My character flaw feature image.


I have to admit to a character flaw. Ok, ok, I know I have many, but this one is the one I am most happy with owning up to without going into litigation with a large South African combine. Let me explain.

Now when you buy something these days, there is always an insert with the product. I am talking about electronic devices, not sausages or something like that, but a really technical item. The insert can be a small strip of paper with tiny writing on it, or it can be a massive tome which seems to be as large as War and Peace with many, many pages full of illustrations, graphs, indicators and is probably bigger than the item you have bought. They are called Instructions. I have a problem with this. I am a man and that means that I know exactly what I am doing at any given moment. I am strong and independent, (and I have my wife’s permission to say that) and I certainly don’t need an insert to tell me how to operate the thing I have just purchased. I have just bought it, so that would indicate that I have some form of idea what the item actually does. It is almost as silly as expecting me to ask for directions when I am lost, a man just does not do that kind of thing. Period.

I generally ignore instructions until something catastrophic happens

Take cars for example. They all come with some form of owner’s manual which goes into great detail about how to open the doors, hoot the hooter, where to put the fuel, how many wheels it has and what their uses are and reams and reams of information given to the new owner, including advice like Don’t drive over a cliff. Really useful stuff which I generally totally ignore. Until something catastrophic happens, then I must admit, I do, with a great deal of soul-searching, reach for the insert, hoping that no-one notices me doing it. It really is a character flaw and I have had some interesting moments with some my purchases, some of them leading to injury, but no deaths yet.

But take a look, if you finally do, like me, at the instructions. Now many, in fact most, products these days are manufactured in China, and this presents another problem. I am totally sure that the instructions, when written in Mandarin made perfect sense to the person writing them at the time, but the translation into 50 languages the product is going to, can make no sense whatsoever. I can only vouch for English and some very bad schoolboy French, but Mandarin being translated into, say Greek for example, would present some very interesting challenges. However, I can’t speak Greek or Mandarin, so I am wondering how many people in China have come to grips with the Greek language. Translating one language into another is not as easy as picking up a Greek/Mandarin dictionary and going word for word into the other language. There are so many different meanings and nuances that if you are not totally up to speed on the languages, it can lead to many embarrassing printing errors. For example, Ford decided to sell a car called a Pinto into the Brazilian market some time ago, and saw nothing wrong with using the same name as they did in their home market, the United States. The trouble was that the word pinto in Brazil actually a derogatory name for a man’s appendage. This did not go down well in the South American country, and sales, for some unknown reason, did not take off.

Character Flaw: Waking up people in Alaska at 3 am

Yes, Instructions can be difficult to understand even when you finally do get around to reading them, but what if you buy a product of a highly technical nature and the manufacturer doesn’t give you any inserts at all? What do you do? My problem here is that sometimes you actually do need Instructions. Take smartphones, for example. I am, and probably always will be, a very un-technical person, and when it comes to smartphones, I surrender and look immediately for the Instruction Manual. And you know what, they don’t have one. My last smartphone came in a fancy box and printed on the outside was a massive list of all the things this instrument could allegedly do which sounded great, until you took the phone out of the box. I frantically looked around for the insert, but it was not there. So, what did I do? Well, I spent the next three or four days prodding the thing with my finger trying to get the phone to operate as advertised with little or no effect except that I managed to call some really angry people who got even more angry at being woken up at 3 am in Alaska by some idiot in South Africa trying to get his phone to work. Finally, I worked it out, sort of, but I do know that half the features will always remain a mystery to me.

So, there you are. Instructions. As I have said I just generally ignore them, but annoyingly sometimes you do need them, and if you do it would be nice if you could understand them and they were written in something a little better than Pigeon English. And it would be even nicer if they were included in the deal in the first place. I know it is a character flaw, but being a man, I am meant to know all about everything, aren’t I? You never know, next I will be asking for directions.

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