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Commentary by Luke Boyd: Useless Advice and Dumb Directions

 Is it just me or have you readers noticed that newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, the internet, and any other means of communication have been invaded by “advice givers?”  One can find in any large bookstore hundreds of books offering advice and counsel on anything from conception to death and burial.  It makes you wonder how in the world people have been able to muddle through life for centuries without this help.  Only a small percentage is useful.  Much can be figured out with a little common sense and the rest if totally useless.

I ran across two wonderful pieces of advice from two different people in different publications about shower curtains.  One advised that taking a shower would cause less mess in the bathroom if the curtain were put inside the tub before turning on the water.  How did the U. S. become a world leader without this knowledge?  The other was just as inane.  This person advised that you could stay warmer in cold weather if, after showering, you kept the curtain closed and dried off while standing in the shower.  Anyone who hasn’t figured this out on their own should not be allowed around hot water unsupervised.
There is a lot of advice these days regarding the kitchen and foods.  One kitchen guru had a helpful hint recently on how to know when to sharpen your knives.  She said that you should “ping” them.  Now, I assume that meant to hit them on something or with something to produce a sound.  The problem was she did not say how to produce the sound nor what was a “dull” sound or a “sharp” sound.  It also seems that this method would leave out people with hearing problems who would be relegated to a lifetime of kitchen work with dull knives.  I think I have better advice: When your kitchen knife ceases to slice properly, sharpen it.  Remember, you heard it here first.

Not long ago I came across a lengthy article in another newspaper on “how to eat tomatoes.”  If there is anything a southern person does not need, it is instruction on the eating of tomatoes.  There were a lot of recipes and pictures mostly of tomato slices with other foods placed on top of them.  Again, my advice, (which most any southern person already knows) tomatoes go with most anything.
Another lady had some advice not on what to eat but how to eat. She was advising that you eat popcorn with a fork. No, I did not make that up.  She stated that stabbing each exploded kernel with a fork prevented you from having to wash your hands so often as you were doing other tasks, especially computer work.  She said that many of her friends were following her example.  I’ve got some advice for her: Unless it involves looking at or listening to something, quit involving the eating of popcorn with other multitasking activities.
As I’ve gotten older, I have found that I’m taking more pills. Invariably, the directions on the container will say,  Take two pills by mouth….”  Why?  The human body only has a few exterior openings.  Unless it’s a suppository, you would think most folks would know which opening to use. It makes one wonder if some people do have a problem in this regard.
Recently, I bought a new sun-screen for my truck. It’s one of those two-piece jobs that fold up and has a real shiny reflector surface on one side. One of the directions on the box said, “Do not attempt to drive with the screen in place.”  It makes you wonder if anyone has ever tried to do that.
Just look at any number of products on the market. Many come with directions or cautions that you’d think would be unnecessary for anybody with one iota of intelligence.  But I suppose there’s always someone like the fellow who bought a new RV, set the cruise control at 70, and went in the rear to make himself a cup of coffee. Of course, it ran off the interstate and crashed. He was not hurt and fortunately, neither was anyone else.

He promptly sued saying that the manual did not say the vehicle could not be operated that way. A jury of his peers (those with similar mental challenges) awarded him a new RV and several hundred thousand dollars in damages. I suppose as long as there are folks out there like this, we’ll all have to continue getting directions on where to stick our pills.

Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at

Posted on: 9/18/2013


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