RTFM? [NOT 6/5/22]

How do I turn this thing on?

Instruction Illustrations

Instructions? We Don’t Need No Instructions!

We’ve all been there — new device, appliance, toy, tool, fresh out of the box and wrap, still offgassing the plastic vapors. And we’ve tossed the instructions or manual back in the box with barely a glance, maybe without looking at all.

We insert the charger, push on the buttons, play with the menu. And then we only dig the manual out of the recycling if we hit a dead end.

So Deadsplintivians — where do you fit on the continuum? Do you never read the instructions, ever? Do you never even ask for help on a user forum?

Or are you one of those people who reads the instructions first and keeps every manual in a file drawer even when you’ve sent the device to the great e-recycler in the sky?

And maybe more interesting, why? Is it because you are filled with hubris and arrogance and endless self-regard in your ability to conquer everything? Or is it because manuals are THE WORST. Solving them is like deciphering the Rosetta Stone to you? Some combination of these?

Strange instructions
pressed to the down-ward, that’ll be do

And for that matter, why are manuals THE WORST? In an era when corporations are endlessly seeking cost savings and customer assistance is seen as nothing but a cost, why not head off some of those costs by producing manuals that keeps people from calling your 800 number and filing lawsuits when they operate that electric chainsaw in the shower? Does it suggest that most CEOs never actually encounter their products in a real life situation?

Do you have a preferred way of absorbing product info? Do you skip the printed material and run to the corporate website looking for a video? Or are you more likely to skip both and run to a forum and plow through the back and forth?

And, dare I ask, are you one of those dreaded people who misunderstand a question, haughtily answer RTFM, get immediate feedback that the answer isn’t in the FM in the first place, then double down and insist that it is and launch into a tirade abusing customers and defending Corporation X?

Or, are you one of those people who still has an IKEA dresser unassembled in a box somewhere because you pulled out the instructions for the MJORKILVINLA, lost your mind, and left assembly for a day that will never come?



  1. I am a manual person for everything. Mainly because I don’t want to fuck it up and have to do it again.

    IKEA manuels crack me up because the illustrated person is what I imagine Mr. Yuk would look like as a cartoon character.

    • I always imagine some companies don’t care at all about the quality of the instructions but spend endless meetings fighting over the look of the illustration of the guy plugging in the cord.

  2. For most non simple things, I read the manual & do stuff step by step.  If I run into a problem, I search for a video,  so many manuals now are broken English translated from a Chinese company & make no sense to me.  When I built the greenhouse I read the instructions over & over but finally broke down & watched the DVD.  The guy put together the whole thing differently than the manual in a 10th the time!  Fuck!!!!  I’ve been doing construction projects with a guy that rarely reads instructions until we are stumped.  I’ll sit there frantically reading before he fucks something up & we have bigger issues. Fun times!

      • Also, there is a toolbox somewhere in our garage that has every spare screw and washer known to man.

        Never opened except when throwing another piece in there.

        If Ikea ever do a promotion where we can bring unused hardware for a meatball discount they might save millions net from the returned stuff.

  3. I usually glance at the manual first. Then start on the project, and pick the manual back up when I start pulling out my hair. Except when I’m sewing. Then I read the pattern carefully before I do anything and follow the directions. I taught myself to sew and learned the hard way that I need the step by step instructions.

    • Ha Hannibal, you made me giggle & think of a night I haven’tthought of in years!!!😂🤣😂🤣🤣



      Sewing is the place where I TOTALLY go into “Hack & Slash” mode!😉😆💖

      One time, a then-friend (now former roommate) was visiting while my then-roomates & i had an early-fall bonfire…

      That friend mentioned that she wished she could find a shirt that was “open in the back, but covered in front, that she could wear a bra with, somehow!” for when she was getting her back-piece (tattoo) inked, since it was going to cover her entire back and take a few months, between outlining & color-work.

      I asked her what she needed, she explained, my brain popped an idea, since I’d made dance, skate, & cheer costumes for years at a former job, and I doodled out a top.

      She looked at it, thought it miiiight work, but wasn’t sure, so I pulled out my serger, got out some leftover fabric scraps I still had from that old job, measured her, cut out the pieces I needed,** slapped ’em together, had her try it on before I finished it–to see where she wanted changes–and handed it to her, complete, about 3 hours later😉🤗

      To me, it was just a basic halter-neck top that I did a shelf-bra in the front of, and then made with a 2-piece, overlapping, crossed back (think 2 right-angle triangles, mirrored & layered on top of each other, so they make a rectangle with a  “V” shape notch “cut” out of the top)…

      That way, she could have her whole back exposed, but still be fully covered in front.

      For me, it was a really fun challenge on a Friday night!

      But I realized I was a TOTAL weirdo, when our friends who were over were completely blown away that I could come up with an idea, cut it out & sew it freehand, and make a whole tank top, in just under 3 hours!!!😄😆😂



      **I was the cutter at that job for most of my years there.

      I ran a sample cutter for 2000-ish hours a year over the span of half a decade, and/or calculated & ordered all the fabric yardage that was needed for orders being cut on that table–so I can still cut a t-shirt/v-neck, tank top, skirts, and pants/shorts/briefs from memory without a pattern, as long as the piecs shapes are fairly basic, because I looked at the shapes *all day, every day* for so many years.

      (Edited to remove a link i messed up!)

      • I wish I could see like that. My Nonna used to make her own patterns and could whip things together on the fly. Sadly my brain doesn’t work like that. I eventually got to the point where I could piece two or three patterns together to create one piece I wanted. But no way could I do it with no pattern and definitely not in a few hours!

        • I learned over the last few years (since my diagnosis– and especially going through testing & acing the “which picture matches the shadow?” portion of the testing), that it’s part of my ASD/ADHD stuff.

          I get it from BOTH sides of my family (dad’s side has more men with the trait, who did metalworking & woodworking as careers/hobbies).

          But on mom’s side, HER mom–my grandma–could do the same things, and my greatgrandmother was a traveling seamstress for families around her…

          And since Dad’s stuff came crashing down in November, and I started to sort through stuff, I’ve realized just how much I get from mom’s side….

          There were two boxes of old letters from Great Grandma’s house. In one of them, I found a bunch of old newspaper clippings–and I couldn’t figure out why all these stories about random folks we weren’t related to were in the box…

          Until I ran across one clipping talking about a married woman who was a little person. The article talked about her and her husband (slightly taller than her, but also a little person), and the article mentioned the couple’s difficulty in finding appropriate grownup clothes that fit them. The story mentioned the husband having his suits custom-made, and that, while the woman was able to wear children’s shoes, aprons, & things like girls’ stockings, she had custom-made clothes, too.

          Once I read that story, I realized that all those “random” clippings?

          They were stories about people who had disabilities that made it necessary to have custom-made clothes… they were all folks who were Great-Grandma’s customers😃😁🤗💖

            • I’d always heard stories about her doing it, but it was an amazing gift, to discover actual people she’d sewn for–especially in juxtaposition to all the stuff with Dad.


              And because of that, honestly feels like a bit of a double-gift, because it’s some of the things he kept for me, when he moved out of the trailer house, into the apartment, and it was stuff from Great Grandma’s house that I didn’t even realize existed.

              There are a lot of complicated feelings, that I have about him–he was always a prickly & “uneasy” person, personality-wise, not easy to get along with, and… honestly, he & mom should never have gotten married, Grandma (his mom!) was a doozy & messed him up badly self-esteem-wise, and he was far too young & not ready for parenting when I was born…

              And I’ve known for most of my life that he’s tried his hardest, but simply can’t understand me as a person–i confuse him in the “not good” way…

              But things like finding those boxes of letters–and so many other things he kept for me–that he packed up from the old house, and moved up to his apartment???

              As I’ve gone through it, I realized that I may have confounded the living hell out of him…

              But I can *also* 100% read all the love he had for me, that he was sooooo terrible at being able to say or show.💖💝💞💗

    • Many things like new phones don’t need a huge amount of precision — if you set the volume wrong or mess up the contacts transfer you can always go back and fix it. But I assume with sewing one wrong cut and you’ve blown it.

      • Oh yes! And there are some other things that can go wrong that can be corrected but take hours to fix. And some fabrics show a lot of wear and tear. I shudder to remember.

      • This is why some of us like to work with stretch fabrics, rather than wovens!


        Sooooo much easier, if you make a mistake or accidentally miscut–you can just drop innan “extra” seam line, and no one will be the wiser!🤫😉😁

          • The Serger is your FRIEND, Hannibal!😉

            As is a nice big Olfa cutting mat, and a rotary cutter!😁💖💞

            Two needles *feels* scary at first, but once you get used to it, serging is FAR superior to regular machine-stitching.

            And being able to “fudge in” your seams?

            Sooooooo much easier than trying to square up wovens–especially *slippery* wovens!😖🥴😱

            • The biggest “trick” with stretch fabrics & sergers, is knowing to/remembering to lift your presser foot, once every few inches–especially if you’re running on a long seamline or a curve.

              Lifting the foot will allow the top fabric to “snap back” into place, because it can get stretched out differently than the lower fabric…

              The upper fabric stretches, because of the downward pressure from the presser foot, and the bottom fabric *doesn’t* stretch as much, thanks to the feed-dogs moving it through the machine.

              Lifting the presser foot for a second or two, once every 2″-3″?

              Evens out the difference between the upper & lower fabrics as they’re stitched, and means you won’t have that “extra inch of fabric” on the top piece when you finish the seam😉💖💫

  4. My time is valuable to me so I read the manual every time because it’s quicker on balance than fucking something up and having to figure out how to fix it by reading the manual later. Of course the main problem with most tech is that they don’t make anything resembling a manual anymore.

  5. I am a RtFM guy mostly because I had to learn from painful experience as I assumed I was too fucking smart for the manual.

    LOL, I was quite a fucking idiot.

    The thing with some manuals is they don’t tell you the whole process. Like for instance model kit manuals. I used to follow them but then I had to paint them which was a pain in the ass. Now I just paint the sub assemblies before slapping it together.

    IKEA manuals don’t bother me. However they are terrible.

  6. used to read the whole manual…


    Buuuut for the last 15-or-so years, I’ve gotten to the stage of “I’ll just try it first.”

    Then I read the manual if I get stumped…

    Or, more likely, I’ll Google it, read the solutions online, determine the best one, which fits my needs, then do that.

    Although when it comes to things like assembly(ikea and/or ikea-like items), I tend took at the pictures, look at the parts, look at the illustrations in the directions, then assemble.

    I grew up reading blueprints–dad went back to school at a 2-year Tech College when I was 10-ish. His degreee was in Mechanical Drafting *just* at the shift from hand-drawn to CAD-systems, and I was always this curious–so he taught me how to read blueprints & mechanical illustrations…

    It served me well enough, that I’m able to “mentally walk around” things I see in blueprint form, and at my last sewing job, I even caught a couple errors that no one else did, when they were in the process of making prototypes, and the manufacturer couldn’t figure out why the items weren’t turning out properly to spec…

    Turns out, when our Engineer was stumped, and I asked him if I could look (basically just for fun & for the hell of it😉), i noticed that one of the blueprints had something basically mirrored to the way it was *supposed* to be aligned/oriented…

    Turns out, that mirroring of the image, as it was put into the blueprint’s “3D” image (as opposed to the individual sides’ images) was where the prototype problem was occurring.

    Basically it was the equivalent of a writer flipping the letters “ie” for “ei” in a word, and no one noticing, because the brains of  everyone who’d looked at it just “read it as correct.”

    But because I can’t “see” images with my eyes closed**–i always have to “mentally walk around *the thing* feeling it with my eyes closed” to understand what it “looks like,” I noticed the flip, and realized right away, that the holes on the front couldn’t line up with the illustration of the back of the piece.

    As soon as I pointed it out to our engineer, he was able to call our manufacturer, have them flip the illustration, so it was un-mirrored, and they were able to make the parts we needed😉😁

    **that Time article mentions folks at the opposite end of aphantasia having “photographic memories”…

    I don’t quite do that, but I do “memorize in 3D”.

    That mental “walk around feeling the object” thing is also how i managed to memorize my inventories at various places I’ve worked, including the locations of (I’ve since found out, from working at the Grocery Store!) literally thousands of items at a time.

    I can’t see the *picture,* but my body will store the information in my muscle memory–of steps taken/turns made, and the amount I’ve had to stretch/bend to reach things.😉

      • It’s HANDY!😉


        And I only started to realize it wasn’t something everyone just *does,* when I made the switch from full-time cutting to “Purchasing Agent” at the sewing job i mentioned to Hannibal.

        One day, one of our stitchers needed to re-cut a piece from a garment she was sewing (it either got stitched wrong, or slipped under her machine & got oil all over it, I can’t remember)…

        I was too busy to cut it myself, so I gave her directions to exactly where the roll was in the back room, so SHE could get it cut out.

        I told her which shelving section, that it was on the third shelf up from the floor, would be just over a foot from the left edge of *that* shelf, “and about *here* from the floor” (holding my arm at the approximate height). I also showed her with my hands, the approximate size of thd diameter of the roll of fabric.

        She left, I went back to what I was doing, and she came back to my desk about 15 minutes later and asked, “HOW in the hell did you do that?!?

        I asked her what she meant, and she said, “HOW did you tell me exactly where that fabric was???” While she looked at me like I had three heads😂😂😂

        I looked at her, and said, “…because I was the last one to cut from that roll?”

        Because I thought that everyone knew where they put things, when they ran an inventory–because both my parents had that same skill😆🤣😂😂😂😂

        That was the first clue I had, that my brain might not be quite like most other people’s….

        But I wasn’t diagnosed as neuroatypical, until nearly 20 years later!😉

    • I vaguely remember my kids math classes when they were little having exercises involving looking at drawn shapes and visualizing  rotating or flipping them. I can see how that develops brains, although I can’t quite articulate how.

      • Imo (& in my experience, too!), it’s a bit like learning languages as a kid–it might not be something you use a whole lot as an adult….

        But it helps your brain stretch & makes it more flexible, for certain other things you do need sometimes!

        Even if that thing is just assembling flat-pack furniture….

        orrrrr playing Tetris!😉💖

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