Mastering instruction manuals
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Feb 13, 2014 | 936 views | 0 0 comments | 176 176 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Some readers may remember (I hope you do) the saga of our stolen auto some three months ago.

Five nights later it was wrecked in the Fairfield area, where its occupants were apprehended and immediately provided with free indoor dining and sleeping accommodations.

The theft necessitated that we acquire a new auto, which HM (Housemate) and I have been attempting to navigate around the streets of Patterson and the Central Valley for a number of weeks now.

When we travel together, I drive and she navigates. There’s reason for that. The instruction manual is nearly 300 pages long. Its table of contents is only two pages, but the index in the back is 12.

As many of you know, I come from the Dinosaur Age (DA). That’s not quite right. I’ve never left the DA.

I first had to learn how to lock and unlock the new vehicle. I was given a key but it isn’t used as a key for entering and exiting the auto. Just for the ignition.

In fact the instruction manual lists three different ways to lock and unlock. Why ask us to master all three? Wouldn’t one do it?

On page eight, which actually is marked page one-two, is a diagram of the instrument panel and steering column. Wow! No fewer than 25 dials and knobs and buttons and switches. It looks like what a pilot of a 747 experiences when he slides into his seat.

And he has no belt to buckle. Failure to buckle in ours creates sirens and whistles loud enough to make you check your mirrors for oncoming emergency vehicles.

I haven’t yet mastered the heating and cooling system, but that’s OK because we drive only in the middle part of the day when the temperature this time of year is tolerable. I’m not looking forward to summer.

Night driving is out. Haven’t yet had to dim the headlights, but maybe it’s done automatically.

Everything else seems to be. I back out of our garage watching the camera which in turn is watching our rear. Get to close to something and it screams at you.

And just driving down the road can be disconcerting. When our tires touch the outside stripe or the center line without the turn signal activated, a startling beeping noise immediately interrupts the conversation (if you have been calm enough to be engaged in conversation).

This Monday was HM’s day to take her written test at the DMV office. I stayed in the car to read the manual. I simply wanted information about how to turn on the radio.

No way was that going to happen. For it was then I discovered a second manual explaining what is called the Infotainment System. That includes the radio, among several other things not worth mentioning here because I’ll probably never activate them.

The radio instruction is listed on page five of this 101-page piece of technical jargon. It started with another diagram of the instrument panel and listed 16 more buttons, knobs, etc. that do nothing but operate the radio.

Whoa! I went back to the first manual, and sure enough, its 25 challenges did not include the radio, thus upping the total list of gadgetry to 41, just to operate our new car.

I should insert here that operating the radio consumed a full 20 pages of instruction in the Infotainment System manual. I got lost on the third page.

I waited for HM to return from her test. Before she did, I had turned on the ignition and had fumbled around with each and every gadget controlling the radio. But no sound resulted.

I was going to tell you about the buttons, etc. on each door panel. But I can’t. I’m only on page eight of the main manual, and figure I’m never get to listen to the radio unless my lifetime runs well over average.

Henry Ford had it right. Keep it simple.


Yes, the Boy Scouts still have 2014 Patterson event calendars available for home delivery. In fact, about 500 still remain unsold.

Just call or e-mail me for delivery to your door – front or back, day or night, rain or snow.


This is the time of year that sports editors dread.

Football is over. Basketball is in mid-season for both the colleges and the pros, with the good teams decided and the mid-levels jockeying for position. And baseball is about to start its boring spring training.

Fortunately the Winter Olympics are underway for those of us glued to the tube.

So far we’ve survived the unfinished Sochi hotels, the stray dogs, and shots of President Putin, but are holding our breaths about terrorist attacks and the success or failure of Julia Mancuso, whose grandparents, Ciro and Velma Mancuso, lived here for decades and still maintain a home in rural Patterson. So far, Julia is doing very well. Go, girl!

But something has to fill those sports pages. And last week, actor Clint Eastwood came to the rescue.

At a dinner for volunteers, the 83-year-old Clint saved a guy who was eating and talking at the same time. He used the Heimlich maneuver to dislodge food from the man’s throat.

That’s a good story to pass along to my Boy Scouts, who are required to know the procedure.


You readers are nothing but spectacular. Here’s another e-mail worth passing along, this one a quote from Phyllis Diller.

“Whatever you may look like, marry a man your own age. As your beauty fades, so will his eyesight.”

Ron Swift is the editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at
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