Read this resolution

New Year's resolutions are the triumph of optimism over memory.

We forget how long we stuck to last year's resolutions (average: 3.6 days), and instead look to the future with a positive outlook and the absolute belief that we can change for the better.

Most of us make the same resolutions every year. Eat less, exercise more, earn more, save more, be a nicer person, kick a bad habit, pay better attention to our, you know, whatayacallem, uh, families.

Worthy aspirations all, but the sad fact is that these become our annual resolutions because we fail at them. Again and again.

That's why, this year, I've come up with a new resolution, one that hasn't been tried and abandoned over and over. I'd suggest that Americans everywhere attempt the same. Pick something new and give it a try.

Here's mine: Read the instructions.

I know it doesn't seem like much of a goal. But for me to read the instructions every time requires me to overcome many personal shortcomings:

A) I am a guy.
B) I am a know-it-all.
C) I have no patience.

Why am I this way? I refer you to "A" above.

We guys hate to read instructions, the same way we famously hate to ask directions when we're lost. To do so proves there's something we don't already know.

Better to go through life by dead reckoning than to show any sign of weakness. Better to ignore a problem, in hopes that it will go away on its own, than to consult the instructions and fix it properly.

Here's an example: Recently, our garage door was giving us fits. It has one of those automatic openers, which means we never have to get out in the weather. Punch a button and -- vrr-rrr-rr-rr! -- the door opens or closes, as needed.

One of the great inventions really, right up there with the TV remote control. Until it stops working.

Then, when you try to close it, you get this instead: Punch the button. Vrr-rr. Door stops halfway down. Punch button again. Vrr. Door lowers another foot, then stops. Punch button. Vrr-rr. Door starts going UP. No, no, DOWN, you rotten $*%@! Punch button repeatedly. Vrr. Vrr. Vrr. Door, terribly confused now, moves inches at a time. Up, down, up, down. Finally, catch the door going down and HOLD the button until the door rattles all the way to the ground.

This went on at our house for weeks, until my wife finally got fed up and ordered that I get the garage door fixed. The implication being that if it wasn't fixed when she got home, I would be sleeping out there with the cars.

I went into the house, grumbling, and looked in our household files and found the instructions for the garage door opener. A quick perusal uncovered these facts:

1) This is common problem.
2) It can be easily fixed by two tweaks with a screwdriver.

Five minutes later, the door was working like a new one. All that frustration vanished. And I got to be a hero to my wife. Because I finally bothered to read the instructions.

This solution has arisen repeatedly. The dishwasher. The DVD player. My cell phone. All of these electronic gizmos that drive me crazy can actually enhance my life if I'll learn to operate them by reading the instructions.

So that's my resolution for the new year, and I plan to stick to it. Now I must go. I've got a ton of reading to do in the next 3.6 days.

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