Parents know how to push your buttons because, hey, they sewed them on.
The instructions for powering up my Sony VAIO laptop are pretty simple. They are found on a sheet of paper that is filed in a folder in the cabinet in our home office. They read: “Lift the LCD screen lid – Press the power button until the power indicator light turns on.” (Apparently I either never read those instructions, or if I did, I forgot them. And really, how much use is a piece of paper in the file cabinet anyhow?)
Unlike many computers, the power button for my laptop is a large button on the right side of the machine. Most laptops have a power button that is under the lid. If a button is under a lid, it can’t be pushed until the lid is opened. If it is on the outside, it says (to me anyhow) you can push me first if you like and then open the lid – which I have been doing for two years and it almost always caused the computer to start up. Almost always.
The first time my computer would not turn on, I ended up taking it to the repair shop. They charged me $50 and told me they could find nothing wrong. Apparently they opened the lid before they pushed the ‘on’ button, but they didn’t bother to explain that to me because, well, they assumed I would already know that.
The second time my computer would not turn on, I decided I had better trouble shoot the problem myself and save the $50. In the course of poking and prodding the lifeless little beast, I must have lifted the lid ever so slightly before pressing the power button. The computer leaped into action. It dawned on me then that the lid might have to be lifted ever so slightly before the computer would start, and yes, the instructions in the file cabinet confirmed that.
There are several lessons in this little story. The first is, just because you have done something in a certain way several thousand times, don’t assume you will always get the same result the next time you try it. All it takes is the smallest alteration of one insignificant parameter (in this case the ever so slight difference between a lid that is closed, and a lid that is not quite closed) to change the result. The second lesson is, learn from the mistakes of others – you can never live long enough to make them all yourself. (Don’t thank me, I’m glad to be a lesson in what not to do.)
There are three kinds of men; the ones that learn by reading, the few who learn by observation, the rest of them have to pee on the electric fence.
If Sony had a sticker on the lid of the computer that said “open the lid before pushing the ‘On’ button” would I have thought, “Gee, that is a helpful little piece of advice” or would I have thought “Duh, doesn’t everyone know that”?
I like really good signs: Stores and Signage