No Way Am I Reading An Instruction Manual!

You have probably heard of that book, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”  In my household, it is likely that my husband and I come from different planets. We have discovered that our brains are wired very differently.

I am one of those creative types.

My creativity is mostly centered around writing, but I dabble in other things like crafts, and I have tapped the same side of my brain for some very clever advertising and PR campaigns, poetry, and many other endeavors.

Unfortunately, the disproportion of creativity flowing through me has made me a right brained type person. Simply put, most technical, mathematical, and sometimes even scientific information does not compute in my brain. My left side which controls all of that math and science is severely lacking – or maybe it just has a bunch of cobwebs from lack of use, or is simply overpowered by the other side.

My engineering type husband – who as you might have guessed from the title, is the polar opposite. With the exception of being good at photography – which if you think about it is actually highly technical, he is what I affectionately refer to as a geek.  When called upon for something creative, he depends on me for helping him get a clever speech written, poems for birthdays, and the like.

In turn, I ask him to take care of all technical related matters – particularly those on the computer or cell phone.  Each time I do this, I get one of two responses – he will do it, but he will try to explain to me what he is doing, so I “learn how to do it for the next time.” Or he challenges me to figure it out on my own. I just got a new sewing machine, and he wanted me to read the instruction manual. Um, no way.

My husband LOVES to figure out the workings of things, and daily reads things that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole like tech websites and magazines, and even the big daddy of all things technical – the instruction manual. He leaves me articles to read on things he thinks I should know about, and he had the nerve several times to hand me a manual expecting me to not only read it but then comprehend how to work a gadget afterward!  As if!

I have to admit, lately I have found myself marveling at the miracle of  certain techie things such as You Tube, the iPhone, DVRs, and most recently tiny urls. But here’s the thing: I can appreciate it without knowing the intricacies of what makes them tick. In fact I reject learning how they work. It is as if my poor brain will explode trying to understand such things.

In the past I have had some success with playing with things to figure out how they work. My iPhone is one such example and I have to say I am pretty proficient with it – no thanks to an instructional manual. Hands-on trial and error works better for me.

I can even upload photos and know that downloading is different from uploading but am I interested in HOW they differ? NO.

It’s like watching a magician. I have no desire to figure out magic tricks, enjoying the artistry and the wonder of it all, and can even see the same trick over and over and still be enthralled. My husband would probably want to try to figure it out.

In all fairness, my husband spends his leisure time reading technical info found in the magazines he subscribes to or surfing techie websites, but he doesn’t always keep us with the writing I do. He gravitates towards the complex. I go for the flowery, the emotional, the artistic or the funny.

For my most recent discovery of tiny urls  in which somehow, if you stick one of those huge long web addresses into one of these tiny url engines, they spit out an adorable tiny url that is forever attached with your major long web address. It totally confounds me how this is done, but I don’t WANT to know. I just think it is kind of cute as it is, without any explanation needed. Thinking something techie is cute, is not compatible with my husband’s wiring.

When my husband tries to explain any of this to me, my brain automatically tunes out to focus on, say, a lyric to a song that I haven’t heard in 20 years. To put it into technical language he can relate to: it is like the radio-that-is-my-brain auto-tunes to another channel when faced with technical information. It’s like static to my brain.

He can tell when I tune him out too, and he always angrily asks, “Don’t you want to become smarter, more knowledgeable in things you don’t know anything about?”
Well, when he puts it that way, trying to make me feel small because my brain is built differently than his, my answer would have to be…..NO.

He probably wouldn’t admit it, but he tunes me out too when he is not interested in the topic.(Honey, remember all those times you swore I never told you something that I had? Hmmm, auto-tune out?)

Let’s not even go into movie preferences, though I have encouraged him to seek out a “movie buddy.” I have to give my husband credit though, when I took him to learn to dance after watching the fun on Dancing with the Stars, I loved it and it was torture for him. We didn’t stay with it for very long.

Now here’s the kicker. We are opposites, but it works well for us. We are really happy together. I respect him for his qualities – and boy does he ever come in handy! He is my biggest fan and cheerleader and believes in my talent even if he doesn’t read me regularly.

Which brings a scientific type of conclusion that even I can come up with (see I am not hopeless): Opposites do indeed attract.

I would love to hear your comments! Simply click the comments link below, and write away.


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  • Arlene – at my house we refer to ourselves as geek and geekier! Just kidding. I get paid to know how to create complex document and well written and aesthetically pleasing web pages so I have to surrender to my geekier side more often. It’s a real challenge and a delight when I can do things that others can’t and that keeps me motivated to keep going. Years ago a postdoc at work remarked that she learned something new every day to do with computing and since she was already a scientist, her comments made an impression on me. Since then I have never turned away from a good how to. And have never regretted it. I once heard someone early on present “the future of computing” and he said that most people know nothing of the inner workings of the tv and radio yet it is part of our daily lives since we were born so you certainly don’t have to understand everything about the computer either.

  • We can read and learn or learn by experience. The latter makes my brain work harder…

  • You just described my marriage to a tee. I can’t even read my business bank statements without my husband’s help. He can’t understand how I can solve a complicated cryptogram within a minute, and I don’t get how he can read the heiroglyphics of a manual and assemble something correctly. I too was born without any left side brain material. In fact, with my right/left dyslexia, I’m surprised I named the sphere correctly..or did I?

  • Funny article Arlene. I actually got my start as a technical writer with IBM. We wrote instruction manuals on how to assemble copy machines (yes, they needed to be assembled back in the day). We had two test subjects, male and female. We gave them the instruction manual and watched through a two way mirror as they assembled the copy machines. When finished, they gave us their comments on how to improve the instructions. It was fascinating to see where the each of them encountered problems.

    As for me, I’m with you, my name twin. Creative to the max but anything related to math or science, my brain turns to mush.

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