind the fridge. It’s plugged into the same wall as my vacuum cleaner. Nine volt batteries ought to have one instruction. It should read, “WARNING: THIS BATTERY WILL SET YOUR PANTS ON FIRE.”

I recently got a deal on a whole pile of nine volt batteries – the type with the two poles on top. I need them for my 7:30 Double Step Class. They power a radio transmitter microphone which allows the class to hear my cues with nasal wheezing. It also keeps my voice from sounding like that of a confirmed smoker.

I put one in my pocket. In the gym, while waiting for one class to finish and mine to start, I began to remove my cutoffs to expose my spandex shorts. A participant asked about a peculiar smell. “What’s that funky smell?” she asked.

“It must be some new kind of cologne they use here,” I suggested. “Maybe it’s that new one that helps women regulate the timing of their periods.”

As I pulled my cut-offs down, they exploded in a shower of sparks and flames. I grabbed the woman’s water bottle to douse the inferno.

By coincidence, the pocket that contained the battery also contained a dollar coin. The coin crossed the battery’s poles and became hot. The hot quarter detonated my pants.

After class, my participant congratulated me on a good class. “You were so hot,” she said, “Your pants are still smoking!”

 Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a  fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net   or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca.

If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates

When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.

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