Thursday, June 30, 2011

the dishwasher

Tony arrived punctually at 8 a.m. in his white repair truck. He was a slim man, wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans ... in the 45-50 realm and sporting a mild stutter. He had come to fix the dishwasher, an appliance purchased less than a year ago and already on the fritz. It wouldn't start, so I called and Tony showed up.

Since I have long thought that a dishwasher is as close to heaven as anyone with a family is likely to get, it pissed me off that the dishwasher had broken down so close to its purchase date. The one that preceded it had worked for 15-plus years without a hiccup. I exercised the best cuss words I could muster in my mind when the latest version collapsed.

Never mind. Tony was there to fix it.

But wait. He wasn't, it turned out, there to fix it. He was there to diagnose the dishwasher's illness, despite my explanation of what was wrong when I called up for Tony's services. Anyway, he diagnosed. He said he would have to order the part ... so he would probably be back early next week. But wait. It turned out that the part was not available from a nearby supplier. It had to be ordered from further away. So the time frame was extended to, possibly, but not necessarily, the end of next week.

He said that these days, there was no such thing as buying a reliable appliance. Really, the best anyone could do would be to buy an extended warranty that would cover more and more and more repairs. Companies were not building things to last. They were building things to make the quickest available dollar. Both Tony and I were old enough not to get on a tear about all this. But there was a certain sadness in the conversation. Is it any wonder Americans distrust American products -- buy more Japanese cars, for example -- when those products are made by people with shiny advertising budgets and second-rate products?

As he was wrapping up to leave, I asked Tony how he had lost the finger. "Fingers," he corrected me, holding up his left hand. His middle finger and half of his index finger were missing. He told me that he had lost them in the 80's to a floor-cleaning machine that had be "pretty unforgiving." He had spent three weeks in a Boston hospital, but in the end, reattachment didn't work. "These days, I'm glad it didn't work," he said. "It just would have been numb or had other problems and I would have been constantly trying to fix it. There's nothing I can't do and I don't have the hassle."

Lesson of the day, perhaps: Learn to wash your own dishes.

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