Monday, October 08, 2007

Read the Directions, Even if You Don't Follow Them

Not too long ago, someone emailed me a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's speech to a MIT graduating class. It was pretty amusing, so I sent it to my mother.

One of his pieces of advice was "Read the directions, even if you don't follow them."

I am a doer, not a direction reader and have been known to say (and quite often), "Directions? We don't need no stinkin' directions!"

My mother is known for persistent asking, "did you read the directions" (when she's talking to me, this is normally followed by "God, you have no patience!") Since this email, she has taken to quoting Mr. Vonnegut's little piece of advice back to me ad nauseum, like it justifies 30 (31 next month) years of asking me this question (okay, so maybe not 30/31 years, but since I could read and comprehend).

Recently, I was trying to put a new blade into the scroll saw sitting in my garage. I'm fiddling around with it and finally, frustrated, I pick up the phone and call my parents (long distance).


*Me: "Ma, how do you change the blade on the scroll saw"
*My Ma: "I don't remember, it's been a while since I used it. Mark, she wants to know how you change the blade on the scroll saw. Here talk to your father." She passes the phone to Dad. He starts explaining about loosening this screw and that and doing this and doing that. Yeah...not making much sense to me, as I cradle the phone on my shoulder to still listen to my dad and continue to fiddle with the damn thing. Then faintly, in the background, I hear the voice of my mother repeat that time honored question, "ask her if she read the directions".
*My Dad: "Did you read the directions?"
*Me: "," and he tells me where they are. So I actually read the directions and yeah, still not working. And by this time, I'm just cranky enough that I'm cursing the scroll saw and this gets me a "God, you have no patience" from my mother. Needless to say, I didn't fix the scroll saw.


Before hanging up with my parents, I make the mistake of saying, "Oh yeah, the band saw blade needs changing too." All I get in response is a "read the directions."

My Ma stopped in at my house the other day and lickety split, changed the blade. What is it about a parents' ability to understand directions better than their children? Is it something that just happens when you have kids? Do you suddenly develop the patience needed to read directions? I don't have children yet, so I don't know.

Anyhoo, this whole story really is leading up to something. After a week without my camera, I was playing with it (I've owned this camera for almost 2 years) and I pressed a button and it did something took a super clear and marvelous picture of something really close up! I was psyched. Where was this button before? Why didn't I know that I had this ability to take such amazing close up shots? Oh...yeah...I never read the directions, I just started playing with it.

So I guess Kurt Vonnegut's advice is sound. And I guess from now on I should take a couple of deep breaths, reign in my frustration and "read the directions", even if I don't follow them. Now, I wonder where the book to my camera is...

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