We’re So Convenienced, It’s an

I used to live a cheaper and better life in many respects.

Our fridge broke down, on a Friday of course. Totally. About four years old. Just past the warrantee. No warning signs. Temp seemed fine all along until what must have been sometime during Thursday night. We had gotten an expensive model that had an ice and water dispenser, complete with lock function. It was nicer and would last longer, we reasoned, after scouring consumer reports. Well, I’m to the snappish point and my ‘tude is now that I’m not going to ride the dang things to Mars and back so I’m ready to live more with less.

In the last 12 years, I’ve had 2 larger chest freezers, two fridges, and one standing freezer die on me, all relatively young units, only the last one a more expensive model. Only one died when it wasn’t the weekend or a major feast holiday. No joke. Neither is that kind of waste.

Did you know that there is (mostly plastic) waste now found floating in the ocean between the U.S. coast and Hawaii? Tens of thousands of lbs. of it, sometimes entangled in vast moving floating masses. It’s out there. The media just only now thought to put it on the table because we only now might be interested (and therefore media makes a profit)?

Along with imagining that, now visualize all your discarded appliances, coffee makers too, from the last 15 years out there on the curb. All of us. All at once. It’d take up much of the streets, causing impasses.

We are at an impasse. We’re just funny fancy monkeys that have trouble seeing it is all. ‘Cause it goes bye bye after becoming an inconvenience … somewhere out there. We know appliances habitually break just after the extended warrantee, we have an inkling that consumer reports do little to tell the whole story from a consumer’s/green perspective, and we just don’t normally ponder how that star energy rating we all check is little more than a carrot on a stick we’re to chase after while tripping ourselves up.

The more people we have, the bigger-n-high-tech our appliances are, the faster they break down, and it’s usually cheaper to buy new than to fix. We wanted a new model anyway. Sound familiar? It’s a seller’s market and Mother Nature’s sorrow. It’s Aesop’s Fox and the Grapes. I wanted convenience and can’t seem to get it.

About getting the fridge fixed, why should I have to pay 200 or so just for the house visit aspect of the bill only to have to wait a week in order for them to “visit,” apparently an industry standard? Guess they think people can just eat out or get a small fridge in the interim; difficult for me with my dietary challenges — can’t have cholesterol, high glycemic foods, any wheat, and I’m a thyroid patient so food has to be healthy and have a decent fiber content. How all our convenience impacts a population that has more people over 40, that is a good topic for future posts/thought.

If I didn’t have rheumatoid arthritis, walking to the market on a near daily basis, spicing foods, and cooking all from scratch, cans, and dried goods would sound preferable. It still might, except in the most brutal cold. I used to do it all. I carried food home in the stroller next to one kid, with more food strapped to my back, while a baby was strapped to my chest. Got welt like marks on my shoulders but didn’t care. I was strong, proud, and living a far better life than what my income said because I was cunning and determined. I used cloth bags rather than the store bags. I used cloth diapers. Cut down on the amount of stuff I had to handle or run out and get. Saved time. Had too much of a challenge to mess with extra stuff. Kids and bills always came first.

Well, things aren’t quite so hard now but they are. Now married to a tech lover, and nearly everything is high tech these days, even our toothbrushes can vibrate, and now we spend more time dealing with researching, buying, programming, and then dealing with all the things breaking down and how that impacts our lives than I ever spent walking to and from markets and otherwise dealing with life inexpensively.

I love technology, sure, but not that much that I want the trade off we seem to be getting. I grew up with an immigrant mother and was surrounded by immigrants who worked hard initially to live better and … they had more time for going after their hopes and dreams. They knew how to pick their battles and trade offs, I think. We really do get what we deserve.

Anyway, right about now, I’m sick of high tech everything except our computers, our digital cameras and the Prius.

Another weekend during which I didn’t get to make any art! Bah!

About Karen A. Scofield

Eclectic. Artist. Engage me in conversation on message boards, in comment threads or in person prior to sending any online chat/friend invites. Thank you.
This entry was posted in Environment, Money, Political/Cultural, Tech/Geek. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to We’re So Convenienced, It’s an

  1. FernWise says:

    Dang, Isaac – while my fridge went out on the Labor Day holiday last year, all I did was throw the food into the same coolers I use for Pagan festivals. Repair person – another home business owner in my area – came by on Tuesday, and soon all was well for under $50.

    When the main line from the house to the sewer went out a month ago, the repair folks were out in 4 hours, stayed 3 hours. We called the repair guy THEN called the landlord, who agreed that it was an emergency and that we should get the repairs done and just write off the bill as part of our next rent payment (well, we sent a copy of the repair receipt with the reduced rent).

    Heck, we have a freezer still working that we got in 1979.

    But don’t ask us about the lifespans of our hard drives … which also die at the most inconvenient times!

    Frondly, Fern

  2. sari0009 says:

    Just so that there aren’t any misunderstandings, I wrote the entry here.

    When some of those appliances broke down, I was a single mother, earning well under the poverty line while not collecting child support (didn’t see any for over ten years), didn’t know a lot of people were I was, and was averaging 18 to twenty hours between work and college. One doesn’t get the neighborly/cheaper rates that way (which obviously can have financial and ecological impact), or at least I didn’t.

    Later, I moved to where I am now only to swiftly become devastated by illness and sure enough, appliances broke down during that time. Hadn’t met hardly anyone yet, was never blessed with the ability to easily or quickly make friends, and found that sometimes it’s cheaper to replace items, a very compelling financial choice when illness drains finances to such a degree.

    I do believe older appliances probably did and do last longer. I have a beater and bowl set that’s probably at least 50 years old and still working just fine but most new products are literally designed for shorter lifespans.

    Now they tell me the appliances are recycled (what percentage each item?), but there has to be waste produced in the process, starting with the trucks that pick them up. To make matters worse, nearly everything we buy is somehow wrapped in plastic. It’s quite odd to look around one’s house and take stock of what came in plastic and/or is plastic, how long it lasts, and so on, and then compare it to childhood memories. Haunts a person, especially after reading the link I gave.

    I miss living in Madison, WI, because they had the stores, such as Willy Street Coop, to which you could bring your cloth bags and get goods from large bins. Haven’t seen that here but I’ll look around more. Maybe we can even talk to some grocery stores and see if they’ll let us do that with the produce instead having it weighed in plastic bags. I’ve been taking the plastic bags from grocery shopping in for recycling but don’t like creating the demand that puts them into the cycle of things.

    We have coolers but they only go so far in a household handling three generations. Presently, we’re doing fine between the freezer we had anyway and a small fridge we decided we wanted anyway (kids can use it when they go to college or something), but are seriously considering fixing the larger fridge rather than buying new, even if it’s expensive.

    I’ve always been more on the frugal side and have always diligently recycled, but that’s not enough, is it?

  3. ibonewits says:

    Hi Sari! Perhaps one of the first acts that a Gore Administration will have to push through Congress will be a federal law changing corporate law so that maximum profit is no longer the primary goal of every corporation. Perhaps, “reasonable profit consistent with environmental costs” so the hidden costs are finally dragged out into the open after three hundred years of capitalism! Won’t the corporations scream!?!

    But making profit no longer the number one motive will kill the habit of planned obsolescence, which is the culprit behind products designed to break down right after the warranty expires.

    Run, Al, run!!!

  4. sari0009 says:

    Hi Isaac. 🙂

    Hmmmm. Considering the marriage between corporations and politics in the U.S. today (insert various volumes written on that to date here), while I certainly don’t underestimate the power of changing focus from maximum profit at environmental costs to more environmentally friendly profits, and I understand why you favor Gore, it’s education of the consumerist masses that’ll offer much of the directional force we need for it’s education that also proves effective and lasting and it’s us who put most of that plastic and other garbage out there.

    The thing that worries me is that planned obsolescence has incredible international momentum and affects jobs as well as products, politics, and Gaia.

    Ah the power of names/terms. I found some books about planned obsolescence on Amazon dot com but not nearly as many as I expected. Not in English anyway. No, there is not nearly the body of work out there and it tends to go in fads as to what aspects are covered. Even the Wikipedia page on the topic was scant, in my opinion.

    Not turning socialist but maybe I should go read Die Blutsauger Der Nation (which questions who really runs the nation) or other works in other languages, just to wander in and out of various reality tunnels regarding the related issues.

    I’ve never seen anyone do it ever but I did ask the local Wal-Mart if they’d bag my stuff in cloth bags and they said yes. Of course, we’re doing other things to cut down on dependence of plastics but it’s not as easy as it seems. Nearly everything I touch is plastic and/or has a shortened lifespan one way or another.

  5. ibonewits says:

    Some very good points! Public education will certainly be key.

    How many languages are you fluent in?

  6. sari0009 says:

    Fluent? One. Sorry, you could probably use a hyperpolyglot for your work, couldn’t you? My mother was a language teacher who taught 3 languages, I listened to music in many languages as a child (still do even now), took several languages in high school … but haven’t kept it all up for the past 30 years.

    I can recognize many languages and read a number of them with help of dictionaries and translators, usually to explore specific topics only not to read whatever language again for some time. Whatever the language, I’m far better at reading and writing than speaking and listening, often able to understand and spell what I’m not sure how to pronounce.

    Back to plastics and the environment … since much of the plastic waste we create comes from plastic grocery bags, I created a page on reusable grocery (and other) bags (buy or make). http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=Sari0009&nextdate=10%2f28%2f2007+23%3a59%3a59.999

    I don’t see anyone around here using them at Wal-Mart but asked our local store if they’d be willing to bag my purchases in reusable bags and they said yes. I bet it wouldn’t be a problem at the grocery store I often go to now.

  7. ibonewits says:

    Our local A&P grocery store sells recycled and reusable bags and even gives us a tiny discount for using them. Every store we bring our cloth shopping bags into seems happy to let us use them. So attitudes are changing a little, at least here in “liberal” New York.

  8. sari0009 says:

    Attitudes do vary. While one person here was worried about the bag lady label, a local art gallery has been sending art home with customers in cloth bags made from remnants and has been doing so for years.

    I’ll make mine but like the idea of dollar cloth (!) grocery bags sold in some places. Few people will make their own and such a low price will enable a much swifter shift in attitudes and practice (online, I have seen sets of 2 or 4 sold for as much as 50 dollars).

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