Monday, August 1, 2011

screw obsolescence

     I flew to Los Angeles last week and helped my friends move out of their house. After Mexico, the contrast brought on another bout of cultural disparity. The food is better, people are friendlier and houses are built to last, in Mexico that is. La Paz doesn't have level sidewalks or water pressure every day, but family is fiercely important and kids play outside. The house in Los Angeles had been beautifully remodeled over the years, but there were a few things to fix to before closing the sale. Home inspectors have the last say; they rat out every missing screw and file reams of reports that can easily queer a deal. I'd like to read a report that profiles the psychological attributes of home inspectors. Who are these guys? And who really cares about 30 out of 40 things on their lists? Dirt on a vent? A sagging hose under a sink? Please, hoses sag and they don’t set houses on fire. The plumbing where I stayed in Mexico was propped up with high heel shoes and sure the pipes leaked, but someone tied pieces of plastic around them kept water from spraying everywhere. I'd like to send all the home inspectors in LA on vacation in Mexico and stand by while they implode. Can you see their reports? Large gas cylinder improperly chained to roof, bare electrical wires running down kitchen wall, previously stolen copper pipes inappropriately replaced with exposed PVC, ladies footwear and trash bags.   

     My friend's stove in LA needed to have one small part replaced, which was one of the five things that made a little sense. The burner didn’t light. The report did not recommend buying a box of matches like ninety percent of the world’s population would know how to do. The repair did not look like a big problem, in the mind of an eternal optimist anyway. Only our products aren't American anymore, they all come from somewhere else. We buy them and throw them away like fast food wrappers when they quit working and that's our fault. New lust, America doesn't do rustic when it comes to appliances. Things absolutely must look bright and shiny, but why we have sacrificed function for style I'll never know. Sadly, the effect of an electrical spark traveling through the cast aluminum burner and cheap metal screws welded them together. No problem, I used to work in boat yards where I earned the nickname “the screw queen” for my patience with backing corroded screws out of holes. I tapped, scraped, drilled and used vice grips on those damn screws for hours to no avail. Finally I leaned on one, to give it a brutal turn, and watched with horror as a crack ran across the glass top.
     My dear friend Karen never even got angry, not even annoyed. I felt like projectile vomiting on rusty screws everywhere. To make a much longer story mercifully short, we ordered the part and got the thing fixed, with a little help from a former race car mechanic and installation expertise from an appliance repair guy who said he would have looked at the rusted screws and recommended a whole new stove. The problem could have been prevented with stainless steel screws, but that have would add a few dollars to the manufacturing cost. The cost of the labor to remove the fused screws would have sent the stove to the recycle yard. We want cheap stuff and guess what, that’s what we get. Two thousand dollar stoves that are junk in less than five years, water heaters that melt inside after a year and home inspectors to point it all out. I’ll take a cinder block house and a cast iron propane burner any day. Cooking in the backyard in Samoa with hot rocks was pretty good too.        

1 comment:

  1. From Panama - Same things here as Mexico - one thing we notice is there is no 'stuff' lying arounnd, no bits of pipe, lumber, furniture, appliances, just nothing, everything is used until its just one shoe of the pair holding up the plumbing. Really enjoy your insights. D.