Then vs. Now
Okay, whippersnappers, lissen up! I'm old Annie the geezer, and I don't like this new century.
Our species has been devising technology to solve problems with ever-accelerating efficiency since the first Australopithecus grabbed a club to scare buzzards off a wildebeest carcass.
We've come to the point of diminishing returns, my precious pets. This moment might have occurred in the 1990s (I'm sure it did), but it has become standard operating procedure. And it sucks. If you are over 50, or near 50, you will agree with me when I bemoan ...
You whippersnappers will try to tell me that 8-track tapes and leisure suits had a built-in obsolescence too. I will counter that fashion has always relied on built-in obsolescence, and some inventions work better than others. What I mean by built-in obsolescence is labor-saving devices that are made to break down within eight years and entertainment systems that require a constant outlay of money, always more money, in order to entertain. Oh yes, and let's not forget that we need to get the latest computer gadget every two years, a gadget that becomes dated the minute it leaves the store.
Let me tell you pink-cheeked urchins something. When I was a kid, if you bought a refrigerator, it lasted 30 years. One washing machine and dryer would take a large family of kids into adulthood. Dishwashers never broke down, because they were people who used detergent and sponges. Remember Brillo Pads? I used them. I was a dishwasher. In 1978 I cleaned a whole huge Thanksgiving feast for 14 people, and here it is 2011, and I am still working! I can still scrub a pot!
In 1987, when we moved to Snobville, Mr. Johnson and I had to buy some appliances for our house. We bought a refrigerator. It still works. It's in the basement. When Heir was born, we bought a washer and dryer. They still work, and they've worked damn hard.
When we updated our kitchen in 2003, Mr. J and I bought all new kitchen appliances from Sears. Brand new dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, and microwave. The stove was recalled, the microwave is still working, sort of, the refrigerator has been repaired five times, and the dishwasher (though repaired more than six times) failed about two months ago.
Stubbornly, I insisted that we go back in time to the original dishwasher, AKA me, and I was pecking away at it, but Mr. J. doesn't like dirty dishes sitting around. Last weekend we went to the store I most detest on the planet, Home Depot, and purchased a brand new dishwasher. Do you know what the girl who sold it to us said? I kid you not:
"Dishwashers aren't built to last more than eight years anymore."
To which I replied, "Well, I know a dishwasher that has lasted 45 years without a single repair. Come on, Mr. J, let's go get a water ice."
He insisted that we purchase a new unit. We did, and a delivery date was set.
When I came home from school the day the new dishwasher was installed, I found a pool of water on my kitchen floor. The first time Mr. J used the machine, it leaked. He called the installer, who said the gasket was probably broken. I know what a gasket is, and there was nothing wrong with the gasket on the new machine. In fact, the machine continued to ooze water even when it wasn't running. It hadn't been properly installed. Now we have to wait until Tuesday for a repairman to come, all the while mopping up puddles of water from our hardwood kitchen floor.
Whippersnappers, this would not have happened in 1969. You just have to trust me. You want to know why we haven't sent any more astronauts to the moon? Because nothing is built to work long enough to get the job done.
One last bit to this rant, and then I'm going to go hunt and gather.
In 1969, if you liked a band, you bought their records. Records were plastic disks that you played on a record player. Most record players were affordable, and once you bought one, it worked for years without any further expenditure. Records, if treated gently, were eternal. I don't have to tell you that. You go to the flea market! Point is, you paid for the record once, and then you didn't have to pay for it ever again. You owned it.
My daughter The Spare gave me her MP3 player, and it was a huge hassle getting it to run again, even though we'd been paying $15 a month on it for years without any use. A month or two ago, I was bragging about getting the thing filled up with music before the subscription expired. Because that's what the guy with the thick Indian accent told me I could do: load as much stuff on it without paying as I could in a month.
The month came and went. I loaded 835 tracks. Now a month has gone by again, and the MP3 player would not work, because the "licenses had expired." Just now I spent another 90 minutes chatting with someone on the other side of the planet, and once again he had to hack into my computer to re-up the player. It's working now, I think... but I have a sick feeling in the pit of my gut that I'm going to be billed for every last one of those 835 tracks of music. Not to mention the fact that I have to pay a monthly subscription fee just to use the device at all.
Makes me long for a time when you didn't even need a record player if you had a washboard and a pair of spoons.
There's no moral to this rant. I just want to leave notice here that, should "The Gods Are Bored" suddenly cease all new posts, it's because:
1. The computer malfunctioned.
2. My internet server decides I haven't paid enough to warrant being on the computer.
3. Mr. J gets a bill from Rhapsody for 835 tracks of music and decides no spouse should spend so wantonly.
4. I have no time to post because I'm washing dishes.
Where is Mr. Peabody? I need the Way-Back Machine, and I need it now!