Here’s a column I wrote for the May issue of Scanorama. Enjoy!
Apparently, there are just two kinds of people: those who read the manual first, and then start playing around with their new gadgets, and those who start playing with their gadgets and consider consulting the manual “cheating.”
I don’t think I’ve ever read a manual in my life.
I have never seen my parents do it, either. When I was a kid, my father would bring home all kind sof gadgets from his store, and if he couldn’t set them up, he’d send me in, and after some time, I would guess and figure out my way to the right combination of buttons that were needed to set up the VCR clock, the timer, or the channels on the TV.
My wife always reads the manual first. And while our son’s first instinct is to just tear up the package and start playing with his toys (with me), he now reads the manual, and tells me to do it, too. Nature or nurture? Tough call.
Well. I still think it’s cheating, no matter what the rest of the family says, so I often just hold the manual and stare into the empty space in front of me, and wait until they’re ready to start playing with the gadgets.
I have to say, though, that with the development of the technology, I’m at the end of my imagination when a random pressing of a few buttons is not enough. It takes all my brain power to come up with a good explanation why I didn’t use that cool application on my iPod Touch, or why my bookmarks aren’t as organized as my wife’s. Admit that I didn’t know how to use it, or that function even existed?
So, while I keep complaining about IKEA’s instructions and always make a big scene about them in a poor Seinfeldian way, I secretly love them. See, all IKEA instructions basically go like this: 1. Open package. 2. Find the bag with the screws. 3. Build.
Unfortunately, I’m still left with staring into empty space while my wife and son build the bookshelf.
Trial and error only takes you so far with IKEA.