Follow Instructions

fuel system instructions

I’ve always been a “follow the instructions” “do what you’re told” person. Okay? Now you know. It seemed the shortest distance to whatever it was that I wanted. Good grades. Varsity volleyball (well, almost). Days off. You get the picture.

What’s stumped me of late is the bleepity fuel report. My coworker and I do it together., and have been for 6 months now. With the exception of January, every single month something has gone wrong. We put the measurements in wrong. I forgot (!) to put diesel and unleaded deliveries into the spreadsheet. Almost got away with that one, despite a possible 900-gallon discrepancy. My boss figured that one out. And got in trouble for it.

“I took a bullet for you,” he said to me, after taking a verbal beating for more than an hour.

Ouch. I felt awful.

I wanted to do better this month, get it right. When I got to work, the head mechanic had already locked out the tanks. He had dipped the tanks, taking the measurements of both gas and diesel levels. I translated that into gallons, and typed it in the spreadsheet for April.

Then, the fun part. We used our lovely DOS-based fuel tracking system, linked to the pumps, to track how much gas and diesel each department has used. We enter a complicated set of single letters like A  and B and it spits out on the dot matrix printer. Only this time, I did it weird. All of our instructions – for the whole system – reside on one yellow 11 x 14 piece of paper. For us, it’s been a cryptic treasure map on lined paper.

This morning, at the top I read:

Main Menu

I (which is System Totals) Enter B enter A enter “” “” “” “” Acct ” Enter Enter

So I did that.

It printed for about 30 minutes. That’s *not* supposed to happen. Not at this part of the report. Miserable, I sat at my computer and tried not to scream out of total frustration. My coworker tried to cheer me up.

“There’s a little song I wrote, you might want to sing it note for note…” he sang, mischievous smile on his face.

Ha. Yes. You heard right. It’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin.

Not helping.

I never noticed those instructions before. I always went to the second line, which says:

I  B (print) Ent B Enter “” “” “” “” “”

One of those “”s is for the account number – 00100, 00200, etc. I did know that. I pounded in the numbers. The printer creaked to life. Then stopped.

“That doesn’t sound right,” my coworker commented.

It didn’t. It should have printed for at least 30 more seconds.

“Try it again,” he asked.

He’s the mechanic, so I did. Same result. He looked at the totals.

“It’s EMR,”he said. “Total diesel is 540.2 gallons, gas is 15.6 gallons.”

We looked back at last month’s report. Similar amounts. Hmm.

We went on through 00200, 00300. The real test would be when we hit the police account. They go through a ton of gas.

I punched in the account number for the cops. The printer ran for for 10 seconds, then stopped.

“No diesel,” the mechanic said, leaning over the report. “Gas is 1,585.3 gallons. That sounds about right.”

And it did. In fact, the whole thing took much less time. Because, folks, we’d stumbled on the RIGHT way to do the report. Finally, after 6 months of trial and error with very little actual instruction except way back in October before the other head mechanic retired, we found the answer. We went on to complete it and get the three cross-checks to balance out. Woot!

I don’t like learning this way. I’m a linear kind of person. Learn a skill by practicing, get better at running, or what have you, by putting in the time. Gain strength and understanding as you go. However, I abhor learning by failing publicly, month after month. It’s a miserable, humiliating path.

Yet…what I’d like to point out here is that I had the answer in my hot little hands all the time. It was on the paper. I simply disregarded it. So it is with some of the key parts of our lives. A lot of life’s instructions reside in the Bible. Answers to the rest lie in asking God and listening to His answers. How much humiliation could I have avoided in this life by simply heeding the instructions? I think I’m gonna try and find out.

Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. –  Proverbs 19:20










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