Saturday, November 11, 2023

They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published November 13, 2023] 2023

In 1999 we remodeled our tiny 1947 kitchen. It was a huge boon to have more than a single 100-watt light bulb, to have a dishwasher that you didn't have to roll over to the sink, and to be forever rid of gray Formica.

What we didn't realize is that whatever appliances we installed in that space would forever determine the ones we could replace them with. Now, 24 years later, the last of those appliances has crumped, and we were once again faced with the reality that few of the world s now-preferred appliances will fit in our allowable space. You can't shave a half-inch off a granite counter top.

It has not helped that the quality of appliances seems to have really tanked in the intervening years. And in its place, they're loaded with annoying features that we don't even want.

Our new microwave, for example, is the exact same manufacturer and size as its predecessor but weighs only half as much and literally slides around when you push its cheap little buttons. (We had to anchor it down.) Its flimsy glass plate keeps falling off the rotation wheels. But worst is its Perpetual Perseveration feature, tragically common in new appliances, that will beep in perpetuity once that cup of instant coffee is heated up. It's like it's having a giant snit: "You made me nuke this and now I'm going to annoy the sh-t out of you until you come and get it!"

I wrote a while back about our friends dryer that had an auto "wrinkle control" feature that fluffed up a load of dried clothes every 30 seconds until the door was opened. The friends went on vacation to Europe having put clothes in the dryer before they left. It was still fluffing when they returned six weeks later. My new-ish dryer, alas, does that too.

And then there s my three-year-old washing machine which made it into its allotted space in our small garage-less house by literally an eighth of an inch. Over-zealous sensors that have proliferated on washing machines are in a category all their own. My machine wants to self-balance (unlike my previous machines whose self-balancer was me) but if there is anything in there heavier than underwear, it is scientifically designed to shift everything to one side then sound like it is agitating a bowling ball. The machine literally flails around like a mechanical bull with a broken speed control. Unsupervised, the machine could end up in our bedroom. Seriously, the only individual more scared of this machine than the dog is me. 

Additionally, if you wash sheets in it, it has a built-in Self-Tangle feature that knots them up into a tight poly-cotton rope requiring serious untangling before you can move them to the dryer.

The dryer, meanwhile, has its own feature, Auto-Clump, that will wrap every individually-separated item in a load of bedding into in a large ball inside the bottom sheet. The bottom sheet itself will be dry but its entire contents will be completely sodden. I had the same dryer for 44 years and it never did that once.

When our kitchen range failed during the pandemic, we were stuck with the only 30-inch white slide-in gas range available west of the Mississippi (maybe east of it too). It had a thousand dollars of features we didn't want and would never use, including consuming most of the cooktop real estate with a grill that advertised that it could hold "six grilled cheese sandwiches!"  Which is six more than we'd ever make. 

Right before Labor Day weekend, in keeping with the Universal Perversity Postulate that states that critical appliances only break right before major holiday weekends when you have guests coming, our 24-year refrigerator, the last of our 1999 remodel appliances, crossed the chill-chest rainbow bridge. It turned out there were exactly three choices for a white "counter-depth" refrigerator that would fit in our very defined space. Mysteriously, the new fridge has only half the freezer space as its identically-sized predecessor, but only partly because of a door dispenser that we didn't want but were stuck with. On the fridge side, there is a single dim light at the very top, which, alas, cannot be upgraded to something with actual wattage, and which blocks light to everything below it as soon as you put something on the top shelf. Nobody should need a flashlight to find the mayo. And did I mention that I have managed to live into my golden years without a door alarm that won't shut up before you've even put half your groceries away?

With every one of our replacement appliances, you need to close them ever so gently so their entire tinny selves won't shake. You're afraid the doors will fall off their chintzy chassis.

So here s the career that I'd like to see: an appliance person who specializes in disabling all the stupid features on appliances. Bowling Ball-rebalancing and Malicious Snits. Forever Fluff and Robo-Beep. Self-Tangle and Auto-Clump. Underwhelming Wattage and Door Alarm Dingers.

They wouldn't be able to keep up with demand.

Our dryer's Auto-Clump feature stuffs an entire load of bedding inside the bottom sheet where it remains wet


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