Monday, May 19, 2008

The Plastic Paradox

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where today we celebrate that deity of inanimate objects, plastic!

Yes, plastic. Never degrades, never turns to dust. If the human race lasts long enough, there will be veins of plastic in the rock layers 100 million years from now.

So here's my question. If plastic is as immortal as the bored gods, why does everything made out of it break so fast?

I've never met a plastic object that didn't crumble under my touch. I'm just unlucky that way. I was born in an era where, if something didn't work at first try, you just shoved a little harder. Or whacked the thing. And presto chango, it got going.

Just now I've been wrestling with my new printer. The old printer only lasted about 3 years (light use) and had to be ditched because the plastic cover wouldn't shut properly. Now, this new one. The Spare was printing something and she had to change the paper size. Do you think that paper sizer would just shove right back into position with a little old push? Hell no, I had to find a teeny tiny little lever, practically invisible to the naked eye, lift the lever, and then the paper sizer slid back into position.

Now you're telling me to read the manual, right? BAAAAMP! Operation manuals are only good for cleaning out under the fingernails and keeping the table from wobbling. If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we make appliances so simple that any moron can use them without first reading a manual?

And while we're at it, don't you think appliances and stuff should last longer than five years? My husband's grandmother is still alive, and she has a refrigerator from the 1950s that still works. I was told recently that if I didn't change the filter on my five-year-old refrigerator each and every time it needed to be changed, the whole doggone refrigerator will break down. You know -- and I know -- that in about three more years I'm gonna go to Sears and they're gonna say, "Sorry, but we don't carry that kind of filter anymore. You'll need a new refrigerator."

This one really has me steamed. Five years ago, in a moment of mutual insanity, my husband and I decided to get our kitchen renovated. Our house was built in 1927 and it still had the original cabinets. They were the butt-ugliest things you ever saw, but they worked. I decorated them with Loony Toon stickers that wouldn't come off, and as the stickers faded it just added to the ugliness.

I'm wishing those cabinets back now, you betcha. Because the new ones are white, and it turns out they just had a little bit of thin white laminate overtop a flimsy kind of who-knows-what-the-hell, and the bottom cabinets are already flaking at the corners. After five years!

Almost 70 years this house had the same metal cabinets, and now the new ones are looking crappy. So Mr. Johnson went back to the kitchen store and tried to get spare parts so we can fix the cabinets just before we get ready to sell this dump (which now looks sooner than later). Guess what they told him? The cabinets we bought have been phased out.

Everything's made to self-destruct, so that you've got to buy a whole new one whether you can afford it or not. And yet everything's made of plastic, which never self-destructs.

This problem is too stupid even for the most bored of bored gods, so I'll just say we live in the most despicably wasteful and polluting country on the planet. And leave it at that.


THE Michael said...

Remember metal? Wood? And that really amazing container material, GLASS?

I do.

yellowdog granny said...

hell, my aunt leola still has an ice ice box..just a shell with shelves and a place to put a big hunk of ice to keep stuff cold..pan under neath it to catch the melted water...she's had it since i was about 4...she also has her old pedal/singer sewing machine..she hasn't thrown anything away since ...well, she's never thrown anything away..i dont think she owns anything plastic cause she still has the metal ice trays, the metal glasses you used to get from the door to door salesman and all the stuff from 70 years ago..scary

sott'Eos said...

You don't seem to understand your place in the world. You are a "consumer". If you are not consuming, then you are nothing. To a cabinet company, if you are not consuming new cabinets, then you do not exist. This is doubly true if you are an ex-consumer of theirs, who now has a problem with a product that no longer has any profit potential for them. Now doesn't the whole system make a lot more sense?

Big Tex said...

I feel your pain, I have a computer that's petering out on me after 6 years, and that's the longest I've ever been able to get one to last for me. I have a feeling my next one will last me half as long and cost twice as much to replace.

Anonymous said...

Anne, I hear you. It's called planned obsolescence, and it's been phasing into and has now become a huge part of the American manufacturing system since at least the 1950's. My grandmother can remember, and will tell you, that orange juice never tasted sour and that milk lasted twice as long when they were packaged in glass. There are a few dairies now selling their milk in glass (often with returnable for deposit bottles), and once I switched my family, we would rather refuse plastic-stored milk and wait for the real thing.