Tuesday, April 26, 2005

They also serve who write Owner’s Manuals

Many years, perhaps decades, from now, when aliens land on post-apocalypse Earth with their shovel thingies to dig up clues to what our civilisation was like, they will find in buried millennium capsules sheafs of paper printed with the formal instructions we humans used to write out for each other. Reading these will give them a very misleading idea of our sense of humour. Yesterday I saw an owner’s manual for an air-conditioner which included, under the “Dos and Donts” section, the following directive:

“Do use the air conditioner only for cooling the room:
and not for other purposes like drying clothes, preserving foods, keeping animals or cultivating vegetables.”

[Bold marks mine]

This warning was accompanied by a picture of a frowning air-conditioner, arms folded in defiance, looking askance at a tub of fruits that had been placed before it. Like an angry God unappeased by offerings. A more imaginative artist might also have depicted pomeranians or chihuahuas growing in test-tubes in the rapidly cooling room, but then a more imaginative artist may not have been working on this particular project.

The AC manual reminded me of the notice I saw outside the ticket window for a film screening at Siri Fort auditorium once: “No cellphones, cameras, food items, bombs, drink items, small babies etc etc... to be carried into hall.” Clever trick, inserting “bombs” into the middle of the sentence like that. Would throw off even the most accomplished terrorist. Or, speaking of terrorists, the visa application form that shrewdly asks the question, “Have you perpetuated terrorist activities in any of the other countries in which you have got visa approval?”

I still love books but owner’s manuals/formal directives are rapidly catching up with press releases as my preferred reading-for-entertainment. I do worry about those aliens though, and what they'll think.


  1. Like those famous peanut packets that say be careful peanuts inside or hairdryers that say don't use while sleeping or diapers that warn about throwing babies with soiled diapers not being advisable.
    Bless those aliens for trying to figure out what we were trying to do...

  2. There was a swedish chainsaw manufacturing company which felt the need to put "Do not use near genitals" on its products a few years ago...