February 12, 2008
I like to joke that my kids didn’t come with instruction manuals, so how am I supposed to know how to be a good mother? But in truth, if they had arrived all pink-cheeked and squealing with a hundred-page how-to, I probably wouldn’t have read it anyway.
I say it with a sly grin, “I don’t read instruction manuals.” Like, “I don’t like broccoli,” (which I do) or “I’m ok with never skiing down a huge hill again in my life” (that’s true). It’s a simple statement, a statement of fact, a piece of information about ME. I do not read instruction manuals. I don’t even always keep them. If my office closet gets too full, something has to go, doesn’t it?
Besides, isn’t reading an instruction manual sort of ruining all the surprises? Let’s take it out of the context of, say, the brand new fancy printer my father bought me today (that was so nice and unexpected!). Never mind that it offers color and black and white options, fax, scanner, copy-making, laser printing and there’s a USB port in the bottom right corner (for what, I’m not sure, haven’t read the manual). All of that is perplexing enough and perhaps reading a thick little streamlined white booklet might clue me in to the mysteries of this machine.
But then I would eliminate all sense of panic when I get an error message. I would relinquish the breath-holding anticipation of wondering whether a document I send to port will actually print. I’ll lose that smile-forcing glee at crisp, warm pages with not just black ink, but little splashes of blue and red when I least expect them.
I get the point of an instruction manual: to teach me how to do something, so that I won’t screw up, like I did with my last printer (who knew that when I hit the cancel button to stop a 100-page print-out from Wikipedia that my sad, loud, fast Brother printer that was only a year or so old would never issue forth pages for me again?). I have no idea where the instruction manual is on that one and I certainly didn’t expect my father to bestow upon me this gift of a greater machine. I could surely have done without the several days of having to squint at the screen to find pertinent notes to compile all my painstakingly typed research into a readable, interesting article.
But life without suspense? Heart-racing passion? Mystery?

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