We’re all familiar with this three word phrase, but is it really good? As instructions go, it’s rather unclear. Lather what? Where? Whom? Yes, technically, it says what you do, but it still leaves much to be desired. Maybe this is why even this familiar phrase is often dumped in favor of picture panel instructions.
You’re familiar with these: the series of squares with little stick figure people depicting what you are supposed to do, because ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ has gotten beyond us. In some places, the panel series is handy. Last week, when I put a ceiling fan together, the pictures were far more helpful than the little labels and ‘bolt A, nut B’ written directions. A picture can say a thousand words and it’s worth it when the ceiling fan in question has so many parts that they gave up on standard notation and went straight for hexadecimal.
But in other cases, I’m not so sure. The Axe deodorant company is everyone’s favorite maker of cheesey ads, and I want to say that no one I know has ever touched the stuff. But . . . well, I can’t say that. It seems fitting that these purveyors of all things overdone have ditched the standard ‘lather, rinse, repeat’ is favor of the picture panel. There are only two pictures on the back of the body wash. The first depicts the outline of a man with a washcloth and a lot of lather. It appears he is rubbing the lather on himself.
This makes sense! And it even answers the earlier questions. Lather whom? He of the washcloth clearly lathers himself. Where? Well the little panel shows him with suds all over. That’s great! But why the second picture? Because the second picture goes way beyond ‘lather, rinse, repeat’. It shows the same grey outline guy (sans suds) with a curvy red outline chick hanging on each arm. Oh, yes. Axe has raised the bar to ‘lather, rinse, get laid by twins’.
This isn’t the only place for panel picture instructions. A friend of mine brought back a neat item from his visit to Poland. To be truthful, I’m still not certain it wasn’t a joke. He had a Pepsi can with a four panel display on how to open the can. Four panels. FOUR! It had to have been a dumb Pollock joke, but they were selling them in Poland. Still, I laughed until I had to cry.
I had another incident with these panels as well. You have to start with the fact that I grew up in the ‘town that built the bomb’, so you understand that what I asked my father wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. Upon arriving at my Dad’s house I said that I thought I had seen a missile truck on the road in front of me on the drive into town.
My Dad immediately asked, did the top of the truck have a barn-like roofline? Yes! I wondered if they were all like that and Dad said, yes, wasn’t that how I recognized that it was a missile truck? But I had no clue that all missiles were hauled in trucks of this telltale design.
Nope – as I passed the truck on the winding road, I saw the four panel picture instructions. (Really, I did.) Figure one showed a stick man pushing the button on the back of the truck bed. Figure two let me know that would open the barn-like roof and raise the missile. Figure three showed how to input the coordinates, and four depicted the launch.
It was a shame I didn’t have any coordinates on me, I could have set it off right there on the side of the highway. Now I get the idea that the picture panel is there to help us – to make tasks easier. But I don’t think I like the idea of everything being easier. I don’t think we need any fool who runs across one of these trucks to be able to launch the missile. I just don’t think the world is ready for the equivalent of ‘lather, rinse, aim’.
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