Posted by: The Amoeba | July 26, 2007

Instructions

Hey. We all know that Quilly is the Art Linkletter around here. Her old blog featured wonderful, mostly blithe, and, above all, short (yes, yes, I know, I know) tales of her 5th-graders in fabulousy Las Cucharachas Vegas.

She’s got more stories to tell, folks, but she’s been a bit busy lately, reading and entertaining “bees” (yellowjackets, actually) and waiting for her dead computer to be resurrected. Don’t know what’s taking so long. I mean, it took this no-‘count from Galilee only three days to go to Dell and back, and that was 2,000 years ago …

Anyway. So instead of telling you these stories, she’s telling me. Perhaps expecting me to pass them on. As if I could write like Quilly (see “short”, supra). Well, I’ll try. ‘Cause the tale she just told me had me rolling on the indoor/outdoor carpet.

Y’see, every year (sez the Quill), her reading program included a unit on “instructions”. She would ask the students to write down “How To Make A Peanut-Butter-And-Jelly* Sandwich” (minus the peanut butter, in the case of someone with allergies). Then, she would follow the recipe. Exactly as written. And offer the result back to the student.

Now, if you think this would happen in a straight-faced monotone, you’ve never read anything of Quilly’s. Oh no, we’re talkin’ theatre worthy of Shakespeare. Especially when she enlisted Harald, the special-education teacher, to help out. The result would have the students howling. All but one. Please, God, let there be a hole in the floor

Like when Quilly read to Harald:

“Take a slice of bread.” Harald takes a slice from a loaf.

“Put peanut butter on bread.” As instructed, Harald takes the peanut butter – the whole jar – and places it on the bread.

“Put jelly on top of peanut butter.” H. stacks the jelly jar on top of the peanut butter jar.

“Cover jelly with a slice of bread.” A slice of bread goes on the cap of the jelly jar.

“Enjoy your sandwich.” General hilarity – except for the kid who is trying to disappear.

One year, there was a variation on this theme. After the bread went on top of the jelly jar, there came the instruction:

“Cut sandwich in half.”

Harald shook his head sadly. “We got a problem. I’m going to need a chain saw.”

One girl, Daiquerita, at least got the peanut butter out of the jar. But that didn’t mean her problems were over.

“Spread peanut butter on slice of bread.” Which Harald did. With his finger. (There was a rubber glove on it.) The instructions said nothing about using a knife. The student audience said plenty, most of it English and Spanish versions of “Ewwww!”

“Spread jelly on top of peanut butter.” Harald did use a fresh finger.

Then the bread went on top, and Harald called out, “Here’s your sandwich, Daiquerita!”

Back came the wail, “I don’t want it!!”

At least her teeth were safe. Unlike the ones from the boy who remembered to specify the use of a knife, but was less than precise about what to do with it.

“Stick knife in peanut butter.” I presume a prior instruction was “Open peanut butter jar”, though Quilly did not relate whether this was the case. Either that, or Quilly and Harald gave the lad a break. Especially given what comes next.

“Put peanut butter on knife on bread.” Which Harald did. Knife and all.

“Stick knife in jelly.” New knife, the old one’s still in the sandwich.

“Put jelly on knife on bread.” There are now two knives in the sandwich …

Another boy got little peace from his instructions:

“Put piece of bread on plate.” Harald looks at a slice of bread, somewhat perplexed, then makes an executive decision and tears a quarter-sized piece of bread out of a slice and puts that piece on the plate.

“Spread peanut butter on the piece of bread.” New glove.

“Spread jelly on the peanut butter.” Harald’s fingers get a workout.

“Place another piece of bread on top of the jelly.” Another quarter-sized fragment gets torn out of a slice. Then, “Here ya go, Billy, but I’ll bet you’ll still be hungry. Billy? Billy?!?”

You laugh. But I wonder … I should try this with my class. They’re graduate students.

Better yet. How about those people who write the instruction manuals for DVD players …?

* If you’re British, or otherwise a speaker of Queen’s English, say “jam”, which is more-or-less what Yanks mean by “jelly”. American eating habits are strange, but do not (yet) extend to making sandwiches with gelatine (Jell-O).

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2007 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. I’m officially wetting myself with laughter. I missed these anecdotes!

  2. ROFL! My daughter had to do a similar assignment one time… I’m thinking she was 6th – or maybe 7th grade. But they could CHOOSE their topic to give instructions on. She had just learned how to build a fire in the fireplace and that was what she was going to instruct others on! I did exactly what Quilly did with her — until she got her directions down “pretty good” — the teacher still had SOME fun with it! FORTUNATELY… we do read a little “extra” into the directions that come with most items these days – because if we followed them literally we’d ALL be in a heap o’ trouble!

  3. This was funny stuff, I remember one of our instructors in College 3 or 4 years ago did the same thing with us. It was hilarious for everyone except my buddy Don who was giving the instructions. He had to have his back to the Instructor. He was wondering what everyone was laughing at.

    Thanks for sharing the story. I am also trying to picture Quilly as Art Linkletter

  4. OC, you did a pretty darn good job with Quilly’s anecdote. I’ve been missing those tales from the 5th grade.

  5. oh, this was hilarious!

  6. Funny!!!!!!! But, now I am hungry.

  7. To set up the PB&J instructions, I had done an “anticipatory set” with the actual directions on a cup of water flavoring. The little packet was made especially to flavor a bottle of water. The directions simply read, “Add contents to 16 oz. bottle of water.”

    I tried adding the contents without removing the lid.

    I tried removing the lid and adding the contents without opening the package.

    I opened the package and poured the powder contents over a closed lid.

    Finally, I made it correctly. Then I explained to students that explanations should be as precise as possible, and instructed them to write me “How to Make a PB&J Sandwich.” Most of them gleefully remembered my dilemma with the non-removable lid.

    OC, you told my story well, but you left out the young lady who instructed we make her sandwich with pan (the Spanish word for bread).

  8. I am usually a lurker both here and on the “old blog” but I had to come out of hiding for this one.

    I still remember doing this exercise in 7th or 8th grade. We were giving instructions as a class. We yelled out, “Open the bread!” Our teacher (one of our favorites) grabbed the plastic right in the middle, stuck her fingers through it and pulled as hard as she could in both directions. Bread went flying EVERYWHERE. Even now I think of that bread flying whenever I am trying to give anyone instructions on how to do something.

  9. This is too funny. Even the comments. 🙂

  10. Thanks…I’ve missed her stories.

  11. […] Instructions […]

  12. […] who, as you may recall, used to be a teacher, just passed me the latest New York Times Op-Ed piece on the state of the teaching profession in […]

  13. […] “[Sigh] Relax, love. Boil figured out this flaw in the instructions a long time ago. Leave the pan on the stove. Turn on the burner. The boil will come to you. Trust […]


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