Instructions for the lame of brain (you'll love this!)

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MIKE HARDEN: Instructions for the lame of brain

Columbus Dispatch of Ohio Copyright 2002 Nando Media Copyright 2002 Star Tribune

(August 24, 11:24 a.m. CDT) - The owner's manual of a Panasonic vacuum cleaner cautions that the appliance should not be used to pick up lit cigarettes.

The operating instructions for a Conair hair dryer advise: "Never use while sleeping."

Sunroof warnings for the Nissan NX2000 once advised owners, "Don't drive standing up through the sunroof while you're closing it."

I have added these gems of counsel to the ever-growing list I call the National Register of Stupid Instructions.

Eight years ago, I began collecting insultingly inane or totally confusing manufacturer instructions and cautions.

My all-time favorite is the warning on the side of a toy manufacturer's Batman costume: "Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly."

Many of the accordion-pleated sunshades for car windshields carry this advisory: "Remove before driving."

Through the years, I've learned that a few other cursed souls share my fascination with dumb instructions.

Ross and Kathryn Petras, authors of "The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said," quote from the instructions issued by the manufacturer of a baby walker:

"How to store your baby walker: First, remove baby ..."

Documentation firm Technical Standards sponsors contests for dumb or incomprehensible instructions.

One recent winner is the producer of gas fireplace logs. The product warnings advise that the gas-fired logs should be used only in a fireplace "constructed of noncombustible material."

The user's manual for a two-wheeled collapsible children's scooter made in Asia notched a runner-up spot in a recent contest. The instructions say:

- "Operate it on the loosen condition of levers without confirmation can cause the handle pole bent and cause incident."

- "Do not resolve and refit the product optionally due to safe reason."

- "Be attention to the environment around and abide by the traditions."

- "Do not operate ... when you are in poor health or bad spirit."

What if I bought it to improve my bad spirits?

I always thought it strange that Alka-Seltzer instructions cautioned, "Tablets must be dissolved in water before taking."

But then, one reason some drug manufacturers stopped wrapping suppositories in foil is that some consumers neglected to remove the wrapper, much to their considerable later irritation.

The wonderful folks who gave us Fruit Roll-Ups also gave us the helpful hint: "Peel cellophane wrapping before eating."

Why? The cellophane has the same flavor and consistency as the product.

The makers of Pop-Tarts believe one needs to be told to remove the tart from its package before placing in the toaster.

I know that many of you have happened upon instructions that either are incomprehensible or seem to assume that the consumer is dumber than a box of rocks.

Here's your chance to vent - and win a copy of my latest collection of columns.

Send me your nominations for the National Register of Stupid Instructions. Submissions will be published in a later column. The 15 judged to be the best (or, as it were, worst) will be rewarded with a copy of "Road Songs."

The deadline is Sept. 10.

Mail nominations to Mike Harden c/o Columbus Dispatch, 34 S. Third Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43215, or e-mail mharden@dispatch.com.

-- Anonymous, August 24, 2002


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