Janet Sheridan: Before using, read all instructions

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Janet Sheridan

I don’t know if you’ve noticed an I-70 sign posted for westbound traffic shortly before the off-ramp to Silverthorne.

It instructs truckers not to exit if they’ve lost their brakes.

I like to think truckers are alert enough to see for themselves the folly of taking a short, downhill exit into a busy intersection without brakes, but I suppose you never know.

Seeing the I-70 sign reminds me of the instructions for assembly and use that accompany purchased items. Such directions seem to divide folks into two groups: those who read them and those who don’t.

I read directions; I can’t help it, I’m captivated by words. My husband, Joel, ignores directions; he could help it, he just can’t be bothered.

When assembling a metal shelving unit, Joel dives right in, uses interesting vocabulary interspersed with “huh!” and assembles a sturdy 3-shelf unit.

I, on the other hand, must find my glasses, skim all the instructions, arrange the components in order of use, and collect the necessary tools from wherever Joel left them. Only then do I begin following the directions, step by careful step, until wayward pieces and a unit askew force me to plead for my husband’s help.

He gives it with a minimum of mockery.

I feel bad when I ignore appliance manuals full of dos and don’ts.

Someone took care with those words; I should read them. Recently, when I examined the 20-page booklet for my new crock-pot, I was relieved to discover directions in French, Spanish and Chinese, leaving a mere five pages in English for my perusal.

Manuals that include instructions for different models also are timesavers; I don’t have to read about those I don’t own.

However, after studying the pages for my purchase, I sometimes inspect and covet the premium-model with its programming options, blinking lights and intriguing attachments.

Many times, browsing instructions, I find surprises. I use my microwave to re-heat coffee, warm-up leftovers and thaw stuff.

But the manual informs me that in addition to cooking broccoli, bulgur and brownies, this miracle machine can toast nuts, heat herbal neck packs and slay salmonella lurking in sponges.

When my coffee maker burbled and died several months after purchase, I searched its manual for warranty information. In the section on maintenance, I discovered my negligence. I had neither decalcified the coffeemaker every 40 brew-cycles nor replaced the water-filtration disk every 30.

A person could get dizzy trying to keep track.

Wouldn’t common sense suggest to the manufacturer that coordinating the two tasks would be more efficient? And do I really need to follow the suggested schedule, or is it a ploy to sell cleaning solution and filtration disks?

I suspect corporate lawyers wrote the safety warnings in manuals. Why else would I be warned to prevent children from standing on a cook top in use, to refrain from reaching my hand inside an operating blender, and to never use a match to locate a gas leak?

In addition, I sense a low estimate of my I.Q. when I am told that, if my stand-mixer doesn’t operate, I may not have plugged it in, turned it on, or noticed that my neighborhood is experiencing a power shortage.

Yesterday, I purchased a new appliance; I need to stop writing so I can read its 30-page manual.

I hope it warns me never to use a toaster to warm my fingers; I keep feeling tempted to do so.

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