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Our disposable society

Posted Tuesday, October 30, 2012, at 3:18 PM

We live in a throw-a-way society.

Once upon a time my husband would take screwdriver in hand and fix a broken toaster or a lawn mower that quit mowing.

Or sundry other broken things, like a window fan or a leaky faucet or a Weedeater.

He did the same thing with our television sets and our vehicles. I can remember when he would remove a tube from our only console television set, then take the tube to a nearby store and test it on a machine, free of charge. If the tube was "bad" then he'd buy a new one and replace it.

Now if a television malfunctions, we usually toss it and buy another one. It's too complicated for a do-it-yourselfer.

Some of the newer flat screens are so large they couldn't be transported to a t.v. repair shop anyway.

Gone are the days when a t.v. repairman made house calls. If he couldn't fix the problem on the spot, then he'd transport it to his shop.

By the way, are there any repair shops still in business?

The last time I took a television set to a repair shop, the owner kept it for three months waiting for parts.

My husband used to spend the whole weekend working on our second-hand Lemon so we'd have transportation for the week. I remember sitting behind the wheel revving the motor while he worked on the carburetor.

"Give it some gas," he'd say.

Sometimes smoke would billow.

Sometimes, he'd yell, "That's good. Now let off."

Other times he would go out on the highway and drive the car to excessive speeds while he "blew out the carbon."

Often that would correct a problem.

And he often cleaned the spark plugs or replaced them with a new set. And filed the "points."

I've known him to have parts spread out all over the porch while he did something to the valves; ground them, I think.

Remember, too, how we didn't drive a new car over a certain speed limit for several weeks after we bought it. The car had to be conditioned to faster speeds.

Of course, my husband always fixed a flat tire or changed the oil or replaced a broken belt. And he washed the car with the garden hose, and occasionally waxed it. Most men did. At least, in the society as we knew it.

Now when something goes wrong, we take the car to a specialist who hooks it to a machine which diagnoses the problem.

My only contribution in the car buying was to pick a color. The minor details were left to him...gas mileage, engine size, horsepower and price.

As you've probably guessed by now, I don't know much about the mechanics of a car. But I know about colors: white diamond, autumn mist, pearl white, silver, maroon, midnight black or charcoal.

Friday night I was a passenger in a friend's late model GMC. The dash, in sparkling red icons, resembled the cockpit of a Boeing 727.

There's no way the driver could be familiar with all those dots and dashes on the dashboard, probably 50 or more of them.

But they were as pretty as nail polish, or bright lights on a Christmas tree.

Then there are computer and Smart phones.

We cast them like a net upon the sea, shedding them for newer modern versions. They are throw-a-ways, like old microwaves and old eyeglasses and worn out shoes.

Years ago, I received two valuable items at a wedding shower. One of them was a GE toaster and the other was a Westinghouse iron.

I used both those appliances for over 25 years before they finally stopped working. And they were used constantly, too.

Could it be that small appliances are no longer made to last? Are they doomed for a short term existence? Are they built to be disposables?

A microwave I bought new less than five years ago has stopped heating. My first microwave lasted over 25 years before the element went out. True, I paid $600 for it but in the long run, it was worth it.

My new 2012 GE microwave has only a one year warranty from date of purchase.

A throw-a-way society?

Yes, I'm beginning to think so.



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From these hills
By Peggy Johnson
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