What About This? By Wayne William Cipriano

Our washing machine is over sixteen years old. And it is making a racket on the spin cycle. I’m pretty sure the bearing under the clothes basket has lost its lubrication and is running dry – and loud. As close as I can tell, the bearing is sealed and even though I have tried to lube it, I haven’t had much success.

I took a very, very long look at the procedure for replacing the bearing (on a sixteen year old machine) and decided against it. At times like this, I use a simple calculus to decide if I should work on a failed or failing machine: If I am sure I can fix it, I go ahead. If I don’t have any idea what to do, I call a professional. If I think I might be able to handle the repair without doing further damage, or best of all, if the machine is toast, then I give it a try. Our washing machine is still working, just doing so loudly, so I’m letting it continue.

Around Halloween of last year, there were quite a few sales, some on washing machines. Rosalie did a lot of shopping and price comparisons and decided we ought to buy a new machine. I was of two minds, since I might be able to effect a repair after the machine died, but then again, who knows? And Rosalie, without a washer/dryer, is not conducive to a happy home.

So, we got a new machine and parked it in the basement in the box, awaiting the old machine’s final demise. Now, in April, when we’ve owned the new machine for over five months, and kept it in the basement in its delivery clothes, the old machine continues to operate perfectly, and loudly.

Rosalie’s Dad worked at GE for many, many years and was proud of the company and its products. And we continued his brand loyalty purchasing lots of GE stuff, from TVs to our present washer. As you know, the quality of GE products and the service behind those products has suffered over the last ten years or so. The corporation itself, the last original member of the Dow Jones Industrial Index created, I believe, over a hundred years ago, was dropped from that index recently. What a shame. As with so many other companies, GE was top heavy, couldn’t compete internationally, and couldn’t or wouldn’t adapt and change.

Anyhow, our GE washer, with much fanfare, just keeps on keeping on. And until Rosalie gets fed up with the noise, it will remain her big gun against soiled clothing.

When my Father returned to my grandparents’ home at the end of World War II in 1945, flush with a lot of unspent combat pay, one of the first things he did was replace their ice box with a brand new 1945 model Philco refrigerator. Over the years, larger, more modern refrigerators took the Philco’s place, and it was banished to the back porch, keeping beer, soda, and leftovers cold. I love reporting that it is still running, still keeping beverages cold and ready for parties of any size, and after seventy-four years, still quiet and reliable and going strong.

Without planned obsolescence, stuff lasts too long and slows our economy down – we don’t usually buy new stuff if the old stuff keeps working. When stuff like Craftsman tools, VW Bugs, Bear bows, and Philco refrigerators don’t wear out or are easily repaired, we necessarily have an economy that doesn’t periodically skyrocket, just keeps chugging reliably along.

If I was employed producing products with variable lifespans, I would most probably support engineered obsolescence requiring the periodic replacement of manufactured goods that could last longer, but wear out more quickly, and thus, keep myself and my fellow laborers on the job. But now, as I still use lots of products but produce only beef, I look much more favorably on products that could, if we wanted, last “forever.”

What about you?