morning I woke up in my condo in Taos, thinking about assembling
a night-sky telescope that my wife purchased a few weeks ago.
Last night I had attempted to put the darn thing together, and
the result had been a fiasco. This wasn't just any telescope.
It had a built-in computer that could automatically find and track
a number of stars and planetsonce it was programmed.
But programming it
was the problem. To start with, the instruction book was about
the size of an unabridged dictionary. Second, the original instructions
must have been written in Chinese or another foreign language
and then translated by some English major who could have cared
less whether the translation would make any sense to the reader.
The opening sentences
referred to a Figure No. 1, to demonstrate what I was attempting
to do. The picture was a blurred image of an intricate part
of the telescope. Trying to figure it out, I wondered why the
manufacturer had made it so difficult to put this thing together.
Why not make it easy, so that the purchaser would enjoy the
process and then tell friends about it, who would then buy one
also? If this telescope was as good as purported to be, why
wasn't the same care taken in writing the instructions?
The more I tried
to follow them, the more confused and frustrated I became. Then
I started thinking about my wifes way of putting things
togetherby trial and error. She has never liked reading
instructions, and now I was beginning to understand why. After
fifteen more maddening minutes, I tossed the instruction book
aside and switched to Lindas method. An hour and a half
latermission accomplished! There was one slight problem,
however. Several parts were left over
Proud of my accomplishment,
I called Linda to come and see. As the two of us struggled to
carry the awkward scope out into the night, she casually asked
what the parts lying on the bed were for. That caught me off-guard,
because I had been careful to stand between her and the bed
when she came to witness my great feat of assembly. But women
have eyes in the back of their heads!
I tried to think
of a good explanationlike They are replacement parts
in case something breaks, or I guess they made a
mistake at the factory and packed some parts that didn't belong.
But facing Lindas cold, hard stare, I finally gave up.
"I don't know," I said.
I set up the telescope
and pointed it in the direction of the moon. When I got it lined
up and focused, I was thrilled. The image of the moon was splendid,
with craters and mountains standing out in bold relief. "It
works great, I told Linda. Take a look." But
when she did, the moon was already slipping out of the telescopes
view, due to the Earths rotation. The telescope was not
tracking the moon, the way it was supposed to. Linda had to
re-aim the scope to get the full view.
"It does work
great, she finally conceded. But before I could start
patting myself on the back, she added: But maybe we should
have one of our young nephews come over and connect those computer
parts. There was something about that statement that I
didn't likemaybe it was the word young. But
I remained silent, because we men know that silence usually
works the best.
Have a great day.