Read the Frickin’ Manual…Carefully

When a man reaches a certain age, he is encouraged by his doctor to get an exam that requires a camera inserted in his backside to check for prostate cancer, among other things. Alas, I’ve reached that age. There are a lot of preparatory steps involved, up to five days prior to the actual exam. Apologies, this post might be a little on the gross side, so if you’re squeamish, the point up front is that you need to read instructions more than once…the more complex the situation, the more times you’ll need to read them. Sigh. Moving along…

A technical writer should know better. I got a multi-page set of instructions a month ago and scanned them at the time. Then I left them on the table next to a plastic container of some horrific powder which, when mixed with a gallon of water, clears out your intestines. That, plus a couple of laxatives (I took one, not two) and magnesium citrate are supposed to finish the job so that when you show up for the exam, your inner plumbing has been cleared out as effectively as pipes flushed with Drano. I don’t recommend it as a regular lifestyle, though it did temporarily cause me to lose five pounds.

Well, here’s the sad part of not doing things 100% correctly. As awful as the day before the exam was–no solid food, only the medical Drano and clear liquids allowed, and oh yes, more time in the bathroom than I’d prefer–I was told that my system was not as clear as the doctor preferred it and so I was invited to do this again a year from now.

What did we learn from this, class? That’s right…

  • If you have a complex process to perform, you need to read the instructions carefully.
  • You might need to read the instructions more than once.
  • If the process is to be performed over multiple days, you need to set yourself a set of  reminders.
  • If you don’t perform the process correctly the first time, you most likely have to do it over again.

Like I said, a technical writer should know better. You’d better believe I’ll be reading the next set of instructions from my doctor very carefully. I can definitely think of more pleasant ways to spend my time.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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