It was the morning after the first barrage of heavy snow and high winds, which are the leading characters in the production of ‘How to meet your Blizzard; the sequel’. I sat drinking my coffee and gazing at the windows that were coated in thick ice and snow and unrecognizable as windows. I now know how Scott of the Antarctic must have felt. I thought that it would be a good idea to take a peak at what things looked like outside, so I heaved open the front door and was drenched by thick snow from the drift that had piled up during the night. I dusted off my sopping trousers and peered out onto what used to be my front driveway. The snow had done a really good job of obliterating it. My vehicles were almost buried and it looked doubtful that they would be moving any time soon. Snow was still falling but at least the winds had abated and the temperature was edging into double digits. It was a depressingly bleak outlook but I did have a shovel and although it might take a while it would perhaps be worth the effort to clear some of the larger drifts.
The second shovel full separated the wooden handle from the metal cup rendering the two sections of the shovel inoperative for the purpose for which it had been originally intended. i.e. shoveling.
I examined the two separate parts of the implement. There was no way that I could attach the wooden shaft back into the metal holder. I resigned myself to returning to my morning coffee and praying for a rapid thaw.
I recall shoveling snow when I was a boy with the family shovel which was made of wrought iron and was in one piece. That shovel lasted until I left for university. Eighteen years of faithful shoveling; coal deliveries, snow in winter, manure from the milkman’s horse in the mornings and turning over the garden soil in Spring. It was a sturdy, well made and faithful shovel.
It seems that manufacturing has taken a turn for the worse during the last few decades.
Built in obsolescence is now all part and parcel of the manufacturing game. It is simply not economically viable to build anything that last for longer than six months, tops. We don’t repair things any more; we replace them! Ironically it is less expensive to buy a new one than fix the old one.
Shovels are a good example. The one which I bought two years ago has lasted longer than it should have. The guy who designed it was summerly dismissed for designing something which conflicted with the manufacturer’s policy regarding longevity.
Take a look around. How many items do you see that have a lifespan of more than a year at best.
Built in obsolescence is great if you can getaway with it; it feeds the greedy monster that has become part of our daily existence; commerce. Almost anything is now acceptable if it helps maintain the upward spiral of consumer spending activity.
Shopping, which used to mean popping down to the grocers to buy a pound of sausages, has now been elevated to a profession; as in ‘Jennifer is a really good shopper’ It is becoming a pre requisite for most young women these days to at least spend one or two days each week ‘shopping’ And that does not include groceries.
One has only to watch any of the eight hundred TV channels to see that shopping has reached epidemic proportions. It is becoming a social addiction and one is likely to be thought of as a tad unsound if one has not spent at least a morning engaging in the pursuit of stocking up on goodies.
‘But wait!’ to coin a phrase that is a reoccurring admonition in most of the never ending stream of commercials that are doing their level best to encourage you to ‘save now’ by purchasing two or more of the latest gadget; the latest cooking utensil; the ‘must have’ cell phone; the latest ‘to die for’ fashion; the new and improved vitamin supplement. Maybe I am being a little caustic here but tell me if you can, how do I save money if I am spending it?
And here’s the kicker.
Most of the items are generally reminiscent of my shovel. Their life expectancy is marginal at best and the chances are very good that they do not do what you were assured that they would.
I bought my daughter a sound system for her new apartment. It was a well known brand, very spiffy and surprisingly inexpensive. One of the features was a port which accommodated an Ipod for playing her music library. The problem was that by the time we set it up, the connection only worked with the Ipod that was used prior to the new and improved model that just came out, thus rendering the connection obsolete and the system inoperative.The only solution would be to purchase the newer model Ipod or a different sound system so that one could use the system as originally intended.
This scenario is pretty well established across the manufacturing/ merchandising spectrum. It is almost becoming a sin not to engage in the replacement of almost everything whether one needs to or not and the marketing people are only too pleased to cooperate by offering outstanding deals on all that you need to satisfy your most vapid appetite.
Out with the old: in with the new.
I went on line to find a replacement shovel.
There are a host of different shovels available. Hygienic one piece; Voile Tempo; rigid; Kodiak fiber glass and so on.
Somehow buying a shovel on line does not portend a very satisfactory outcome. I need to hold it; feel the width; examine the weight and most important ensure that the handle is not going to detach itself!
I suspect that most of the examples on line have a life expectancy that will expire at roughly the same time as the next snowstorm arrives.