If you, like me, are a compulsive reader, I’ll assume that you have at some point read anything just for the sake of reading. Right?
When I was in elementary school, I would read the cereal box while I ate breakfast. I’d read the local newspaper, and even developed a preference for the classified ads, especially the personal ads: “To the gentleman who helped me with the flat tire last Friday night at Stoney’s Bowling Alley, I’d like to thank you properly. Please respond, Box 483…”
Whoa! Think of the story possibilities in that little ad.
I look at my new aluminum step-ladder and wonder how it became a receptacle for counter-intuitive warning labels: “Danger!! Not a Step!”
Last night I was reading the owner’s manual for my new car so I could learn what all the icons on my dashboard meant. Fully 30% of the content is a warning of some sort.
I sympathize with the authors of these manuals. I’ve had to write marketing or advertising copy for products and I produced what I thought was a well-written copy. The voice was right; the rhythm of the words was right. I was pleased. Then the copy was passed to the Legal Department, and the copy was transformed into bloated sentences that no one would bother to read. Unless, of course, that someone (me) is looking for another topic for a blog post.
So here’s what we have:
- On the pages describing the buttons on the instrument panel:
“Warning: Never use the buttons in the instrument cluster while driving.” (I can’t do that? So now I suppose I’ll have to resort to knitting while I drive?)
- In the section about Driving Basics:
“Warning: Always observe traffic rules and posted speed limits and use common sense.” (Common sense, too? Geez, Louise.)
- About the power door locks:
“Warning: Never allow passengers to remain in a locked vehicle. In an emergency any person still inside the vehicle might not be able to get out. (There goes my plan for locking my former manager in the car during a heat wave.)
- In the section about the power moonroof:
“Warning: Always make sure no one is in the way of the power moonroof when it is closing.”
(A helpful tip I would have never considered.)
- In the section about the cup holders:
“Warning: Never put hot drinks in the cup holders…hot liquid can be spilled and cause burns!”
(On second thought, make that an iced coffee, please.)
- In the section about the transmission:
“Warning: Never shift into Reverse or Park while the vehicle is moving.”
(That’s disappointing because I had next Saturday planned around doing just that.)
- In the section about the luggage compartment tie-down hooks:
- “Warning: Never secure a child seat to the tie-downs.”
(Because what child would want to ride in the trunk/boot? — Most of them, come to think about it.)
So now that the Legal department has covered all possible contingencies, happy driving (but steer clear of that step-ladder).
My condolences to the author of that manual, by the way.