Wednesday, February 3, 2021

On Following Instructions


There was a time the mailman was who brought us packages. Quaint as anything. Not only that, but you could count on him showing up about the same time every day. I know this because as a new letter carrier I would occasionally substitute on a route and be informed I was "ten minutes late." Isn't that dear?

It's a weird thing, this new gig economy. The opportunity to work without a pension or benefits or decent wages has been recast as a chance to work for yourself! and be independent! and set your own hours! which is a very fine deal for the companies that used to pay people to do things. Now, if we want to, we can ride that spiraling economy right out of the middle class and into a choice tent spot on the median strip. And for those of us who were fortunate enough to retire from one of those antique union jobs, it means we can hear packages thwacking onto our porches all day long and into the night, except for the ones that end up on someone else's porch because nobody's in charge of knowing who lives where anymore.
 
Recently, over the course of twelve hours, we received four such items, originating from the Grace L. Ferguson Airline and Storm Door Company, sprayed out into a community of desperate but Independent citizens, and hurled onto our porch from moving vehicles. Two were gifts. One was a Device from our new TV service, ATT. And one was a festive stool sample kit from Kaiser. 

I'm familiar with the stool sample kit. I get one every other year. My tradition is to move it close to the toilet and remember it just after I've already taken a dump. That gave me a couple weeks; I decided to have a look at the TV Device. It came with a Safety & Care brochure. Herewith safety instructions one through four, which I am not making up:

1. Read these instructions.
2. Keep these instructions.
3. Heed all warnings.
4. Follow all instructions.

So far, I thought, I had things well in hand. Things deteriorated rapidly after that. There was an explanation of a symbol ("Danger of explosion") and another symbol ("For God's sake whatever you do, do not block the vent sluices"). Followed by the instruction to line up the flux capacitor with Arcturus during the full moon between 11pm and midnight using the splice modulators in the little plastic bag at the bottom of the cardboard box I already flattened and put in Recycling.

Plus a warning to Never move the device, and also to See important safety information on the bottom of the device.
 
And another little bit about voiding the warranty.


Which made me think about the Stool Sample Kit. I decided to buck tradition and get right down to it. This package also contained an instruction sheet, but I knew the drill and almost didn't give it a glance. But I did, and noticed that there was something new. Instead of laying the tissue paper on the water in the bowl, I was to stretch it across the top of the bowl and pin it down with the seat, which brought the whole transaction a little closer to my person than I felt I could trust, because I can void a warranty with the best of them. Fortunately, my concerns were moot, because I torpedoed that tissue paper in one shot, resulting in my bowel movement, which I was to "allow to fall onto the paper"--let's hear it for gravity!--floating majestically in the water. 
 
Ten percent of that icberg remained aboveboard, however, so, aware that I'd run through my one sheet of tissue, I got out the Sample Probe and proceeded to twiddle it, but that caused my Sample to roll like a frolicking sea lion and water got in everything, and there was nothing to do but jam the probe back in the collection container and hope for the best. I wrapped it in the provided hankie and sealed it up in the return envelope (let's hear it for the mailman again!) and visualized the eye-rolling in the poop lab. I figure everything will either be okay or I'll get another kit in the mail along with a referral to a dietician. And I sent it along.

After which I noticed the first instruction, which was to write the collection date on the container.

In my defense, there was nothing in the instructions about reading the instructions.

21 comments:

  1. Hmmm...remind me never to order one of those kits. Personally, at my age, I figure to let my bowels have their secrets. What's one more cause of imminent demise to me?

    You did remind me of my walk, this morning. Nearly back home, I espied a pretty little green, glistening stone shaped like a Hershey's kiss. As my gloved hand shot out to pick it up and reached the 2-inch-distant point, I realized it was a cone of bird crap. Looking toward our house, I saw "our" flock of turkeys, one of which was the likely depositor.

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    1. I, too, prefer to have my method of demise be a surprise: "Wow! Of all the things I thought could get me, I didn't see THIS coming!...."

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    2. Who orders? My HMO just sends them to me. Often as not, on my birthday. Whee!

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  2. "If all else fails, read the instructions." As a guy that is usually the last thing I do when taking on a task or trying to complete one. I am glad with your task that everything came out in the end.

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    1. Came out from the end And came out in the end. I am a reader of instructions. Sadly they are often written in languages I have (at best) an imperfect grasp of.

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    2. The Stool Sample Kit was written in English AND in handy illustrations. It was the illustration showing the tissue hanging out of the edge of the toilet seat that made me think you had to do it the way I did; the actual instructions were just like I remembered them (lay the tissue on the water). I guess they couldn't figure out a way to draw clear tissue paper on clear water without having the paper edges hanging out. I am a dufus.

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  3. “I can void a warranty....”
    Priceless Murr.

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  4. One more thing we have in common! I, too, receive my Kaiser-Permanente Stool Sample kit on the same 2-year cycle that you do! Perhaps this will be the closest I ever come to experiencing that phenomena of my erstwhile female housemates having their menstrual cycles in sync.
    But perhaps I digress -- we are talking about poop here, after all. I just want to say that I had the same experience with the Sample Probe -- furiously twiddling it as the top 10% of the iceberg threatened to sink into the blue waters.....

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    1. Ed, this is now as close as I'LL get to having my menstrual cycles in sync with yours. Praise Jesus!

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    2. I lay my tissue inside an old ice cream bucket, then flush the contents once I'm done twiddling the collection stick.

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    3. Oh you've put WAY too much thought into this.

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  5. Made me think of South Park's Mr. Hankie, and lo and behold, you mentioned him.
    I cracked up at your fine transition from 'don't eat the packing peanuts' to 'Which made me think about the Stool Sample Kit'. You are a Master.

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    1. I did? I had to go look up Mr. Hankey just now.

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  6. At least the instructions were written in English. Did you get the AT&T thingy working satisfactorily?

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    1. Yeah, sorta, although guess the hell what? It gets all the channels except PBS! WTH!

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  7. I'm crying laughing! Went from a rant about the gig economy to ... and River's comment about an ice cream bucket ... Sometimes I want to go back to Jesus healthcare. People 2000 years ago didn't know their blood pressure nor cholesterol numbers, never sent in stool samples, the only known diseases were leprosy and demonic possession, and you either died or got a miracle.

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    1. ...but life expectancy was around 25 or 30, right? And they were nasty, brutish years.

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    2. River just doesn't want to share her homemade ice cream if we all show up.

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  8. LMAOROTF, frolicking Sea Lion... OMG. Well, at least you don't just look at that Sample Kit for Months before just tossing it and thinking, I'm not really Down for this method nor a Colonoscopy either... so, screw it.

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    1. Better than instructions for electronics that offer a microscopically small drawing of a plug and socket with advice to go on line and join a user community to figure out the rest and hope your question has come up. Come to think of it, I guess that’s what we have going here. ..

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    2. I got my test results back. Negative. Evidently it doesn't matter how you mishandle it. It's shit. They can deal.

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