"Paper, plastic or burlap?"

CONGRATULATIONS on the purchase of your new SANDBAG!

Just by opening your wallet, you've put yourself at the intersection of the exciting avenues of sand and bag technology. Sandbags have countless applications; they're fixtures in everything from the construction industry to the professional theater, where a sandbag dropped from a high catwalk can be counted on to knock a dastardly criminal unconscious at just the right moment. There's also a good chance that you've purchased your sandbag as protection against natural disasters, in which case we're sure you'll find this unit ideal for fending off the advances of Hurricane CharleyFrancesIvan Xavier.

But no matter how you intend to use your sandbag, there are some things you need to know first. Please read these instructions carefully before putting the unit to work, either at home or in the field.

If you cannot read these directions, your sandbag is lying upside down. Flip it over and proceed.

Make sure all parts are present and in working order. Checklist: (1) bag; (2) sand. If one or more components are missing, contact the manufacturer immediately.

Inspect the condition of the unit. The surface of the bag should exhibit considerable wear and tear, in keeping with its "rugged" product image and preserving its suitability as a prop in Wild West shows. Sand should sift easily and freely within the bag; if it does not, contact the manufacturer immediately. While every effort has been made to ensure the integrity of the item, shiftless assembly-line workers in some developing nations have been known to cut corners by filling bags with Sweet'N Low.

To prepare your sandbag for use, grasp it firmly with both hands and lift it as high as your shoulders. Then allow it to fall to the floor. Repeat. Now go into the other room and lie down for 45 minutes.

With your muscles recovered and your brain swimming with accrued wisdom – i.e., the unit is heavy – you are ready to deploy your sandbag responsibly and intelligently. Too many first-time users assume they can just throw a sandbag anywhere and move it as their knowledge of feng shui accumulates. Your sacroiliac knows better. The time to decide the final placement of your sandbag is now, while your knuckles still clear the linoleum. Try to pick a spot for the unit that will bring it proper illumination while protecting it from direct sunlight. Avoid extreme changes in temperature. However, don't worry about placing your sandbag on the front lines of military insurrections, where it is likely to be pelted with mortar fire; this is one of its essential uses, and it will provide you with untold hours of fortification as you wrest control of your once-proud nation from the jackals in power.

After a few days of regular use, you may become worried that your sandbag is malfunctioning. Chances are, it isn't. Memorize this list of common complaints and prescribed remedies. Sandbag fails to hold its shape, going limp at corners or in the middle: Sand has become unevenly distributed. Give unit a good kick or two until problem is corrected. Sandbag develops a musty, unpleasant odor: The unit is in need of a cleaning. Swab all contact points with isopropyl alcohol. Sandbag's front readout continually flashes "12:00": The unit's internal clock is broken. Contact the manufacturer immediately.

Over time, some customers experience dissatisfaction with their sandbag's attributes and capabilities. They become irritated that the unit is not equipped with a shoulder strap of adequate length, that it coordinates with none of their favorite outfits and that it does not feature a roomy compartment in which to store their mascara. If these concerns mirror your own, you meant to purchase a handbag, not a sandbag. Return the unit for full credit and advance to Henri Bendel.

Don't believe the claims of less reputable manufacturers: In the event of flooding, your sandbag will not act as a flotation device. This would defeat its purpose, which is to remain stationary when all about it is adrift. However, should you find yourself in desperate need of a flotation device and with only your sandbag to fill the bill, an informal modification can be made. Poke a medium-sized hole in the bag and let a goodly portion of the sand out, reducing the unit's weight until it floats as desired. Be careful, however, not to remove too much sand too soon, or you will swiftly become the proud owner of an oversized packet of Saltines. Instead, release the granules one at a time (should the rising tide allow). For those in need of swifter rescue, we market a compatible catapult (model #SB298), which is capable of propelling the sandbag 14 stories into the air to attract the attention of passing helicopters.

One of the most enjoyable features of your sandbag is its unique personality, which will develop according to the attention you give it. Regular feeding and verbal praise will result in a happy sandbag, one that trills like a songbird with joy whenever you come home. Prolonged neglect will instead exacerbate your sandbag's tendency toward sullenness; it will stop responding to the voice commands you have taught it, withdrawing from household interaction and finally throwing in its lot with a roving gang of disaffected, street-tough sandbags who are just waiting to prey upon the failings of lousy parents like you.

Even if your experience as a sandbag owner is smooth and trouble-free, you may find after the first three or so use sessions that you no longer need the unit. For instance, you may have pulled up stakes in despair and moved to Colorado to be away from the flood plain. Should this happen, do not contact the manufacturer, as no refunds will be issued. However, we cordially invite you to redeem your sandbag for one (1) free Tazo Tea at any participating Starbucks. Welcome to Aspen!