By Lyle Lofgren,


(NOTE: The germ of this piece of writing was one of many discussions I had with our son, Lee, back when he was a teenager. This one was about literature. He said, "Any story has to have a conflict. The only story without conflict is the kind you read in an instruction manual." I took it as a challenge. Some readers may remember with nostalgia a time when the computer language BASIC was really basic.)

Congratulations. You are the proud owner of a new, improved WYNDAWEED MARK I lawnedge trimmer. Some trimmers use rotating blades; others use whipping fishline; but the WYNDAWEED trimmer uses a unique patented method: two whirling shafts grab weeds and grass and tightly wrap the stems around themselves for later removal. The WYNDAWEED will also remove other flexible trash from your lawn border, such as breadbags, candy wrappers, or plastic six-pack retainers. The result is a distinctive lawn border reminiscent of the "distressed look" so popular on picture frames.

1. The trimmer comes to you partly assembled in the sense that some of the parts are in plastic bags. Lay out the plastic housing castings, the shafts, the motor, switch, handle, and electrical cord on a clean floor. Try to lay them out to look like the colored drawing on the outside of the box. The plastic bags may be opened in any order, as the assembly hardware has been packaged using a random fill technique developed by our manufacturing department.

2. The transmission assembly consists of five gears with associated linkages to allow 2-speed operation of the whirling shafts. Attach gears to shafts, then pile other gears on top of the shaft gears as shown. The result will resemble an inverted triangle, so don't be discouraged if the gears don't all stay in place the first time you try it. Carefully attach the shift linkage so as not to disturb the precarious gear triangle. The linkage sometimes must be snapped into the gears using considerable force. You could try cornering the gears against the wall, although that often results in the lower gears skittering across the room, followed by the upper ones. Do not lose any of the gears, as we don't carry spares, and would just have to steal one from another package. That would result in some other customer being dissatisfied.

3. After the gears are assembled correctly (don't bump them), get the two halves of the plastic housing. The one marked "L" goes on your right and the one marked "R" goes on your left. This is because our chief designer is dyslexic.

4. Place each half of the housing around the gears so that all ten gear shafts go into their mating holes in the housing and the shift shaft comes out through the hole on the upper side at a 45 degree angle. You might want to get someone to hold that shaft, as it tends to overbalance the assembly. There's usually flashing around the housing so they won't fit together without force or filing. If you can find the four self-tapping screws, assemble housing. If you don't have enough, go to your hardware store with one and ask for more screws just like it. If you don't have any, take the housing along and ask for something that will fit. Often, during the final assembly, one or more of the threads will strip because the plastic is so soft. This is real cause for concern. I don't know what you should do then. You might try epoxy or model glue.

5. Attach handle, switch, shift lever, and electrical cord to the best of your abilities.

6. To check operation, place the trimmer on its side behind a safety barrier, such as a ping-pong table leaned on edge. Turn the switch on and run. The whirling shafts often interfere, throwing pieces of soft metal around. This usually stops in a few minutes, and the trimmer should run smoothly. The designer is not only dyslexic, he's also not very good at adding tolerances. I think he's probably a fruit as well. The company president is one for sure. He tried to fondle me in the washroom.

Plug in trimmer to an outdoor outlet, turn on switch, and walk around the edge of your lawn winding up your weeds with the WYNDAWEED. When the whirling shafts wind themselves full of weeds, they will simply stop, and the unit will make a loud chattering noise as the plastic gears ride over each other in the transmission housing. Stop the trimmer and remove the wound-up grass and weeds. They will be wound tight and tangled together, so be patient. A pocket knife might help.

Try not to be angry. If it helps, think about me. I have to write this junk. My boss is not only a fagoon, he's flaky as well. Just because he's dyslexic, he feels he should hire other dyslexics. If he could have, he would have hired Leonardo Da Vinci, who was both a fruit and wrote backwards, to write this manual. Then you would have to read it in a mirror. Even so, it would be in Italian.

But better days are coming. I have a plan. The accounting department is just as incompetent as everyone else. I read about how if you work in a bank, you can make money by programming the computer so whenever calculation results in a fraction of a cent, the odd fraction is credited to your account. So I snuck into the computer room one night and added the following instructions to the accounting program:

10101 LET "A" = AMOUNT

Do that in a bank, and you make thousands of dollars a day. Of course, you could get caught. I won't get caught here, but I've been waiting for a year now, and I've only collected 283 dollars. I'm just biding my time. When there's enough in the account, I'm going to leave this dump, along with my wife with the crooked teeth, always nagging for orthodonture work, and the kid with stinking diapers. I'm going to Atlantic City to play Blackjack. I've been practicing counting cards at night. I go in the basement every night as soon as I get home and start dealing cards. I've been keeping track, and my method is foolproof. I started with $500 on paper, and now I've worked my way up to a cool million. So my problems will be solved soon. As to the rest of you rummies, I don't see any solution for you other than despair.