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Read the F-ing Manual: RTFM

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According to Urban Dictionary, RTFM stands for "Read The F**king Manual." But I'm a lot more likely to "Rewatch The F**king Movie" or "Replace the F**king Mattress" than I am to read the f**king manual. I've tried, really I have, but they don't seem to write those manuals for those of us who have no intuitive sense of how things work. They write them for those rare individuals with organized desks who keep their manuals, with the corresponding warranty, neatly alphabetized in files in the basement. These people dive into manuals and nod their heads as they read, digesting the finer points. Don't you just hate them?

For the rest of us, reading the manual just makes us feel f**king stupid. There may be five languages on those instruction sheets, but to those of us who are manual impaired, none of them appear to be English. I could benefit from reading the manual, of course. There seems to be so much around me that I don't understand. Forget watching that movie with surround sound, I had enough trouble getting the TV to play a DVD. And now that they've introduced something called Apple TV, I don't have a prayer. My oven will never turn on unless I am there to preheat it, and I've never reset the timer on the microwave oven. I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I spent 20 minutes this morning trying to the change the display on my computer screen so I could actually see what I was typing. Eventually I just gave up and asked my husband who looked at it and immediately knew what to do (answer: file, zoom.)

I want to be a master over my things. I don't want to be the modern equivalent of the Jewish grandmother who just sits in the dark. I want to work with basic technology, make it my friend. I want to RTFM, both literally and figuratively.

So it was in the vein that I greeted my mother the other day as she stopped by looking for my son, who was not at home. The Bluetooth had stopped working in her car. "Eddie got it working in no time last week," she informed me.

"Eddie's not home," I informed her. "Do you have the f**king manual?" I had just finished a draft of this piece. I figured she could handle the language.

"The WHAT?" she asked. Guess whom I take after?

"Look in the glove compartment." And there it was, new and unused. Together, we went through the steps, and when a trial call rang through her car speakers, I felt we had climbed Mount Everest. We were just as happy when we went through the exact same steps days later, which made me wonder how many times exactly I would have to repeat those steps before I no longer needed to consult the manual. My guess? It would never happen.

With that success behind me, I felt the flameless candle would be easy. After all, the "manual" was just one page long. Then I realized that it folded out to about two feet long, double-sided. I happily noted the French on the backside.

"I'm gonna do it myself. Don't help me," I said to Michael, taking off the plastic packaging with an embarrassing degree of difficulty. I removed the four screws according to the instructions with a #2 Phillips screwdriver, inserted the D batteries and screwed it on again. I touched the green button as instructed. Nothing.

There was, of course, no + or - signs to inform the user which way the batteries went in (I looked). "The springy thing always goes against the negative side of the battery," Mike informed me. Does everyone just know that? I unscrewed all four screws, succeeded in not losing one of them, turned the batteries the correct way and screwed it back up. There was light.

"There's a timer mode," Mike said. "Give it a try." Now there is NO WAY I want to operate my battery-operated candle on a timer, but I read through the instructions just to see if they made sense. Press the green button for three seconds until the candle blinks once then release. Press and hold the green and white buttons simultaneously for six seconds until the candle blinks off, count the number of blinks near the top of the candle. I squished up the paper and threw it away.

I am making strides, but I don't think I've got the instincts to be a RTFM kind of woman. I am never going to Run the F**king Marathon, and I can't seem to Read The F**king Menu either. I am nervous about Remembering The F**king Month. Maybe RTFM should stand for Ruin The F**king Mood.

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