"When all else fails..."

Most people I've noticed appear to accept instruction sheets and booklets as just another form of packing material, like brown rice paper, newsprint, and that squeaky foam that comes in bizarre shapes.*

A model kit company (Testor's, I think) used to include on their kit instructions a drawing of an exasperated looking man, covered in bits of model airplane and streamers of glue, sitting on the floor looking at an instruction sheet with the caption: "When all else fails, read the instructions!"

Occasionally, this could be a portrait of my daddy. He was the sort who believed in opening the box, pouring out the pieces, and immediately putting the whatever together--"Instructions? Instructions? We don't need no stinkin' instructions!"

As evidence, the Commonwealth will introduce Exhibit 22B:

Time: 14:26 Christmas Day a heck of a lot longer ago than I care to think about.

Place: A house on the south bank of the Potomac River.

Subject: "Hey, let's give the new toy a whirl!"

We had received one of those new blenders from someone I forget and Daddy was "hot to trot" to try it out. He decided the best way would be to whip up some milkshakes. The two of us retired to the kitchen followed as usual by a lap fice and three cats (after all, the bipeds were heading for the place from which all good things flow). As he unpacked the blender, I snagged the instruction book as it flew by (hey, I'll read anything up to and including the wrapper off a roll of toilet paper--do you know how many board-foot go into the average roll of--oh, yeah...the story). While I worked my way through the lawyer talk in the first several pages (something to the effect of please don't be an idiot while trying to use this wonder of technology--and when you are, don't sue us), Daddy put the blender together, measured out the milk and put it, several scoops of vanilla ice cream, and a number of healthy shots of chocolate syrup in the glass part. He plugged it in and just as I got to the part that reads, "WARNING: DO NOT OPERATE WITHOUT LID IN PLACE!" pushed the button. The geyser of chocolate milkshake hit the ceiling and spread to cover him, the counters, the various small predators present, and a goodly portion of the floor. The next happening was the precipitous departure of all quadruped life forms. My mom, having been trampled in the stampede (well, at least below the knees), comes into the kitchen at "All Ahead Full," surveys the desolation, and, without cutting her throttles, makes a high speed 180 degree turn to port and exits the area of operations. My daddy looks at the new decor and says, "Well, son, I guess we better clean up." Going after the mop and bucket, the thought runs through my mind--as Tonto said, "What do you mean 'we' white man?"

*Old Poot Digression:

One of the great losses from the slow death of print journalism is the absence of newspaper used as packing material these days. Often, the newspapers could be more interesting than whatever they protected in shipment.

As most seemed to come from retailers in smaller cities and towns, one was given a snapshot of life away from the larger and, often, rather boring mainstream media outlets. Being small towns, the stories tended to be covered in an "up close and personal" way. A murder which might be covered in Baltimore only because of the novel way the dearly departed was done in and then in only two and a half short paragraphs on page 18--inside column, would be splashed across the front page, above the fold, with jumps to three different large column-inch feature articles covering what was thought to have happened, who was thought to have dunit, why they were thought to have dunit, when the heinous deed was done, how they accomplished this piece of human drama, and the fact that their (the victim, murderer, or whichever family or friend) Uncle Fudd was coming in on the bus from Chilhowie to officiate at the celebration. For those of a writerly bent, this is the grist for the keyboarded mill. Outside of Arnold Toynbee, this is the magnification at which most writers work. If writers were supposed to write what they'd experienced as opposed to what they know (the last delivered in a thick Russian accent), most fiction would be really boring. While most of us write about the experiences of our lives and those of our friends and families (in my case, this is pretty much a non-starter. None of my family have been particularly homicidal--at least to those within the family), without the wider knowledge of life we obtain through watching others' disasters, our output would be on a par with that seen on the "walls" in Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451."

18 September 2010: Feast of St. Gerreoulus. Constantine the Great wins battle of Chrysopolis becoming sole emperor of Rome 324 AD, Moscow burns 1812, "Fugitive Slave Act" passed by U.S. Congress 1850, South African troops land in German Southwest Africa 1914, U.S. Air Force established 1947, Voyager I takes first photo of Earth and Moon together 1977.

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