Public Service Reprise********** Gizmos and Gadgets

It’s not because there is so much yet to do for Christmas that I’m reposting this piece.  Nope.  The elves never arrived so I’m done with Christmas.  Whatever isn’t done, well, you know.

But I thought it really important to re-post this piece from early June (since clearly only one person read it). I believe it is my CIVIC DUTY to inform you that, when you are tearing your hair out over your new gizmos and gadgets,  you are NOT alone.  AND THAT YOU SHOULD BE VERY CAREFUL.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Whatever it is you want to celebrate!



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’ve 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.


Filed under Humor, Stupidity

27 responses to “Public Service Reprise********** Gizmos and Gadgets

  1. GOF

    May I become a member of your Club for the Electronically Frustrated?
    I can throw stuff a long way too.
    Just when I was beginning to get the hang of understanding instruction manuals for gizmos I now find that I have to go back to school and learn a whole new language of Chinese English.


    • You may certainly become a member. Folks are accepted when they can throw far and/or create the best crash sounds. Sounds like you’re our guy! And my language skills aren’t up to learning Chinese-English. French was impossible for me. If I have to go and learn Chinese-English I will simply roll over and die!

      Thanks for stopping by — I will check out your blog too!


  2. Elyse, would you consider guest posting on psychodynamom? I enjoy your blog and you have a lovely writing voice. I’d love to hear about your adoption journey for a different perspective. email me at if you are interested. And thanks!!


  3. Okay, Elyse, I am guilty as charged. I never used read the booklets, but I do almost all the time. And I’m with you on the gizmos getting too complicated. What DID happen to simplicity?? Except for IKEA which has idiot style drawings geared toward … well, people like me :)!

    And don’t get me started on the number of languages that make a 3 page booklet turn into 80 pages!

    Have a Merry Christmas!


    • Merry Christmas to you too!

      I’m confused by your comment” I never used to read the booklets, but I do almost all the time.” ???? Are you reading them NOW THAT THEY AREN’T THERE???

      I am an IKEA hater. When we lived in Europe that was the only affordable place to buy stuff. It was all uncomfortable crap and it all fell apart. That may have been because we had to PUT IT TOGETHER first. Not my strong suit! I proclaimed at about year 3 of 5 that I was WAY too old to buy any more IKEA crap.

      Santa does NOT shop at IKEA!


      • Woops! Should have said “… but I do almost all the time, NOW.” I’m still seeing instruction booklets with the items we buy here in California. This state is pretty heavy on consumer regulation.

        Good point about IKEA. A lot of it is particle board/pressed wood.


  4. “that Neanderthals like me who buy products advertised to be ‘plugged in and used’ aren’t all that into individualization.” haha…so true!
    My sewing machine that Bernina loves does not work, nada. So I called my neighbor who loves to sew and asked if her I could please come over and sew 10 straight lines. She told me she has four machines and said I’ll be right over with one…wonderful neighbor. She had carefully prepared a bobbin and threaded the machine, but at the first stitch it got unthreaded. I was in trouble! So I googled how to thread a “Janome”, watched a tutorial and I sewed up those 10 straight lines. Eureka! Singing ♪”What we do for love.”♫ helps.


    • What a nice neighbor!

      Tutorials are definitely the way to go! I catch on with verbal instructions, eventually. But it was nice to have the books for when you need your husband to figure it out for you (mine used to read every one of those books BEFORE trying the gadget. He’s a nerd!)

      And I love that song! You got the Christmas carols out of my head!


  5. You could come up with a great post out of all of those booklets — You could call it “The Way We Were …” All of mine were thrown out when the drawer really did collapse!


  6. I save many of the important books too. Probably still have booklets for stuff that has been replaced or tossed. I don’t like reading the either … but here is the irony …. one of the professional hats I wear says Technical Writer … meaning one of the things I do is write instructions.


  7. I had a similar problem with my iPod Nano. I couldn’t turn it off at all and the battery kept running down. I hate that gadget. And now, since I ALSO hate my Blackberry and I’m thinking of going for an iPhone but I’m afraid. I am very afraid…


  8. Oh, I can relate! We’ve had this little handy dandy gadget called an iTouch for awhile now and I still can’t figure out how to turn the damn thing off or on for the life of me. My husband says to me, oh it’s easy! –You just press the little button on the top once really quick and it ‘wakes up’. Or if you want to let it ‘sleep’ you tap the button again. But if you want to really and truly turn it off (as in actually OFF) you need to hold the button DOWN for a few seconds so a message can pop up saying something like, “Power OFF?” Then you have to click on: OK or Cancel” I mean, seriously? In the time it takes for me to figure it out, I’ve aged about 10 years and the stupid iPod is obsolete!


  9. Me, getting old? Damn, how did that happen?

    Nope. I don’t agree. I am not only NOT getting old, but the gadgets and gizmos ARE getting more complicated. And they are designed by folks who are too smart for the rest of us!


  10. This goes right along with knowing the names of plants and listening to talk radio. I think they call it…..getting old.
    Ouch! Hey, I’m just sayin. My wife and I get the same phone–two (old) brains are better than one.


  11. Hi,
    Some of these new items are unreal and I don’t understand why they think everyone knows exactly what every button is for, clearly most of us need real instructions.
    I have also found even if I get instructions they are not always clear. 😀

    A very Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.


    • Thanks, Mags! I agree with your comment. When you buy something in the store it seems so simple. Then you get it home and can’t do anything with it.
      And you’re right, too — those few things that do have instructions are even more confusing — probably because they aren’t written by brilliant writers like us!


  12. I hear you. Bring back the books.
    I’m glad you reposted this.


  13. I am still laughing! I did the same thing on my cell phone too!


    • Thanks — you made me feel less alone! I don’t know why they can’t make these things more simple and/or user friendly. Perhaps they sell more stuff because folks put their fist or foot through them in frustration!


  14. Just yesterday I was crying big salty tears because I didn’t know how to turn on our new home theater system. We’ve had it a month or so and Alan has been the one turning it on. I was home by myself and thought I would enjoy some surround-a-sound entertainment. I sat for 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get sound to emit from the speakers! Finally I called him on my cell phone (that I’m still learning how to use) for step by step instructions. Sad state of affairs I tell you!


    • Oh, I wish I had posted this earlier then! You would not have felt so alone. You still wouldn’t have been able to watch your movie, though. I’ll share my Guinness Record with you!


  15. Remember the good ‘ol days when the biggest problem with using a new electronic device was finding the right size battery to go with them?


    • Now they give you the batteries but don’t tell you what to do with the stuff! Harkening back to the “good old days” when they did things right makes me feel ancient!


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