Reading directions is an important skill one must learn. I haven’t quite mastered it yet. I’m the type of person who gets a new piece of technology and starts hitting buttons immediately. Oftentimes I forget there’s a manual at all. Which has led me, on more than one occasion, to sit there, cursing at an object for 20 minutes and accomplishing nothing except getting more and more frustrated, instead of being productive and actually finding a solution to my problem in the book provided for just such an incident.
I don’t know why I do it. I should have learned my lesson by now: always read the instructions. But still, I throw caution and good sense to the wind and go in blind.
My favorite example of why I shouldn’t do this takes place in French class in my senior year of high school. It wasn’t a particularly special day. I couldn’t tell you the weather, and the only reason I could tell you what I wore is because I attended a Catholic school and thus had to wear a uniform. It was an everyday.
We were doing exercises to learn new vocabulary. The teacher spoke the words every student loves to hear: “You can work with a partner.” Luckily (or perhaps unluckily for us) my best friend, Cait, sat in front of me. We situated our desks, and began scribbling away, more focused on our conversation about God only remembers what than the actual assignment.
All of our answers were in the affirmative, because it was easier. “Oui, je donne un os au chien. Oui, je donne un poisson au chat.” We went on our merry little way. Class wound down, we finished up our assignment, and I started thinking about what I was going to have for lunch. Then something in the directions caught my eye. “Oh, shit.”
Cait looked up. “What?”
“Use logic,” she translated hollowly.
“That means there will be negative answers.”
We both looked up at the first question. “Would you give allumettes to children?” I read, unsure of the new vocab word.
My friend then uttered what has become an immortal sentence to us: “What are allumettes, and do you give them to children?”
I flipped to the glossary. “Allumettes, allumettes… matches.” I looked up. “Would you give matches to children?”
We indeed would, apparently. I believe we also said we’d give meat to a vegetarian and chocolate to a diabetic. Because we are fine, upstanding members of society who could give less of a damn about their French assignment.
We looked at each other, and we couldn’t help but be amused. Because the entire ordeal was just so us. Yes, of course we would give matches to children! They’re the perfect plaything for young minds! Sesame Street and matches! That’s what a kid needs to engage his brain! We giggled at ourselves, and went back to change our answers.
The bell rang. Class dismissed. “Okay, class, on your way out, if you could just hand in what you’ve been working on?”
Cait and I looked at each other, gathered our books, and shoved our papers at the teacher in gleeful shame before rushing out the door. Because fuck if we were going to be around while she read the first sentence.
By not reading the instructions, you tend to learn things the hard way. Like how not reading instructions will result in you giving hypothetical matches to hypothetical children. Or how hitting the B button will prevent a Pokémon from evolving, which would have been great to know six levels ago when my adorable Charmander was evolving, but now I’m stuck with an ugly Charmeleon until I level him up to a badass Charizard. And for everyone’s sake, let’s not discuss the summer after my period started and I had to figure out tampons for the first time.
What I’m saying is that instructions are good. Instructions are something I should learn to pay attention to. But then there will be no more sense of discovery. No more eureka moments. Some things aren’t as much fun when they are just handed to you. It feels a bit like cheating. And I’ve never been a big fan of cheating. It just makes everything seem cheap.
Unless it’s for video games. Then it’s a festival.