Monday, October 11, 2010

The Not-So-Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope all my fellow Canadians out there had a great holiday long weekend, and for all of you who aren't from the Great White North, I hope you had a Canadian nearby who was willing to share his/her celebratory turkey with you!

For my part, normally I'd be smiling blissfully in a turkey-inspired near-coma right about now, but instead I've spent the weekend meditating on designed obsolescence in household goods, specifically appliances. While Thanksgiving proper is today (Monday), my wife and I usually do the big supper on Sunday, giving us the Monday to take it easy. But yesterday's meal preparations were far more of a hassle than they normally are: the oven died on us after the turkey had been in it for a couple of hours. Luckily I've got a big-ass barbeque out back with plenty of propane and I was able to finish it off very nicely out there, even adding a touch of mesquite smoke.

That being said, the whole event got me thinking of science fictional ways to get avoid having to deal with inconveniently-timed appliance failure. I was reminded of a very short science fiction story I read long ago (and I'm totally blanking on the title and author's name) about a family of the future getting ready for their big Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey dinner... the mother was bustling around the kitchen getting things ready, the key preparation being putting a big platter on the table and placing a small pill on it. All she had to do was apply water and in a second the pill would expand into a huge, hot and ready to eat turkey with all the trimmings. Meanwhile, the kids are running around, and she's concerned about the baby being underfoot, so she picks him up and puts him in his highchair at the table, then turns back to the kitchen to continue the other preparations. She turns back to the table a minute later, and realizes something is amiss: the pill is no longer on the plate, she looks around, unable to find it, then realizes in horror that the baby has reached across the table and is just stuffing the pill in his mouth. The end. Okay, so maybe the meal-in-a-pill idea isn't the best solution to my GE oven crapping out. Still, there's gotta be some way to build a more reliable appliance that doesn't die at the most inconvenient time.

And the stupidity doesn't end there...

Today (Monday), the fridge died on us. We only found out after it had been dead for a couple of hours. Had to toss a whole lot of food.

Two appliances in as many days, and over a holiday weekend centred on food! I've had streaks of bad luck before, but this is getting ridiculous! What's the plan for tomorrow? Is a meteorite going to brain me as I walk down the street tomorrow to a business meeting?

Why is it that nothing lasts anymore? Up until a couple of years ago, my grandmother had a fridge in her basement that she'd owned since the 50's that was still working perfectly and had the honourable designation of being "the beer fridge". My fridge: no more than 7 years old. Same with my electric oven (grandma's gas oven dated back to the 30's). If I had any doubts before, I'm now certainly a firm believer in the idea of designed obsolescence.

Where's the super smart house that's supposed to stay in working order and take care of me for life? Where's the smart house that Bradbury described in "There Will Come Soft Rains" that's tough enough to outlast its owners (and their dog - excuse me while I wipe some tears away) and stay functional even after a nuclear blast. Granted, it was only functional for a short time before eventually being destroyed, but still, it was pretty tough, and kept working until the end! I'll betcha its fridge and oven were running just fine until the place finally burned down!

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to dig-out my bike helmet from the depths of the closet. I've gotta be ready if that meteorite makes an appearance tomorrow.

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