Following Directions: The Road to Nowhere

14 Jul 2001
July 14, 2001

horoscopeIf you remember, back in May Le Premier Fauchage de Pelouse du Festival de Saison marked the beginning of the lawn mowing season. You might also remember that we’ve been having trouble with the belt that propels the lawn mower around our palatial estate. By June it was slipping off so often it no longer made mowing a pleasurable experience. I hired a local guy to do it while I took the mower in for service.

It took 3 weeks to get the estimate informing us the crankshaft was bent (the probable reason for the belt problem) and that it would cost us $382 to fix our eight year old machine. I knew I should have heeded the instructions not to mow over stones and roots! Time for a new unit.

I went to the library, scoped out Consumer Report’s recommendations and headed back to the hardware store. Fran, the lawn mowing expert, recommended Toro. “We get very few mechanical problems with them,” he volunteered. CR concurred. Sold.

“Now all I have to do is put the handle together?” I asked. “Yes, that’s it. Everything else is ready to go.” By the time I got it home it was too late to get to work so I unloaded the box in our garage and waited for the next weekend. Which was today.

This morning I took apart the box and began to read the manual. Let’s see, there’s a lower handle and an upper handle. Where’s the lower handle? I compared what I saw in the illustration to the parts sitting on the garage floor. I can’t find it. Am I blind? Possible. But, how could I forget! I’m also mechanically challenged!

You see, if someone actually shows me how to assemble something, I can do it. After all, I am a visual artist! And visual demonstrations seem to click for me. But if someone tells me how to do something, I often have a difficult time following what they’re saying. A good manual could remedy the situation. But when’s the last time you truly found one that explained things as they really are? It takes me a while to figure out the lower handle is simple missing.

Back to the hardware store, which is not around the corner but a 40 minute roundtrip. Jimmy, the store’s second-in-command mowing expert hands it to me saying this happens every so often (a little too often for me: this is the second time in as many years a part has been missing from something I’ve had to put together). I now have everything I need.

I gather all the pieces and follow what appear to be the directions for handle assembly. But when I’ve completed the task I have one wobbly handle. This can’t be right. I reread the instructions word for word (almost like I’m translating a text from a foreign language). You see, knowing that I am a mechanical nitwit, I’m starting to question whether it’s me or them. I used to write technical manuals for a living (trying to save the rest of the world’s mechanically impaired) and this step-by-step set of instructions is just not following my reality.

This time I look at every bolt and every supposed hole they screw into. I am looking at the printed diagram with a magnifying glass to see where I am going wrong and finally discover it’s not me! Glorious day, it’s not me. It’s them!

Let me quote from the manual and show the picture that comes with it. Tell me what you think.

Assembling the Handle




Handle InstructionsRemove the four handle bolts and knobs that are installed in the lower handle (two bolts will have flat caps and two will be contoured to fit the handle).

Swing the lower handle back and the support brackets up, aligning the brackets with the holes in the handle (Fig. 4).

Secure the handle to the support brackets with the two flat handle bolts and two knobs, using the height adjustment holes on the brackets that best suit your height requirements (Fig. 4).

IMPORTANT: Use care to prevent pinching or stretching the cables.

Note: If handle height is not satisfactory, adjust it by installing the handle bolt and knob through a different set of holes.

Can you understand what they’re saying? Step 3 says: “Secure the handle to the support bracket with the two flat handle bolts and two knobs…” Doing this is what gave me a very unstable handle!

I looked at Fig. 4 again. And I looked. Trying to make sense of what it was really telling me. Wait! The flat head bolts are actually attached to the casing of the mower (my #5 in red), not the support brackets! One pair of contoured bolts attach the handle to the support brackets. That’s it!

And so, fellow readers, with a few twists of the automatic wrench the handle was assembled. My visual acuity abilities now as strong as the lower handle, I proceeded to take this baby for a spin.

© 2001-2015 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074