Monday, February 27, 2023

Don't make it like they used to

When you get older, time compresses.  Whoever has this toilet tends to lean to one side!

It seems like only yesterday we replaced the toilet seats in the house with those fancy "slow closing" models.  Like slow-closing drawers they are a neat feature - no more banging and slamming as our primitive ancestors did! Can you imagine what it was like to live in the 1900's?  When you closed the tailgate on your minivan you actually had to reach up and close it by hand!  And it made a big slamming noise, too!  Not like today when you just press a button - and presto!

I digress, but a friend of mine had a used Mercedes wagon and they were trying to close the tailgate by hand and they were struggling with it.  "What are you doing?" I asked.  They replied, "This tailgate has always been hard to close since we bought this!"  I reached up and pressed the "tailgate close" button on the bottom of the tailgate and they looked on in amazement as it slowly lowered into place.  "I always wondered what that button did!" they said.   Like I said before, we live in a cargo cult culture.

But anyway, today Mark announces the toilet in the master bath is "broken" as the "slow close" feature of the toilet seat no longer works.  I also have to do a bit of a toilet overhaul (again) as the flapper valve sometimes leaks.  Every so often, if the flapper valve doesn't seat right, the tank float switch will trigger, to top off the tank.  It also needs a new flush handle, as they tend to corrode and break (even the plastic ones) in our marine environment.

It seems just a few days ago we replaced all this stuff - more than once since we lived here!   They just don't make things like they used to, dagnabbit!  You hear old people say that all the time.  But then I realized, it has been twelve years since we rebuilt both toilets and the seats are at least five years old.  Both have lasted a good long time (and arguably the seat is still functional, it is just the slow-close feature that broke).   But as you get older, well, time compresses.  When you are 20 years old, a decade is half your life.   At age 63, well, a decade is less than 1/6th of my life and frankly, age 50 didn't seem that long ago.

When I was a kid, if something lasted a few years, it was a miracle.  Now, I realize that I am driving an eight-year-old car on the original dry-rotted tires.  And not long ago, eight years was far longer than I ever kept a car.

It isn't that things don't last as long as they used to (well, maybe that is partially the case) but that as I get older, time compresses, so it seems like "just yesterday" I bought something and darn it, it's broken already!   Then I go back and look at the owner's manual and original receipt (another old-people thing - keeping all that crap) and realize it has been a decade or longer.

A note on toilet seats:  They do wear out, particularly the cheap kind.  The cheapest ones are often made of wood or wood products and then painted.  The paint wears off, exposing the brown wood underneath as shown in the photo above.  It looks like someone shit on the seat, quite frankly.  If you have this, either repaint the seat or buy a new one - they are cheap (In fact, so cheap that they can cost less than a can of spray paint!).  The all-plastic kind seem to last longer.  The hinge mechanisms are problematic as well - the metal ones can corrode and rust and fuse themselves solid.  The plastic kind don't rust, but can get brittle and crack.

By the way, if you are selling or renting out your house, inspect the toilet seats carefully.  If they look worn or faded, it is a cheap upgrade and people feel more comfortable sitting on a new seat (unused by others!) than some faded, cracked, chipped, or worn out seat.   If there is a lot of lime stains in the bowl, consider replacing the toilet if you are selling - they are not that expensive and you'd be amazed at how it brightens up a bath.

And when replacing a toilet set, read the instructions carefully.  They usually have an elaborate rubber or plastic washer mechanism to prevent you from over-torquing the bolts and cracking the toilet.  It is kind of clever, actually.  But I digress yet again.

Yes, "they don't make things like they used to" but as I noted before, in the "good old days" a solid "well-built" American car went to the junkyard in eight years or less.  The idea of cars going over 100,000 miles was alien, hence most American odometers went only to five digits. "Foreign" odometers went to six digits only because kilometers were of shorter length.  Today, cars are expected to routinely go well beyond 100,000 miles and last far longer than a decade.

What has changed is the mode of failure of most technology.  Back in 1968, an "old car" from the early 1960's might be losing compression, have a knock in the motor, be hard to start, have a transmission issue, and of course, rusty holes all over the body.  The upholstery would be shot and the paint faded. It was a "junker" and many were driven to the junkyard.  A friend of mine picked up a 1962 Ford Falcon at the "landfill" in our town.  Someone drove it there and left the registration and keys on the dashboard.  Free car!  He drove it for a few years and then drove it back to the landfill and left the keys and registration (older cars were not titled back then) on the dash and someone else drove it off the next day - blowing oil smoke the whole way, of course!

Today, what causes a car to be "junked" besides wrecks is when the repair costs exceed the resale value.   So, often an expensive transmission or engine repair is enough to make people call it quits - or some esoteric electrical problem.  But even then, these problems largely don't crop up until the odometer has spun well past 100K.

So maybe it isn't a matter of "they don't make 'em like they used to!" so much as as you get older, time compresses and you don't realize how much time has slipped by.

Just a thought.