Thursday, June 05, 2008

Nothing Last Forever

The Eastpointer

Nothing Lasts Forever

By Richard E. Noble
I remember when I used to buy things thinking that they would last forever. It seems so silly today when I think of it. Where did I ever get such an idea? I remember in my not so distant past actually becoming annoyed if a screwdriver broke. Of course, screwdrivers are guaranteed today. You can buy a screwdriver and when you twist off the end of it trying to rotate a screw that is made out of stronger, harder metal than the screwdriver, you can bring the screwdriver back and they will give you another one that will do the very same thing. That's called a lifetime guarantee - you can spend your lifetime traveling back and forth to the hardware department at some department store. Actually our money has the same guarantee. If you don't think that it is worth anything you can bring it back to the bank and they will exchange it for more of the same.
I think I got this notion by being born too soon. We had the same refrigerator in my house from the beginning of my memories until I left home as an adult. My mother would save up the money to buy something once and then took care of it and it was understood to last forever. I had the same radio, the same bed, the same mattress, the same comforter, the same everything in my bedroom all my life at home.
Automobiles were like that too. Actually when Henry Ford manufactured his first Model T, it was advertised as so simple that even a "woman" could fix it. If the person who bought it couldn't fix it, no one in those days would have bought one. Today nobody can fix an automobile. If your automobile breaks even the dealership where you bought it probably can't fix it. And nobody buys a car for "keeps." Everything on today's automobile is designed to last as long as the warranty. In Cuba they are still driving the cars that were manufactured when I was growing up. They can be fixed and repaired forever.
Now I actually buy things just because it is time to get a new one. My old one still works but the company no longer makes parts for it and even if it did, there is no one who can remember how those parts used to fit together.
I buy clothes because that's what they have for sale, not because that is what I want. In my dressing career I've looked like Elvis, the Beach Boys, a guest on Hee Haw, a Wigger, and an off duty marine.
Sometimes I buy a new thing simply because they no longer sell supplies for my old thing.
Today I don't even expect that anything I buy will last. There are many things I buy to use just once and throw them away. I spend my disposable income buying disposable things. If anything I buy lasts longer than the warranty I feel I won.
I buy tape that doesn't stick to anything and glue that only sticks to my fingers and eyelids. I buy scissors that can't cut paper. I buy hammers that shatter pounding a nail. I buy light bulbs that fizzle out as I screw them in. I buy broken things that come in packaging that can't be opened with a blow torch. I buy knives that can cut through a tin can but won't slice a loaf of French bread. I buy T-shirts marked XX large that won't fit over my head and if they do get over my head they don't hang low enough to cover my belly button. I buy socks that form a hole in them as I put them on my feet for the first time. I buy hamburger and chicken livers that go bad while waiting for the frying pan to heat up. I buy chickens, ham and beef that lose weight just sitting on the counter. I buy vegetables that you can't even wash the salmonella from. I buy cans of tuna fish packed in water, that contain more water than tuna fish. I order things on the Internet that I know can't work. I guess that I have become so accustomed to being cheated that I have a longing for the feeling.
We don't even discuss "workmanship" anymore. The only place that I hear workmanship even being mentioned is on the Antique Road Show and This Old House. My wife and I were watching a show on woodworking. My wife's grandfather was a carpenter and a house builder. "Do you think that your grandfather could have done that?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied, "but he would have done it with a hand saw and a rasp. In his day workmanship wasn’t covering up sloppiness in an attempt to make it look professional. My grandfather used to do everyday of his life what the carpenter of today doesn’t even believe is possible."
People go to college and don't specialize in anything. If they do, by the time they graduate their chosen specialty could very well be obsolete. Jobs are disappearing faster than you can learn how to do them. What you want to study today in college is flexibility and elasticity. You have to be flexible enough to do anything that is asked of you and then you've got to be able to stretch it out long enough to pay your rent or next mortgage payment.

Hobo-ing America and A Summer with Charlie are books written by Richard E. Noble, a Freelance Writer who has lived in Eastpoint for thirty years. Both books are now available on You can stock and sell his books by e-mailing