Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The User Manual, A Must Read

I share an office space with a Swiss colleague and in the middle of working today he had to call his landlord to report that his apartment building's washing machine was broken. The landlord wanted to know what kind of machine it was. My colleague said, “Just a moment,” and proceeded to go through a pile of papers on one of the bookshelves in the office, where he finally pulled out the washing machine and dryer instructions and reported that it was a Sunrise 5050.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t store a copy of my apartment’s washing machine’s user manual at my office. Maybe the Swiss ones are different and make for a great read, but somehow I doubt it since I’ve never had even the slightest desire to read one despite that fact that my building’s booklet sits on top of the washer and so we encounter each other at least once a week.

Even if one of the language choices were English, which is not the case, I wouldn’t read a user manual. But this very phenomenon is very upsetting to my Swiss colleague. When I asked him why he had the instruction booklets at work, he said it was to make copies of it for all the people in his building and personally deliver them.

“They don’t read it, even though it sits on top of the washer,” he said angrily. “Then they put powder where the liquid should go and vice versa.”

I didn’t know what to say, only to tell him that I had done that exact misdemeanor. But luckily my Swiss neighbor had corrected me right away with my very own laundry lesson in two languages not including English.

All I can say is, I’m impressed. The Swiss love rules and regulations so much they read entire user manuals to make sure they use something properly. This is really an accomplishment that perhaps no other culture embraces so wholeheartedly.

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