Monday, September 24, 2012

Oh, snap!

Figuring out a career can be such a challenge. We try to match up likes and dislikes, skills and lack thereof, to an area that would be financially remunerative. Or at least pay the bills this month. 

I am aware that there is a whole field devoted to this matching up people with the right careers. But I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest there is a missing career area that is ripe for development. Or perhaps, more diabolically, there already IS a secret cabal matching up a very select kind of job with an equally select mindset: writing assembly instructions and sadists. 

There are a number of possible scenarios here. After all, I'm not paranoid. It could be that those who write instructions for assembling things like, say, garden hose reel holder thingies, are people like me. People who are not terribly skilled in the visual field. People who must stare at instruction illustrations for 10 minutes before they start to make any sense. If so, this would be akin to the blind leading the blind. 

To the slaughter. 

So, for example, the instruction sheet today started out with the following:
Most parts are assembled by locking a tab on one part into a snap on the mating part. The tab must slide down into the snap. 
 A tab into a snap? Swearing immediately commences. Tabs don't go into snaps. Snaps go into snaps. Male snaps go into female snaps.  Tabs go into, I dunno, holes. Slots. Slits. Not SNAPS. 

And then with the "must slide down into the snap." Slide down? Is that like down as in "south" or down as in "toward the ground"? Did the almighty and powerful instruction writer mean "into" rather than down? "Under?" 

And do my question marks in the above paragraph go inside or outside of the quotation marks?

But I digress. 

The directions go on:
Align parts so tab slides into the snap with the smooth end of tab nearest snap. 
So now we've moved away from "slide down" to "slides into." I find this somewhat confusing. And, for the record, none of the illustrations point out what, exactly, a snap is. They do illustrate a tab. I did not find that particularly helpful in identifying the snap, however. 
Continue sliding parts together. When you hear a click and the tab is flush with the snap surfaces, the parts are locked together. 
So, the theory I developed was that the almighty and powerful instruction writer, suffering from a complete inability to visually describe, decode or understand the instructions she was supposed to impart, instead decided to use the word snap for slot or slit because the parts "click" when put together. And snap is, while not quite an onomatopoeia for click, in the ballpark.

But when I move on to Instruction 1, it becomes clear that being paranoid would not be paranoid in this setting. 
Assemble Frame: Snap frame bar (3) into right side frame (4). Snap frame bar (3) into left side frame (5). Insert frame tube (6) into mating holes of side frames (4 and 5).
So now the almighty and powerful instruction writer decides to shift the use of "snap" from a noun to a VERB? Really? Are you TRYING to confuse me more? Don't you know who you are dealing with, the level of ineptitude your audience potentially possesses? I have trouble consistently identifying my left and right hands. 

And, no, remembering that if I hold my left hand up it naturally makes the shape of an L does not help me. I simply pretend in my tiny brain that I am writing, note which hand moves, and generalize from there. Sometimes, it works. 

Speaking of which, when you use the words right and left in instructions, I believe it behooves you to be a bit more clearer. Whose right are we talking about? Mine? Yours? Stage? 

The sudden and swift change of "snap" from noun to verb, coupled with the wanton use of left and right without further instruction compels me back to the original thrust of this post. Instruction writers are sadists. 

Or, perhaps if they are not sadists when they first begin, they become sadists as they work at their craft. The task of describing in excruciatingly minute detail how to put Some Dumb Thing together becomes so boring that the writers look for ways to amuse themselves. Such as switching "snap" from a noun to a verb. 

But we could take this further. Rather than people becoming sadists while doing this job, we could recruit those who already are sadists. Just as we have professional organizers who use their clinically diagnosed OCD that manifests in hyperorganization to fix other people's clinically diagnosed OCD that manifests as hoarding, perhaps we could advertise in S&M magazines for assembly instruction writers. 

Or, perhaps, I need to explore another tangent altogether: know any masochists that I could hire to assemble all items that require instruction manuals?  


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