Do not follow instructions

The Madison County Record Dec. 19, 2009, 8:28am

1. Insert tabs a-z into slots z-a.

2. Start over and insert tabs into right slots.

3. Attach the thingamabob to the whatchamacallit with an insufficient amount of hardware and a metric hex key that's not included.

4. Remove thingamabob and attach doodad instead.

5. Smash the whole thing with a mallet and put it back in the box.

Yes, it's Christmas time again, and the ordeal of following assembly instructions looms for parents everywhere.

Are we the only ones confused by 50-page instruction booklets, printed in 8-point type and translated into English from Chinese by someone who speaks Hindu?

No, it's not us entirely. There really is something confusing about instructions – and warning labels, too -- especially in today's global economy. However, not all instructions are logic-challenged.

Take this cautionary advice from a popular product: "Do not move console with disc in tray."

What does that mean? Is it saying that a console with a disc in the tray should not be moved? That can't be right, can it? What if you want to move the console with disc in tray? Does this mean you can't?

As a matter of fact, that's exactly what it means. And it's straightforward, not the least bit confusing.

Theoretically you could move the console with disc in tray, but you might regret it, because moving the console with disc in tray can damage the disk – which is why the manufacturer says not to do it.

But Jason Johnson took no heed of the instructions. He moved his console with disc in tray and guess what? Yes, he damaged the disk.

Alton attorney Emily Johnson filed suit against Microsoft last year on behalf of Jason, whose Xbox video game discs were damaged when he moved the Xbox video game console while the disks were in the tray.

Maybe if Jason spent less time playing games, he might improve his instruction-reading skills.

And maybe if Ms. Johnson had better things to do, she wouldn't spend her time (and waste the court's) trying to spin a bout of individual carelessness into jackpot justice gold.

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