Aaron R. Davis
Here’s another example of my famous, possibly irrational, little-to-big thinking.
Yesterday, my coffee maker became fucked beyond repair. I’ve had it for a couple of years, so I guess I lucked out: I was looking at the one-star Amazon reviews of this specific brand and was shocked at the disturbingly high number of people who bought the same model only to have it just stop working anywhere from six months to one week later. And those were the people whose coffee maker simply ceased functioning. There were also people who walked into their kitchen and found the thing literally on fire.
I’m writing this while seated at my desk. This is the same desk I’ve had since I was eight years old. It’s not an expensive or even particularly nice desk. It’s pretty basic, we had to put it together ourselves, and it doesn’t have fancy drawers-within-drawers or anything. But it’s also survived a couple of moves and nearly three decades. This week, the middle drawer simply fell out of it. The desk is beginning its final stage of life.
A lot of the things I have right now are in various stages of irreversible decline. My couch, my mattress, my stereo, my television: all of these things are broken in some way, and with my financial situation what it is, I’m just going to have to live with that.
But here’s the thing: my coffee maker lasted me two years. My desk lasted me 29.
This leads me to one of my inevitable questions: why is everything so crappy now?
When did we stop making things to last and start making things with built-in disposability? Expensive disposability. This weekend, I listened to my mom talk about smart phones and phone plans and how much they cost, and I genuinely felt sorry for people who are getting shafted on all of their devices, because we apparently all need tablets and computers and phones and video game consoles and televisions that are all interconnected and all capable of doing pretty much the same things on varying screen sizes. But we must have them all or else they don’t work to their full capabilities, because we’ve bought this lie that being slaves to corporate products is actually just convenience, and because it’s been sold to us that licensing content (instead of owning what you buy) and paying multiple subscription fees is “choice.”
And, of course, none of those things works very well or for very long because you’re going to want to chuck them when the next generation of device comes out, right?
Look, I know I sound like some rambling street prophet here, but all I really want is a cup of coffee without having to go to Starbuck’s and pay their prices. I just want a reliable, basic coffee maker. I don’t need to program it, I don’t need to play music on it — hell, I don’t even need a clock on the damn thing. I just want my coffee maker to switch on, make coffee and keep it hot. Apparently it’s too much to ask for something so basic. I’m being gauche not thinking it necessary that everything I own have a USB port and be Wi-Fi compatible.
Folks, we are losing something today. Where did the craftsmanship go? Where is the work ethic that says something could and should be able to last for 29 years? My first VCR was a JVC that worked like a big, noisy reel-to-reel. It was loud when it rewound and stopped. It was ugly and heavy. But we bought it in 1981 and it worked for 20 years. Same with my DVD player. I bought one of the earliest Pioneer models out of the gate and it worked for well over a decade. Every other VCR I ever bought only worked for a few years. I had friends with later model DVD players that only worked for five years at best, and didn’t work that well when they did work.
Why do we have this thing now where we can’t even expect something to work well for the few years we have it? What is this attitude of “good enough” that just pervades all of the work we do and all of the things we underpay other countries to make? Guys, I’m poor, I’m unemployed, I’m in a state treatment program. I have no financial resources. How the fuck often am I going to have to buy a goddamn coffee maker just so that I can drink coffee during the day?
Why do I have to accept that everything electronic is just going to not work right half the time? I don’t understand how you build a society on that kind of instability. I don’t understand how you build an economy with the kind of work ethic that says, “Well, that was the best we could do, but next time it’ll have a bigger display screen.” I don’t understand how you get away with building a video game console that costs 500 bucks and has limited functionality that nickel and dimes you every step of the way. I don’t get how Microsoft gets to keep fucking up every other operating system and stay in business.
I don’t get anything anymore because I haven’t had my goddamn coffee!
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.