Friday, January 15, 2010

Day #10 — So Many Possibilities

For today's prompt, Lisa Romeo suggested: Read All Directions Before Starting. Oooh, which way to go? There are so many good possibilities. In the true spirit of the SFD, I think I'll just let my mind and keyboard ramble.

Prompt: Read All Directions Before Starting

When DH built the little shed in our backyard, he was shocked and frustrated to discover that the kit had too many medium-length bolts and not enough long ones. Turns out that he had used the long bolts in the wrong spot and had to take the shed down to the ground. I discovered this when I read the directions. Read them — not just looked at the pictures. I do so love to be right. It could be my fatal flaw.

One of my favorite in school exercises, and a truly delicious practical joke, is that old ridiculous worksheet entitled: "Read All Directions Before Starting." My mother was a teacher and a librarian. I always read all the directions before starting. As a consequence, I was one of the few that read:

Step 1 — Read all directions before starting. Complete this assignment as quickly as possible.
Step 2 — Write your name at the top of this page.
Step 3 — Open and close your workbook three times.
Steps 4 though 19 — a bunch of other ridiculous tasks, including (I kid you not) "walk to the front of the room and kiss the chalk board." (I suppose now it would be a white board, but it would have the same effect.)
Step 20 — Set down your pencil and watch most of your classmates make fools of themselves because they did not follow directions. Try not to laugh, or you'll give it away.

I loved this exercise. Have I mentioned that I love being right? It's definitely my fatal flaw.

Do you know how many times I have read the directions for making Jello? It's not that hard. Boil one cup of water. Dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water. Add one cup of cold water. Stir gently. Refrigerate until firm. If I can reproduce the directions (almost verbatim) even though I have not made Jello in many months, then why do I feel compelled to reread them each time. And it's not just Jello. I still read the directions on the pasta package. Pasta. Boil until desired doneness. It doesn't take a genius. 

Recently, I have used two different sewing patterns that had incomplete and just plain wrong directions. I found myself rereading them over and over, with the ingrained belief telling me that if I only read the directions carefully, I'll be able to figure it out. But sometimes directions are wrong.

And sometimes there are no directions. We've all encountered the missing manual. How can software companies get away with putting out complex products without creating and including a comprehensive manual? What is that? 

And what about all those really important things that simply don't come with directions — like children. Where's the manual for parenting? What was God thinking? 

The two sides of my brain are in constant battle over the whole "read the directions" imperative. How much time have I wasted reading directions I either already know or that don't matter? Why must I read them word for word and critique how well they were written. Why can't I just take what I need and move on? 

Time: OK, over time: 14 minutes

Clearly, this topic struck a chord. I bet it could be revised to make a smashing essay. Ah, perhaps there is a reason for all this prompted free writing. Must mark to revisit.

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