In the last two years electronics manufacturers replaced product instruction booklets with human tears — mine.
Until 2008, each computer, radio, TV, cellphone, or other electronic device had a little booklet that told all about the product I’d just bought. Important things. How to turn it on, for example. It is not always that obvious, you know. The booklet also told me how to turn it off, and how to mute it. That last one’s especially important given the current crop of advertisements, mostly for other gadgets that won’t have booklets either.
Those were the days. I remember fondly that I would pull out the instruction booklet first. If I’d had any inkling that the lines and those pages would soon disappear, I would have treated it better. But when I’d get something new, I’d push the manual aside, heartlessly toss it to the floor and completely ignore it. I would turn on the gizmo and figure out exactly how to make it do just what I wanted done. I could always figure out how to use it, even the most complicated ones. The instructions were then put into the drawer next to the oven with the rest of the booklets. That drawer collapsed in 2009 under the weight of instruction booklets for the 4,153 electronic devices we’ve purchased since we bought the house in 2002.
Now, I understand the need to cut back on paper usage. I am all for saving rainforests I’ll never see, limiting emissions that may or may not be causing global warming. I’m into all that sort of environmental crap, really I am. But they cut out my little booklets at exactly the same moment that they made the damn gizmos completely incomprehensible.
When manufacturers first removed my instruction booklets, I was brave. I didn’t cry for the first three or four hours while I pushed every frickin’ button on my new cell phone, hoping in vain that one of them might just turn it “ON.” Naturally, the power button was the one I didn’t press because that had a picture of what clearly represented “OFF” and the bloomin’ button is RED. Am I the only person who ever played Red Light/Green Light???? RED IS STOP. GREEN IS GO. Jeez.
OK, I know I should have gotten over this particular problem with my very first Windows product, but I didn’t. And I won’t. Not ever. And I will never feel stupid for not pressing OFF when I want ON.
Still, I do try to not be a crybaby. And sometimes I make it. For a while.
I didn’t cry for 6.5 hours when my new “plug in and use” laptop couldn’t be. Equally exasperating, this laptop had no installed software that would have permitted use once it was plugged in. As I sobbed to a Geek Squad Rep at Best Buy, I was told “there’s no software on it because people like to individualize.”
“I’m pretty sure,” I said, pulling my head out of the paper bag I’d been breathing into, “that Neanderthals like me who buy products advertised to be ‘plugged in and used’ aren’t all that into individualization.”
It has gotten to the point where sometimes I don’t even bother crying. I just throw stuff. In fact, hospital emergency rooms see a 5-fold rise in shoulder, elbow, wrist and foot injuries during the holiday season as consumers throw, fling or kick their electronic Christmas gifts across the room, trying to miss the Christmas tree it took them so damn long to hang lights on. Personally, I worry that I might decapitate relatives who wander into my house within 24 hours of a technology acquisition, when I have just sent something flying.
So all that is left for me to do now is cry. And I do. Every single time I buy something. I’m considering going for a Guinness World Record for “Most electronics-related crying jags.” Other contenders should just throw in the towel. Or a tissue.