Opinion

Warning: Do not read all directions before using

Directions are helpful.  

Or not.  

Sometimes those multi-folded papers printed in 16 languages that come with your coffeepot or hair dryer or ready-to-assemble furniture leave you scratching your head, bent over laughing or ready to light them on fire.

I bought a new coffeemaker recently. Now one would think this is fairly simple. Run only water through the thing a time or two, then fill the reservoir, add coffee, plug it in, push “on” and in 5 minutes you have coffee.  

Piece of cake.

But if you read the directions, you will feel like a 4-year-old transitioning from colored blocks to architectural blueprints. 

“Be sure water filter packet is installed at the correct angle in the water filter holder.” 

Water filter?

“Place the water filter holder so it is aligned with the recessed openings in the replaceable filter basket. Be sure the water filter clicks in place.” 

What openings? Uh-oh, no clicking.

“Use of water filter may void all warranties if water filter is installed improperly. Inspect carefully before adding coffee. Do not let coffee touch water filter.” 

Soooo, if you can’t let coffee touch it, why is it in a coffeemaker?

Finally, I made my own directions: “Remove water filter from box and toss in trash.”

Here are some more helpful hints. “Do not touch the coffeemaker’s hot surfaces.”  What? They have to tell people this?  

“Close adult supervision is necessary when this appliance is used by or near children.” Adult supervision for the coffeemaker or the children? Will you have to separate them if they fight?

This one is my favorite: “Do not place this coffeemaker on or near a hot gas or electric burner or in a heated oven.” Well, darn, I often warm up my coffee by putting the entire coffeemaker in the oven. 

And every hair dryer I have ever bought contains this gem: “Do not use while bathing.”  Ah, yes, why not dry your hair with one hand while you’re rinsing under the shower? Now that’s a time-saver.

Most of us have at least once put together one of those assemble-it-yourself pieces of furniture — tables, chairs, cabinets, whatever.  You know the feeling, don’t you? It’s these directions that will prepare you for a respite in a padded room. 

It sounds so simple at first: “Screw cabinet panel A to panel B, using provided holes.”  

OK, so you have 10 holes. The helpful diagram shows one screw poised above one hole. Screwdriver — ready. Impossibly tiny packet of screws — ready. After struggling to open that tiny packet, you discover you have two fewer screws than you have holes.

Now here’s what they don’t tell you (which you discover after cursing the company for shorting you on materials and frantically riffling through the instructions for the umpteenth time to figure out why you have extra holes): You have to leave holes 1 and 10 free to attach the bottom and top cabinet pieces.  Sixteen pages later, in tiny print, there it is: “Attach top and bottom panels to first and last holes on panel A.” 

One of the best, though, was a case I bought for my smartphone. These directions not only gave me installation instructions, but promised to fix my entire life. 

“Simply easily put part A on back phone while part B snap to its top with easy click.” (Just in case you were unsure, the item was not made in the USA.)

But this was the pièce de résistance — and these are not typos: “We make qualit cases phones many years. We strive give you happy future.  If not call and we solve all you problems.”

Now that’s a guarantee to get behind.

Paula Brewer is the assistant editor for weeklies, TheCounty.ME and FiddleheadFocus.com at Northeast Publishing, a division of Bangor Daily News. She can be reached at pbrewer@bangordailynews.com or (207) 764-4471.

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