I believe there are two types of people: those who read instructions before operating new devices, and those who don’t. My wife Claudia is the former. I am the latter.
We recently purchased a new washing machine. The old one finally committed suicide after 10+ years of faithful service. For months, we tolerated an ever-increasing vibration during the spin cycle, at times registering a 6.0 on the seismic scale. However, the bursting of the tub seal couldn’t be ignored. What had been a minor leak suddenly exploded, leaving a small pond at the base of the machine. We paid $100 for a service call to verify what we already knew. The cost of repairs would exceed the price of a new machine.
Through the miracle of the internet, we found a washer meeting our needs and ordered it. The new appliance arrived 48 hours later. In less than 15 minutes, the old one was loaded on the truck and the new washer was installed in the utility room, ready for a backlog of dirty clothes. Our old washer had two dials, one to select the cycle and the other to select the water level. The new one has five dials and more indicator lights than a Boeing 767 cockpit. Still, I saw no reason to read the owner’s manual before loading it and hitting start.
“Wait! What’s the difference between tap, cool tap, and cold water?” Claudia asked, placing her hand over the start button. It wasn’t a question I found critical to the maiden journey of the machine.
“This washer can calculate the required water level. Do we have that set correctly?” Her questions continued. “We should read the manual.” It was obvious my devil-may-care approach wasn’t acceptable.
I have always waited until something didn’t work before breaking out the owner’s manual. It’s a process that’s served me well for nearly six decades. I’m probably lucky that I’ve never been injured or burned the house down, but in the long run, I’ve saved many hours by not reading technical manuals. Claudia not only reads them, she highlights relevant portions. She has saved every owner’s manual of every device she’s ever purchased. They’re filed chronologically in a kitchen drawer.
I’ve wondered if our different views toward owner’s manuals were learned or if genetics played a role. After some thought, I’ve concluded they are learned behaviors. Claudia grew up in a household where the first item out of the box was the operating instructions. Her father placed high importance on reading them cover to cover before going further. I don’t remember ever seeing an operating manual until I was married.
I was fortunate to find Claudia to balance my haphazard approach to operating new devices. It’s one of the many examples of yin and yang influencing our lives. Our complementary traits have also allowed me to write with freewheeling thought and reckless abandon, knowing Claudia’s editing and attention to detail will tidy things up later. I’m creative. She’s precise.
And if it wasn’t for Claudia, I would have never learned the difference between tap, cool tap, and cold water.