Breakdown Ahead 5/26/23

Thoughts with Richard Bleil

Boz Scaggs recorded a song in the ‘80’s, the chorus of which starts “Danger, there’s a breakdown dead ahead.”  It seems to be the way of modern society.  Case in point, as I write this there are two microwaves sitting on my table.  One was a purchase I made on January 28, 1986.  The other was manufactured in 2018.  Both are name brands, although the older one is no longer in business, or if they are, they no longer make appliances.  I know this date from so long ago because I purchased the microwave on my lunch break and returning to work I learned of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. 

My philosophy is that if I am going to spend money on technology, I get the best available at the time.  When I put together my monster computer, I did so with both the knowledge that it will be outdated within a year, and yet will remain respectable for much longer than if I purchased a good system off of the shelf.  This microwave is old, small, and needs a good cleaning, and yet it works well even today not quite forty years later.  I won’t replace it for two reasons.  First, it has history, which to me counts for a lot.  Second, even without modern amenities, it has proven itself reliable, still working as well as ever after so many years of service that included cold storage during my years of homelessness. 

The other microwave, on the other hand, my friend gave to me.  She replaced it already because when she uses it, it starts smoking.  Yup, somewhere inside there is a problem, already.  And it’s not like microwaves typically get moved around (mine has, but after so long, of course it has).  She tells me that the light in it is flaky and unreliable, and when she sees smoke it’s coming from about the same place.  I had asked for it because I want to take it apart to look for the microwave gun, something I had done before.  It’s really a remarkable device, the gun, and surprisingly simple, but now that she described the problem more carefully, I feel obligated to try to fix it.  I’m not sure why.  I wouldn’t give it away or sell it since I’m not a certified electrician, but I’m certain it will be a relatively easy fix if I can find the source of the problem (which will probably be easily identified from the scorch marks).  Although I won’t replace my old microwave, if I can fix this one I’ll probably use it, at least for a time, just to prove to myself that it does indeed work. 

Today, as I write this, I have another problem as well.  My hybrid vehicle is, once again, showing an amber warning light for the parking brake.  This is especially annoying to me because, just about a month ago (yes, one month), I had it in the dealer’s garage for the exact same problem.  They kept it for two weeks, and it cost me nearly a grand before I got it back.  I’m very annoyed by this, and if they try to charge me again, I’m not sure what I’ll do.

Today, things are not meant to be “user serviceable”.  We’ve come, as a society, to accept this as a reality, either simply replacing things or having it refurbished.  The company that made my microwave is no longer in business, no doubt because they made such great products that they don’t need to be replaced. 

It all started with little stickers manufacturer used to seal their products that read, “no user-serviceable parts” or “warranty void if seal is broken”.  In other words, ours, hands off.  And we’ve come to accept it.  I purchased a new washer and dryer when I bought this house and was told I’ll have to replace it again in five years.  It’s just standard, and not only do people accept it, but they seem to relish it as well.  My equipment is so old because I’ve had it for three or four years, time for a new one.  Our parents (or grandparents depending on who is reading this rant) used to purchase washers and driers that would literally be handed down to their children who, in turn, would replace it because it was “old”.

I’ve written on this topic in the past, and again I have no suggestions.  I do believe we are creating a problem for ourselves with this philosophy, however, as our landfills are filling with the toxic metals and materials inside of these devices.  But my next step is to sit in a waiting room to see how long they’ll keep my car and how much it will cost me for them to not fix it once again.


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