The divine hilarity of instruction manuals

meteobollocksThis was the official meteo forecast for my French postcode today. It’s been clear all day, and was 29 degrees this afternoon. So, close then. The forecast is the same for tomorrow, so anything could happen: like every other thing associated with ‘government’ in the West today, weather forecasters have lost the plot: they see their function as the coverage of the backside. There will be sunny intervals and showers with a possibility of Armageddon and everyone being turned into a pillar of salt. Or – if you live in Italy and you have a fat enough brown envelope – “What would you like the weather forecast to be Signor?”

I’ve been buying some boys’ toys, and the main one is a power-cleaner to keep the pool surround and motor home free of mildew, algae and general grime. It’s a damned fine thing, but sadly the external electricity and water supplies here at Slogger’s Roost are some distance from each other.

So when the instruction manual says ‘turn on the water supply and then turn on the power switch’, it may sound like simplicity itself: but the authors didn’t realise they were condemning me to a round trip requiring ample food supplies and a sherpa guide.

But I have to forgive the manual, because reading it was the source of more rolling-about incontinence than everything else that has happened in the last week. Assuming a user IQ at the sub-atomic level, it got off to a cracking start:

WARNING: do not use the appliance without reading the instruction manual

I mean, I don’t know about you, but my default modus operandum when spotting a user manual is to incinerate it. What would be the point in doing anything else? But suitably chastened by this diktat, there followed a brief seminar on the terminology:

DANGER! indicates an imminently hazardous situation which, if not avoided, will result in serious injury


WARNING! indicates a potentially hazardous situation which, if not avoided, could result in serious injury

It’s a good idea to clear up this sort of potential confusion right at the start of proceedings, otherwise anything might happen. If you’re given a warning of danger, then you should take it more seriously than being given a warning. We could get into a mathematical hierarchy here – whereby, for example, 3 warnings might equal 1.7 dangers.

But this still leaves me confused, because not reading the manual at all only merited a warning. This doesn’t compute: if I don’t read it, there is only potential death, whereas if I do read it but ignore it, there is a certainty of death. In which case, what’s the point of the…oh never mind.

If like me you can smell the presence of feral lawyers here, then well done. It helps to explain why 200 lawyers can pore over a piece of tax legislation, and still leave 2000 loopholes through which the rich can jump.

Meanwhile, back in the manual, the following are listed as warnings:

High pressure jets should not be fired at children. Do not point the jet at the machine. Do not point the jet at your face. Do not use flammable liquids in the jet, only water. Do not spray internal domestic plug sockets.

And while you’re at it, do not point the jet at children if it is connected to a petrol supply. This procedure is only recommended for Buddhist monks using suicide as their medium of protest.

Jesus: and these are just the warnings. As it happens, there is but one Danger!

DANGER! Failure to follow these instructions can result in serious injury, including death.

On the other hand, it could also result in a whole shedload of fun. I’ll leave the details up to you. Enjoy the weekend.

Earlier at The Slog: Cameron the Red-faced long-nosed Remaindeer