notquiteold

Nancy Roman

Unbreakable?

I was doing my hair the other day when my curling iron broke.  Even though I wear my hair straight, I use one of those big-barreled curling irons to give me some body. And to get all my hair going in basically one direction. I have cowlicks. Year ago, in my college Art class, we were drawing the human figure, and the teacher described drawing hair like this:

Sometimes hair is a solid silky sheet and it reflects the light. Curly hair lets the light through it. And then you have hair like Nancy’s where every single strand has its own direction.

So I was bending my hair into submission, and the curling iron gave up. This has happened about once a year for the past twelve years.

The clamp that clamps won’t clamp. The hinge has become unhinged.

My husband got so aggravated at this recurring aggravation that one year, he took the broken curling iron down to his workshop and devised a new clamp. But the fix was temporary.

That’s because the damn thing is designed to break.

If you are manufacturing small appliances that you sell for $19.95, you don’t want the junk to last forever. You wouldn’t make any money if unruly-haired girls bought your stuff only once. You want it to last just long enough so that unruly-haired girls won’t demand a refund, but instead will just go out an buy another. Like every year.

I won’t say the name of the manufacturer, but you know the one. They make tons of cheap hair appliances, and they have the same name as a movie about a hijacked airplane. Coincidence?

I think that just about everything these days is designed with Planned Obsolescence. My dog’s toys last 3 weeks if we are lucky. But sometimes only five minutes.  We once bought a cat toy that the cat destroyed 45 seconds after it came out of the box. I think that was a record. But knowing cats… perhaps not.

We bought a flat screen TV a few years ago. The screen went black one night, although there was still sound. We decided it would be worth calling a repairman. It cost $375 for a new mother board. The board was guaranteed for 90 days. It failed on day 94.

It was a miracle we could even locate a repairman. I’m not sure there is a single shoemaker in all of Connecticut. Shoe repair? Who does that?

And there are bobby pins whose rubber tips come off. And eyeshadow that breaks into flaky chunks and falls into the wet sink. Lipsticks whose tops come loose in your purse and the lipstick gets coated with kleenex dust. Pens that won’t write. Aerosol cans that won’t spray. Towels that fray in the washing machine. Buttons that fall off your coat.

And baking dishes that are no longer safe to bake in. And yes, you know the brand this time too (because it’s THE Brand). The formula was changed a few years ago, so unless you have an old baking dish, you can end up with this:

pyrex

This had been chicken. It’s happened to me twice. Do not buy new tempered-glass baking dishes. Buy your dishes only at yard sales. Old persons’ yard sales.

I think all this “Let’s make shit you have to replace often” philosophy started in the sixties.

Because I remember snagging yet another nylon stocking on the school desk in science class in 1966. I expressed dismay (without swearing, because that would get me suspended) – and the teacher said:

“Did you know that nylon stockings can be made to be run-proof?” He added, “But then how many would you buy?”
“Do
 you think,” I asked, “that the hosiery manufacturers pay the school desk manufacturers to add a few rough edges?”
“What
 makes you think they are different manufacturers?” he replied.

So I date the rise of Planned Obsolescence to the 1960s.

But not before.

Why?

Because of Cuba.

Cuba’s revolution in 1959 eliminated that country’s ability to buy new cars. So they are still driving big old Buicks and Chevys from the 50s.

And the streets look like this:

cubancars

Yeah, these cars are still on the road. They are not living the pampered life of antique car shows. They go to work. They get groceries. They are taxicabs.

I want to go to Cuba and see these magnificent displays of automotive longevity. And I want to go there soon. Because, with the normalization of U.S./Cuba relations, it won’t be too long before the Cuban people are all driving unreliable pieces of shit.

Like the rest of us.

58 Comments

  1. Sad but true

    Liked by 1 person

  2. As always, you’re on the money. My curling iron quit a couple weeks ago. I hate the new one I bought not that the previous one was fantastic. At least it was around 15 months old. 😦

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  3. Sadly we are a throwaway society because it is cheaper to replace than repair. Hubby found this when he was self employed. Who wanted to pay £10 plus parts to repair a toaster when you can buy a new one for £4.
    I was told by a salesman that washing machines are designed to last 2 years. That opened up a whole new can of worms (see my post ‘death of a salesman’ for the full saga), TVs are around 5, and my laptop failed after 13 months. Hubby fixed it but it’s failing again now even though we only use it to watch DVDs. Now we have to think about getting a portable DVD player as we don’t have a TV, and buying an all-in-one means we’lll have to pay a licence fee even though we don’t watch telly!
    Rant over. Good post Nancy. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I hear ya! I’ve always said that. Coffee makers, toasters. That’s why I don’t spend a lot of money on those things. It sucks, but it’s a fact. Shoes that are perfectly good, soles and heels made of pressboard and falling apart..don’t get me going!

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    • Sometimes I buy an appliance that’s a bit more expensive, hoping it will last longer. It usually does work better… but last longer?

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  5. I keep backups of hair appliances for all those reasons (including rowdy cowlicks). Our big expensive French door refrigerator lasted 6 years. I was nuts. Salesman said that was about right. We are at year 7 with the new one. I am very afraid. I rub it every night and tell it how much I love it. Still…one day it will crap out on me. Probably the day I have it full of party stuff that will spoil.

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    • We have an old snapper cooler in our cellar. It failed this week. But it was quite old. The curling iron bugs me more.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ray G

    Since I have a little “inside information” I cannot resist commenting here. During the ’60’s the design parameter was that one could/should get 100 hours of operation from a typical under-$200 appliance. Anything more was gravy. Said parameter still exists, though it may be lower yet. I know this because I was employed by the biggest home-appliance maker back then. And they were headquartered in Bridgeport, CT. So if one uses said hair appliance every day for a small part of an hour, the time adds up, and then phlooey, the thing is designed to break. All before we could blame the Chinese.
    As far as the Cuban-owned American classics are concerned, they (the Cubans) are blessed (?) with mild winters and no road salt. Plus, the island is small, so the cars cannot travel very far on their salt-less (read no corrosion) roads, and they have, by additional political necessity a fleet which we gear-heads up north can only envy.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree about the Cuban cars, Ray. The hot pink one in Nancy’s photo was a thrill for my eyes. I live in Ohio and forgot about the damage that salt does to vehicles. I guess because I’m so used to it, I don’t even think about it.

      I can remember in the 1970s – 80s, there were a lot of muscle cars on the roads. Even in the 90s (in the summer only), people would bring their old cars out for a Sunday drive. I’ve owned several classic cars myself in the past. Unfortunately, they are too expensive to buy now — even the trashed ones that need a lot of TLC. And it’s sad that I no longer see many on the road nowadays, even in the summer.

      Sorry Nancy, for hijacking a comment! I just love classic cars and your photo, along with Ray’s comment, took me down memory lane for a moment!

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      • We have a 57 Buick Special. We had a snow and ice storm last week, and it was parked outside. It started up.

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  7. I buy a lot of stuff at thrift stores and yard sales. The older stuff really is made to last. In my financial situation, it’s ridiculous to buy something new that I can find at a sale for a few bucks. And it will last longer than the new version too.

    Good post! You really got me going with the Cuban photo though!

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I think it’s cool knowing that used things had a whole life before you. You own a little mystery. And they almost always work better and look nicer.

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  8. I worked for GM car dealerships for 35 years. Customers were convinced that their car was electronically connected to GMAC so that when they made their last payment, POOF, the car would self destruct. In this day and age of technology, they may be right.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. iamsallyrose

    I completely agree with you, and I’ve had the same thought about Cuba. I want to get there before it becomes Miami South.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh yeah I so get this, all those damn things that break, we do live in a throwaway time, which is so bloody annoying, many of us cannot afford to replace shit ever few years or in same cases every bloody year. Our dishwasher is playing up but since it is our of warranty we will use it till it dies and then we will see how much it will cost to repair and compare it to how much a new one costs then decide what to do.

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    • I would like all the $19.95’s I spent on curling irons. I could buy a summer home.

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  11. we had to buy a new stove last year for our vacation house. There was a great Samsung one on sale for $400 off — who doesn’t like a bargain like that? Then we found out that there is no service department for Samsung stoves … the price didn’t look so hot after all.

    I really hate it that everybody has their hands in our pockets.

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    • When I got married, we bought an old house that had a Hotpoint range that was at least 40 years old. We lived in that house 14 years, and I don’t think we ever had a problem with it. We moved 12 years about and the folks who bought the house are probably still using it.

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  12. Building are made to last 70 years, yet in Europe you can find buildings that are hundreds of years old! Loved this post so I Facebooked it! ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many buildings and bridges in Europe are over 2,000 years old. And there are structures in Africa and Asia older than that.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Christine

        In France we drove over a bridge built by the Romans. This was not long after the collapse of the Mianus River Bridge on I-95 Greenwich, which was 25 years old. This is progress? (We also toured a Roman arena that was still being used for bullfights and rock concerts.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wow, that’s amazing eh?!

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    • Thanks for the FB post!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. The cars in Cuba are indeed charming but even better is the warmth and friendliness if the people. When I took Spanish classes in Havana, we hitched-hiked to the school every morning. Invariably, we left the cars of those who picked us up with a gift; fresh fruit, a music tape of their band, a piece of handicraft. Go soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t have much of a bucket list, but I’d really like to see Cuba. Too many Hemingway novels, maybe.

      Like

  14. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

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  15. We have a very old vehicle….it’s got almost 300,000 reliable miles on it. Put our 2005 vehicle which has had the alternator replaced more times than I can count, and I’ve come to the realization that I’d be better off scootering to the store, biking to work….walking to the park.
    I needed to vent about that. I feel better.
    I love this post. Maybe we should all meet in Cuba!?!💜

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    • I think the dancing and food would be as great as the cars! Meet you there!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree. Oh what I’d give to sit and just watch life roll by there!

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  16. I’m with you on this one. I really want to go to Cuba, too. Before every thing changes. I should have taken advantage of the Canadian/Cuba tourist relationship long ago.

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  17. WALL-E where are you? We will have little WALL-E ‘S COMPACTING all our $19.95 appliances to make way for humans to remain on earth. Maybe they are already operating out of sight out of mind, just compacting happily as we toss our junk their way. The world over has the same problem, I have tried every brand know to mankind to find a blowdryer to last me more than a year tops. WALL-E in Australia has them all, he just built the new highrise building 3 doors down with them.
    Will our consumerism come back to haunt us one day, come on manufacturers, LIFT YA GAME!!
    Great story Nancy, perhaps a peak into our future
    Kind Regards from Annie in Australia 🌞 🌴 🌊

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree… hairdryers go in the same category with the other crappy stuff that doesn’t last.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Wow…Cuban streets do look different from anything I’ve ever seen before. I would love to go to Cuba…and about your curlers, well they break all the time! Guess the only way around it is to buy a new one because I don’t think they are ever going to manufacture anything that last for longer than they wish! But I also like getting anything new. I’m always excited to use a new curler/straightener/face-wash/anything!! I hope you got your new one… 🙂

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    • That’s true… if’s fun to have a “new” anything. But I hate the piles of trash that I am making for the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. About a year ago, I read that sales of iPads were dropping because they worked for too long. My guess is that the next generation of them won’t.

    However, these manufacturers of poor products are underestimating my ability to live in denial that a product has broken beyond the popint of use.

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    • You are right… my laptop and my smartphone are pretty old – by today’s standard anyway. And although I really want a new phone, so far I have been able to resist.

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  20. Never mind the curlers. Get yourself to Cuba – it’s amazing 🙂

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  21. Toasters, coffee makers … don’t get me started.

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  22. Dana

    Maybe you should try the Simply Straight brush?

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  23. LindaLuNC

    Hit my hot button again. We finally quit buying toaster oven for this very reason. Can’t count how many we’ve had. We finally decided that the money it costs to broil toast in our big oven is nothing compared to how much we’ve spent on toaster ovens over the years. On the other hand, we still have the Maytag washer and dryer given to us as a wedding present by my in-laws 28 years ago. Go figure. I am sure that when they finally go, we won’t get anything nearly as reliable.

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    • Let’s hope your washer and dryer last for a while longer, because you’re right when you think you won’t get that reliability again.

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  24. You’re right about the 60s being the watershed; my folks had a wonderful car that dad replaced in 1971 – because the thought he had to – and after that disaster after disaster, everyone a Friday afternoon jobby.

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  25. Sue Marquis Bishop

    I so agree! And I loved, loved the cars photo! Womenlivinglifeafter50.com

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Pam

    Nancy, I can so relate to your post. I thought I was the only one who had problems with broken curling irons! Mine break regularly, too, so much that I stock up on them when I find the big-barreled Conair ones with the small plastic stands that I like. It’s hard to find the kind without the metal kickstand that always gets tangled in my curly hair. After so long, the spring always starts to squeak when I use it, which is a warning that it will soon break and I will have to open a new package from my closet. Ironically, I use my curling iron to straighten my hair. Although I am 60 years old, I have still not made peace with my naturally curly/frizzy hair, and I may never get to that point. I wish I could embrace my out-of-control hair like some of my friends do, but when I let my curls rule, I feel like a wild woman (which is not me) and it is just unacceptable to me. I can’t stand it! When I look at myself, Bozo the Clown comes to mind. I think I will fight mine to the end. Because I still want to be that old woman with good hair. 😉

    How fascinating that Cubans are still driving those old American cars from our childhood! It would be fun to take a ride in one.

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    • Yup… it’s the Conair model.
      And I am one of the luckier ones who can ride around in an old car… my husband has a couple of classic cars. I really like the ’57 Buick special.

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  27. My hair appliances last for at least 3 years. I suspect this is because I only use them once a week. We throw away everything, we have been trained to value nothing. It is sad.

    I am with you, I want to go to Cuba and soon. Those cars, they are magnificent.

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  28. Giggled over your last line. It used to be only the rich could afford things that would last – you were always told to buy the best you could in order to save money buy keeping the item. Suddenly everyone has to have brand new all the time. While screaming about the environment – if people knew about/considered production, manufacturing pollution, but maybe not – so eager to have the latest. Sad.
    Gear heads in the US still appreciate old cars (which are often more efficient if tuned up than newer models). The cars in Cuba exist because of that embargo made it impossible to buy new ones – so people had to learn to work on them and keep them running. no choice and a source of pride with ownership. Would be nice to see a return of that here.

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  29. I cannot even count the number of cans of hair spray I have had to throw in the trash because about half way through, they stop spraying. I tried going to a new beauty supply place and asked about their replacement policy. “We have a seven-day return policy,” said the young girl who never uses hair spray. What if it breaks on day 8? Or 21? Which it always does?! I used to go through coffee makers the same way until I found an “old school” percolator on Amazon that has no timer nor automatic shut off, is composed of 5 pieces that you wash yourself (self-cleaning my behind), and the thing has worked over 5 years which is more than I can say for all the stupid automatic coffee makers I’ve bought. Geez I sound old.

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  30. Hi Nancy,
    Your friend from Vermont here. We actually have two shoemakers here, so if you really need something repaired you can ship up to me and I’ll bring it to one of them. Dale

    Like

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