29 November 2011


Things that break down ... not human wear-and-tear things in your body, that’s just to be expected (expected in general terms maybe, not in scary specifics like great slabs of your skin melting and peeling off—as visually, expertly, represented in a recent HOUSE M.D. episode—totally educational TV, stuff your personal doctor wouldn’t warn you about, essential forewarned is forearmed preparation). Memo to self: Avoid conjecturing on the terrifying vista of unknown health mysteries because House won’t be there when you need him.

When did we first hear the term “planned obsolescence”? Do we hear it any more? I thought that was about fridges and stoves ... you know, in the olden days, when they were built to last a mere 20-30 years. In the lifespan of your friendly major kitchen appliance, you could get married, raise your kids, see them married, clean the thing out at least a hundred times, and hopefully when the grandkiddies arrive, you could afford a new appliance just when you need it. 

Maybe the term itself is obsolete because nothing is built or created any more to provide more than five years of perfectly normal service to an unassuming, undemanding consumer. Just look at your computer and you know the clock is ticking until your next blue screen of death.

As for other appliances lacking the electronic world’s dizzy speed of product revision and updates, is it too much to ask that everything not be made of plastic? I know we are counting trees and not wanting to waste paper, but wood has a comforting solidity. Thank your stars someone still makes furniture out of wood. And carpets out of wool.

Not that you want a blender or a telephone made of wood, but what do you do when plastic nib-widgets break off right after the (alleged) guarantee expires and the thing won’t work any more? Trust me, duct tape does not stick to every surface! And why do we have to have everything inoperable unless it’s plugged in? No-one ever has enough electrical outlets so we have a snake’s nest of wires. Hiding unaesthetic wires is only successful if you are on a Richard Branson level with a truckload of money for interior designers. 

Then there’s Murphy’s Law. Like why do so many things break down all at the same time just when your credit card sees light at the top of the hole? Product people, please: I am not a card-carrying member of Conspiracy Theory, Inc., but is it possible to stagger the breakdowns?

I have a friend who has a vacuum cleaner to clean her vacuum cleaner. (It’s complicated.) Neither machine on its own little life cycle can do the job properly. One of them probably sucked up a nib-widget that could have prolonged the service of a plastic humidifier a few more weeks.

Life as we know it.

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