Simply Following Directions

For the past 17 months I’ve acknowledged a familiar greeting from my DVD player whenever I flop down on the couch: 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00 12:00. Even since the great power failure of 2005 when it suffered a minor stroke, the clock has continuously winked at me, hoping that I’ll ultimately be cajoled into correcting the time. Fat chance.

It’s not that I haven’t tried. One evening last week, I even dragged out the user manual to try to figure out how on earth you reset the time. Like most user manuals, the 64 page guide is broken down into language sections for French, Spanish, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Tagalog, Japanese, Chinese, German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Danish and Bulgarian. Flip it over and you’ll find Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Farsi, Vietnamese, Turkish, Korean, Italian, Thai, Cantonese, Polish, Burmese and even a section devoted to Pig Latin. Thankfully, the scant last page was in English.

Due to the litigious nature of our society, user instructions are now required for just about every consumer product, but tend to offer little in the way of support. Often times there’s no words; just pictures. There’s a diagram with one cord going from the S-video output on the DVD to the S-video input on my microwave, followed by three sets of color-coded composite A/V cables dispatched to the red, yellow and white audio out and DVD left/right ports on the toaster. This is immediately followed by an illustration of a human finger poking an electrical outlet with a large, red international circle with a line through it, meant to convey some sort of warning. After three frustrating hours, I finally gave up and decided to turn in for the night.

While brushing my teeth, I noticed for the first time in my life that there were explicit directions on the side of the toothpaste tube on how to correctly clean my teeth. Now, I’ve been brushing my teeth for well over 50 years and never once felt compelled to read the directions prior to dispensing the goo; but they’re there, anyway. Probably the result of a wayward beach goer who mistook it for sunscreen, resulting in a lawyer drafting a $50,000 warning for the side of Colgate’s Herbal White with Fluoride. I’m sure that there are similar warnings for just about every other consumer product on the planet based on some poor slob’s unfortunate experience.

So, as I drifted off to sleep, I started to wonder about all of the directions for products that I’ve somehow missed over the years. Here’s just a few:

Mitchum Antiperspirant: Remove cap and twist knob at the bottom of the container counter clockwise until product begins to ooze from the small pores at the top of the dispenser. While holding the dispenser in the right hand, lift the left elbow away from the body until the upper arm is parallel to the floor. Point the tip of the dispenser toward the underarm at a 45 degree angle where the upper arm and torso meet (armpit). Press lightly against the skin while dragging the applicator down, applying a thin film of product to the skin. Vigorously flap the upper arm up and down to dry the product before donning shirt or blouse. Repeat on the right side. Warning: Do not use on small pets or children younger than 3 months.

Scope Mouthwash: Grasp the bottle firmly with the right hand, while pinching and turning the bottle top counter clockwise. Pour 2-3 ounces of mouthwash into a small glass and return the cap to the bottle. Open mouth approximately halfway, and pour in mouthwash. Close lips and gently inflate cheeks to approximately 20 pounds per square inch (PSI). Quickly reverse the pressure to approximately -10 PSI. Repeat 5 to 6 times. Bend forward at the waist positioning head over sink. Spit mouthwash into sink. Return to normal standing position. Warning: Do not use to irrigate the eyes. Keep product out of reach of alcoholics.

Kleenex Tissue: Using the tip of the thumb and index finger, gently pull one tissue from the top of the container. After folding the tissue in half, cradle it between the tips of the fingers and the palm of the hand. Take a deep breath and hold. Bring tissue towards the outside of the nostrils of the nose and gently close fingers against the outside surface of the nose. After closing the epiglottis, rapidly exhale the contents of the nose into the tissue at a pressure not to exceed 35 PSI. Repeat several times, taking care to suppress any audible noises. While pinching the sides of the nostrils with the tissue, gently pull away from the nostrils. Warning: Exceeding 75 PSI may result in spontaneous pneumothorax of the vestibular canals (blowing out eardrums). Do not perform procedure on shirttail or other articles of clothing.

Angel Soft Toilet Paper: Locate the last square of paper at end of the roll; depending on mounting preference, last sheet may be either on the top or behind the roll. Firmly grasp the end of the roll with the tip of the index finger and the thumb. Either underhand or overhand techniques are acceptable. Gently pull the paper away from the roll until four to five squares have cleared the roll. Quickly “snap” the end of the paper to tear it from the remainder of the roll while steadying the roll with the other hand. Fold the length of the toilet paper over itself to create a “pad” over the tips of the fingers, anchoring the paper between the fingers. Using the free hand, pull one cheek of the gluteals away from the center line of the body, creating a natural crevice. Beginning midway down the crevice, gently push the pad of toilet paper down across the rectum using moderate pressure of approximately 20 Pascal (where 1 atm = 1.013 x 105 Pa = 101.3 kPa). Deposit used paper in toilet bowl. Repeat several times until area is clean. Warning: Do not store used toilet paper in pocket or purse.

Wyeth Preparation H: From a standing position, gently lower the body to a squatting position. Open product tube and squeeze a one-inch line of product onto the tip of the middle finger. Using the other hand, gently pull one gluteal cheek to the side. Gently slide the finger with the product over, around and into the rectum, distributing the product in a clockwise direction. Replace the cap on the product tube and return to medicine cabinet. Warning: To avoid accidental misuse of product, do not store in close proximity to tooth paste.

In the morning, I finally decided to take permanent action to rectify my blinking clock. I taped over the flashing numbers with electrical tape and went down to breakfast.

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