“Getting to know your iron”

Moving is a trying experience under most circumstances. For married couples it can be particularly challenging as the new terrain reveals hitherto unknown differences in household behaviors. Compromise, perseverance, and 8-hours sleep each night are the keys to survival during this transition period.

Take for example, learning your new appliances. As renters for many years, we never had the pleasure of dealing with them, so it was interesting to see how each of us approached our first use of our new KitchenAid dishwasher.

I am not a manual reader — shocking as that may seem. I put the dishes in the racks, the silverware in the basket, and took an educated guess that the little indentation inside the door was where you put the soap and the Start button on the outside was how you turned it on.

But when Steve insisted instead that we consult the literature provided by the manufacturer before handling any moving parts, I relented in the spirit of compromise. (He had, after all, allowed me to take over the larger bathroom.)

Turns out a new KitchenAid owner receives not one but three manuals. We set aside the first one labeled “Installation Instructions” because the man who sold us the house had kindly installed the dishwasher for us already.

The other two were entitled “Consumer Reference Guide” and “User Instructions.” Why two separate documents? And why was some information in one, but not in the other? For example, the Consumer Reference Guide had detailed instructions on “Loading,” while the User Instructions included a Troubleshooting Guide that I would normally associate with a reference guide.

We read them both and I have to admit that we learned a lot about how to get our dishes clean and keep our KitchenAid in tip-top shape through the coming years.

The reference guide contained no safety information, but the user instructions covered this area extensively. As with many manuals, the first page included a section on the symbols used for safety messages.

The most important was a black exclamation mark inside a white triangle.

This is the safety alert symbol. All safety messages will follow the safety alert symbol and either the word “DANGER” or “WARNING.” These words mean:

DANGER: You can be killed or seriously injured if you don’t immediately follow instructions.

WARNING: You can be killed or seriously injured if you don’t follow instructions.

Get the difference?

I was curious to see the DANGER warning in action within, but could find no examples of it in the manual.

Later I had to buy an iron because I couldn’t find my old one (even though I distinctly remember packing it). I grabbed a cheap one at Bed, Bath, and Beyond in case my original showed up after we opened all the boxes. It was a Shark 1400 Watt Iron.

Shark. Nice name for an iron.

Following Steve’s lead, I made sure to read the instructions before tackling my pile of wrinkled laundry. Good thing, too. The first instruction was in small print on a yellow tag attached to the cord.

WARNING: The internal soleplate must be cleaned before first usage.

Please first use the iron through two to three full water tanks and use both continuous steam and burst [sic] of steam; this will remove impurities inside the soleplate that could stain your fabrics:

Please note new iron may have some water inside it was tested on the assembly line.

Two to three water tanks in the middle of a drought? Clearly, this $20 iron was more complicated that it appeared. I made myself a cup of tea and settled down for a more serious read. Fortunately, there was only one manual. My favorite section was called “Getting to Know Your Iron.” I happily read on into the night and became well-acquainted with the Shark before the evening ended. As a result I even understand the intricate workings of the internal soleplate.

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