Is this degree of complexity necessary or even desirable?
More to the point, who has the time to deal with it? To actually read 730-plus pages (new Toyota RAV4 manual, just an example) of instructions, cautions and how-tos? How many 700-plus page novels do you suppose the average American has read this year?
It’s like the iconic (and predictive) ‘80s movie, Brazil – which depicted a dystopian future of prolixity and bafflement and dysfunction that absolutely no one could grok. Buttons, chimes, flashing lights. Pointless but impossible to avoid tasks that eat up time and suck the soul dry.
These thoughts occurred to me as I flipped through the seemingly endless “novel” that came with the ’16 Toyota RAV4 I am test driving this week. I am not singling out the RAV4 or Toyota, just using it as a case in point. The RAV4 is a nothing-special compact crossover SUV. Not a high-end or particularly high-tech model (like the BMW 7 Series I test-drove earlier this year). Nonetheless, this car’s manual ran to 740 pages.
The BMW’s was much longer.
Thomas Pynchon’s epic novel, Gravity’s Rainbow, is a mere 26 pages longer (776) than the RAV4’s manual. You may have read this novel (Pynchon’s I mean) in college. How long did it take? Not just to read the thing, but to understand it? 700-something pages covers a lot of ground. Probably too much ground for what is, after all, merely a How-to guide for an appliance.
I pulled out the owner’s manual for my ’76 Trans-Am. It is 60 pages long. It is a manual – not a novel.
The entire thing comes to fewer pages than the “For Safety and Security” section (74 pages’ worth) of the RAV4’s manual.
Maybe because the Trans Am’s manual has no “For Safety and Security” section.
The major (and lead) sections are devoted to “Starting and Operating” and “Minor Service.” The whole thing can be read – and understood – in 15 minutes or less.
Different times, you see.
How long will it be before “Safety and Security” becomes the official state religion of the United States? This is no joke. It could at the very least become the new motto of the United States and for all practical purposes, already is.
“We” – the imperial plural used to agglutinize every one of us into a blob collective – are obsessed with Safety and Security to a neurotic, carpet-chewing degree; it’s only a matter of time before people start bald-spotting their scalps out of nervousness that X or Y is not “safe” or “secure” enough.
More gadgets will be needed. Which will require more pages. Perhaps we will spend more time in future learning about “Safety and Security” than actually driving. The safest thing of all, of course, would be to not drive at all. Ridiculous? Not to the High Priests of the Safety and Security cult.
The odious Mark Rosekind (a name right out of Atlas Shrugged, which is only slightly longer than a new BMW 7’s manual) who is administrator (another Atlas Shruggian appellation) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – the busybody federal agency that is determined to parent us right into adult diapers and maybe air bag-equipped cribs, too – recently urged what he styled the “democratization of safety technologies” (every new car will be fitted with every Nanny Device the mind of man can gin up) and set a goal of – no joke – “zero” traffic fatalities.
Maybe NHTSA will pass a fatwa mandating eternal life. Why not? It would be in keeping with the religious mania of Safety and Security uber alles. Nothing is beyond the capability of government.
Just make it so!
“We have a really big stick,” Rosekind says. “I know where it is and I know how to use it. “
Expect the manual for your 2018 or 2019 car to run to 1,000 pages at the very least.
Can’t be too safe.
Or too secure.
And if these manuals keep on getting longer, soon we won’t have time to drive anyhow.
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