The quality of longevity: instant gratification seems to mean near-instant breakdown, too

Photo: “Doohickies and Widgets” by Mike Murchison

by Mike Murchison

I think it would be safe to say that many of us have often found ourselves in that moment when we have a “deer in the headlight” look and find ourselves wondering “Why? How?” and muttering something like “are you kidding me?”

I find myself in that very situation, as I am staring at the starter in the big truck. One of four starters replaced since last winter. Four starters in one year.

So, we do the diagnostic tests. Check for voltage surges. Everything according to the manual. Solution: replace the starter. Again.

It could be a starter. Could be something else. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a vehicle, a stereo, a broom or a washing machine. Things just don’t last anymore, and haven’t for awhile.

I have a drill and a skill saw that were manufactured in 1974. They still work. I have a 30-year-old Ford Explorer that still works. Very well. Very little rust if any. I never babied it. It still runs great, and everything works.

I also have a 1982 gas lawnmower that I still use to cut the lawn.

Now get this: I have a freezer that has a lot of cool chrome and stainless trim on it. You’d probably look at the trim and think of a ’57 Chevy. Its a big heavy freezer. But it still works.

When and where did the switch occur, from things lasting to things lasting enough to make you lose faith in society?

My guess it was somewhere around the start of global free trade.

We, as a country that formerly manufactured things like freezers, lawnmowers, drills, vehicles and a lot of other things, traded our “quality control” overseeing for “ease of convenience” strategies. 

Things are not built to last anymore. They are built to give us a sense of immediate gratification, only to be followed by that horrendous sound of silence. That thing we just bought won’t turn on, light up or go whoosh when the switch thingy is flicked.

Even friendships have taken to going down this road. Often, they break. But too often, little is done to repair or rectify the problem.

They seem disposable. Just replace the friendship with another so-called friend. The effort to repair is too much of a hassle. Like finding the little latch clip thing that keeps the dryer door closed. Search high and low for one. Out of stock. Back order. Three-month delivery.

So, you jimmy something. A piece of broom handle, some duct tape. Anything. Then you break down and buy a new dryer, drill, lawnmower. You get the picture.

A disposable society whose government preaches “recycle” only to do a 180 and outlaws plastic shopping bags and straws and replace them with paper. The very paper processed from trees we were crying about preserving 30 years ago.

The battle cry now seems to be “Replace it!” Buy a new one. Easy finance terms, no money down and third quarter profits.

My drill and skill saw are 50 years old. They still work. I’ve gone through 4 cordless rechargeable drills since. I lost count of how many other widgets, gadgets and thingamajigs I owned that died prematurely before their proclaimed life expectancy.

And trucks? Cars for that matter? It used to be common place for a heavy duty truck with a diesel engine to get 1 million miles before a rebuild was needed. Not so today. You’re lucky if you see 400 thousand miles before things go south. There are some engine manufactures who WON’T rebuild an engine. They tell you to pull out the broken one and drop in a new one. At a hit of 65 thousand dollars.

Things that last are not outdated or antiquated; they’re doing what they were designed and built to do: show up for work and get the job done. And that’s not an unreasonable expectation.

Live long….and just do!