Out of the Blue

Life in the Breakdown Lane

Nothing lasts forever — especially if you need it

By Deborah Salomon

Planned obsolescence is one thing. That’s when manufacturers have a better mousetrap on the boards while still promoting its predecessor. iPhones, maybe? My problem is different: appliances that don’t last long enough to be obsolete.

The toaster received as a wedding gift used to last a lifetime.  Read on . . .

This downward slide started in August, when my mobile landline phone died. Probably the battery, but I wasn’t up for ordering a new one for this cheap model. I’m a recalcitrant landline-lubber who leaves cell in purse unless needed to call my landline to find the misplaced receiver.

I bought a new phone, same model, for $14. Where electronics are concerned, familiarity breeds confidence. Besides, I can read the buttons on this one. Now I’m all set for about three years, the life of its predecessor.

In September, my microwave went dark at the ripe old age of 10 which, since I’m alone, equals about four years of a typical lifespan. Speaking of use-age, I’m still smarting from the washing machine that stalled after only eight years, three use-age. Fault the computer, the repairman said. Can’t be fixed. A previous sans-computer model from the same manufacturer was still agitating when I moved, after 15 years of cleaning up after four.

Why, pray, does a washing machine need a computer? Maybe because the new ones look like Lexuses and belong in the living room.

I considered not replacing the microwave, which I use to heat up, not cook. That would free up a hunk of counter space. Then I thought about the big dish of cornbread I “bake” for the birds, in six minutes. And the mug of tea that has gone tepid.

Off to Walmart . . .

On the other hand, I’m till using my original cheapest-model KitchenAid mixer. Humming along after 20 years, I’ve tacked on another 10 use-years in banana breads and chocolate chip cookies.

Occasionally these devices give some warning. All of December, my heavy, powerful blender with glass carafe which I bought in 2008 began sounding like a helicopter in distress. I said a prayer to Saint Oster and kept going. It died just after all the Christmas specials had expired.

Part of the problem may be that I don’t always buy the most costly model, or best brand. Sure, I’d like a Robot Coupe processor; they start at $550 and end at $5K. My Cuisinart’s OK except for one thing: Its feather-light plastic workbowl lid just cracked. OK, I dropped it on the floor. But plastic should bounce. This was my second bowl. Pieces fell off the others. Workbowls aren’t cheap, even on Amazon. This time I stuck a piece of super-duper clear tape over the crack and wash carefully.

Speaking of materials . . . what genius makes a toaster out of plastic?

In contrast, I own a Hamilton Beach electric meat grinder made of some substance heavier than steel reinforced with lead, then encased in enamel. It was old when my mother-in-law gave it to me as a bride, 60 years ago. She had used it to make chopped liver. This job/appliance came along with her son, I figured. The grinder has to be at least 70. I had the motor tuned up 20 years ago. Still going strong, although I no longer grind sirloin for the world’s best burgers.

The breakdowns I dread the most have never happened: dishwasher demise on Thanksgiving, and hair dryer fizzle an hour before a big event. To prevent the latter, I keep a spare.

The worst breakdown I can hardly verbalize. Too emotional. I have an old computer with outdated software on which I am totally dependent. I’m not sure which of us will outlast the other. The slightest hiccup (from the computer, not me) and I panic.

“Such a fuss . . . they’re only things,” yawns Rip Van Winkle. True. Life was just fine before the mixers, the fixers, the grinders and toasters.

But one does get spoiled.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a staff writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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