Coffee heat rising

Why are American products in the can?

Because nothing better is on offer, at least not for what most people can afford?

American consumers tend to look for the best they can afford. When they find there’s nothing any better than what’s on offer, they take what’s on offer. Eventually manufacturers realize that if they keep their production standards low so as to keep (at least some) prices low, people will buy products built to a lower standard: cheaper to produce than the older, better-quality products were, and easier to sell lots more units.

Car manufacturers have been forced, by government regulation, to produce vehicles that have at least some safety features that we didn’t have back in the “good” old days. Fine: cars have shoulder harnesses and effective brakes and at least something more than a layer of plastic between you and the oncoming. It would be hard to argue that automobiles are not better than the ones we had in the 1950s. Lots better.

But now look at appliances:

Stoves that have no real burners: just sheets of glass with hot spots. Fewer details to have to clean: true. But problematic when it comes to popping corn, to any kind of preparation that requires rapid changes of heat, to creams and sauces that require accurate temperature control.

Refrigerators that clank and clonk and grind and roar but work no more effectively than your mother’s did…maybe less so.

Ovens that reside in a kitchen cabinet….very handy. And they’re self-cleaning, also exceptionally handy. But the heat emitted by an oven set to “self-clean”…what does that do to the wooden cabinetry around it? Nothing, maybe…or maybe we don’t wanna know.

Microwaves are extremely…uhm, kewl. We didn’t have those in the good ole’ days. Cooking the breakfast bacon left you with a pan holding a puddle of grease to clean up, and there was no such thing as heating a bowl of soup or a dish of leftover spaghetti in 60 seconds.

Sometimes I think — maybe le mot juste is “know” — that the sense that newer ain’t necessarily better is a function of old age. Yep: I’m getting crankier. I’m getting more and more reluctant to have to learn new devices and new procedures to do tasks that have always been simple and inexpensive to accomplish. This Brave New World of ours ain’t for the faint of heart.

Or for anyone who’s sot in her ways… 😀

Have to drive down to the dentist’s this morning. Don’t wanna.

But not because I don’t want to visit the excellent dentist, but because I just don’t want to drive to 16th Street and Maryland right this minute.

It’s not very far. No. But…the roads will likely be blocked with construction and certainly clogged with lunatic nitwit drivers. People around here seem to lose touch with common sense when they get behind a steering wheel. They jerk around. They run signals. They ride the center lane. They drive 25 mph in a 35 mph zone. They refuse to get out into the intersection when preparing to turn left. They refuse to turn right on red, nevvermind that no traffic is coming. They tailgate. They get into the fast lane and drive so slow they invite their fellow homicidal drivers to tailgate.


What used to be fun — driving around town — has evolved into an unpleasant experience. I used to love to drive — in fact, sometimes used to waste gasoline just puttering around exploring the city. No more! If I could never have to get on the road again — private car or public transit — I’d be happy.

And I suspect that sentiment applies to other modernized tasks, like shopping. Yeah…like shopping for a GD refrigerator.

Fridge Fantasia!

The Saga of the Singing Refrigerator gets ever more fantastic.

A fine and handsome refrigerator repairman came galloping in on his white charger yesterday morning. Not only was he pleasant to look at, he was very smart and quickly solved the problem.

Turns out a flap of plastic along the bottom of the unit’s back side had worked loose. One screwdriver was all it took to tighten the damn thing down, and voilà!  Buzzing, humming, banging racket GONE.

CAN you believe that?

It cost me $95 to fix it.

He didn’t seem to disapprove of the vendor, B&B Appliances, as much as I now do. But he did allow as to how it’s pretty evident that the unit was not brand-new, as alleged. He thought it had probably been run for awhile and then returned to the store.

Yeah. Waddaya bet it was returned because of the racket it was making?

Its motor still runs loud. But it sounds like normal motor noise, not some sort of loose screw.

Y’know…I’m an old bat and I’ve had a lot of refrigerators over my lengthy lifetime. Hm. Let’s think about that…

> Parents’ house: beach house outside of Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia
> Parents house: portable house in camp, Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia
> Parents’ house: block house in camp, Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia
> Great-grandmother’s house, Berkeley, California
> Parents’ apartment: San Francisco, California
> Parents’ next apartment: San Francisco, California
> Parents’ apartment: Long Beach, California
> Parents’ next apartment: Long Beach, California
> Parents house: Sun City, Arizona
> My & my room-mate’s apartment: Tucson, Arizona
> My apartment: Tucson, Arizona
> My apartment: Phoenix, Arizona
> Husband’s and my apartment: Phoenix, Arizona
> Husband’s and my first house: Phoenix, Arizona
> Husband’s and my second house: Phoenix, Arizona
> My next apartment: Phoenix, Arizona
> My apartment downtown: Phoenix, Arizona
> My next house: Phoenix, Arizona
> My present house: Phoenix, Arizona

Hmmmm…. That’s NINETEEN refrigerators! Oh, no: make that TWENTY. We lived in our house downtown long enough to buy a second refrigerator.

And this thing in the kitchen now is the only one that ever emanated weird noises. For whatever reason. Certainly not for any such flimsy reason as “a paper-thin piece of plastic was not bolted down tightly.”

  • Give.
  • Me.
  • A.
  • BREAK!

Not a single one of those other 19 fridges ever banged, rattled, or carried on. None of them sounded like a freight train a-rollin’ up the tracks.

If this kind of performance is “normal” or something like it, then…well… We are lookin’ at some serious degradation in the quality of our lifestyle. In fact, GE appliances overall are highly rated, despite a generous share of consumer complaints.   It appears that the 21st Century leaves something to be desired.

Like, maybe…competence?

ARE you kidding me???

HOLEE mackerel! How do vendors get away with this stuff?

This morning I went over to Amazon to buy a new bread knife. I dropped  my venerable old serrated bread slicer on the floor, and wouldncha know…it broke apart. And in such a way that I couldn’t glue it back together.

No problem, thought I: that Walmart up in Sunnyslop surely will have them!

Well. No.

Ohhhkayyy… Then of course the Albertson’s, which carries every doodad known to personkind, will have it — just means I have to brave walking through hordes of panhandlers to get in the door.

Pleasantly surprised to find the Albertson’s has hired a security guard to lurk outside the door. Get inside without incident. And…get back outside without incident — and without bread knife.

Whaaa??? A MEGA-supermarket replete with car parts and pots and pans and magazines and books and make-up and allergy pills and whatnot doesn’t carry one single freaking bread knife?

I bought this knife, I think — it was a LONG time ago — at a department store (the Broadway??) or at Williams-Sonoma in Biltmore Fashion Square.

Department stores are pretty much defunct in these parts. The Biltmore is way off my beaten path. The vast shopping mall called Metrocenter, practically within walking distance of my house, closed down completely a few years ago, in the process killing the Broadway, Dillard’s, and every other store that used to hold forth there.

Dayum! This means I’ll have to wait a day or two to get the thing delivered from Amazon and, more to the point, I won’t be able to look at it and handle it before deciding whether to buy it.

Okay, okay…over to Amazon. Thereinat we find this fine device: $169.

A hundred and sixty-nine bucks??? For a bread knife? You’ve gotta be kidding me!!!

Well, you get the kewl Chinese character…I guess that’s worth something.

Wusthof, about the best brand you can buy, has this excellent-looking model, for a mere $150:

Most of my knives are of this ilk, purchased back in the day when I was married to the corporate lawyer and could afford to pay no attention to what things cost. But even then, I can assure you, I would not have paid $150 for a kitchen knife, let alone $169.

Move on: finally I found this thing by Mercer:

That looks a great deal like the deceased, except mine had a nice wooden handle (hold the plastic, please!). Twenty bucks. Actually, less than that: $18.58.

Ohhhkayyy…. That’s more like it. Probably too little to pay, even: it suggests the thing is junk and will last about ten days. Still…it has 301 ratings, adding up to a five-star score. Can’t be all that bad.

Can you imagine? Who pays $150+ for a freaking serrated bread knife?

What a brave new world we live in…

Fridge Fiasco Update….

Ohhhkayyyyy…. It keeps getting better. :-D, not to say 😮

The refrigerator repairman, who appeared to measure his IQ in the negative numbers, accomplished exactly nothing. The delinquent refrigerator continued to roar and bang and squeal and carry on. The racket it emanates is SO loud, Ruby and I have no chance of getting to sleep unless we barricade ourselves in the back bedroom behind a closed door.

I call around and rassle around and get essentially nowhere, which is about where I expected to get.

Eventually American Express, which has thrown itself into the fray, calls to announce that they’ve canceled the charge. Unclear to me whether this has already happened, so I call to confirm. It appears that probably they have done so. Meanwhile, I still have the refrigerator, which keeps me awake all night with its lovely rattling, whining, roaring serenade.

This afternoon I applied my li’l-ole-lady handyperson skills to the damn thing and discovered that…lo! It was out of level. The jerk that delivered it installed it cattywampus. Fooled around and fiddled around…got it pretty well on the level, but there’s a limit to what a little old lady with no tools can accomplish.

It now buzzes for a half-minute or so when it cycles on, and then runs fairly quietly. Giving it a whap upside its mechanical head shuts it up for quite a while.

So where are we now? (Are we out of the Twilight Zone yet???)


9:05 a.m. Found a receipt saying I canceled purchase of the HD fridge I was admiring. Called American Express. They said that yes, we DID cancel it. The AMEX rep says I have an $800 credit from the bastards at B&B Appliances. This could be applied to a new refrigerator’s purchase.

1:05 p.m.: The machine is now running almost silently! The motor/fan sound is audible, but not much more so than a normal refrigerator’s. Why???

Is it possible that whapping it a couple of times might have shaken something loose or jiggled something into place so that it runs OK now?

At this point, I was just about to launch on my way up to Home Depot to buy another unit. But….

1:45 p.m.: When in doubt, don’t. Fridge was off; just came back on. It’s rattling, but more quietly than before.

Still…as I sit my butt down to write this note (I figure I’d better take pretty close notes on what’s happening), the damn thing continues to buzz/rattle: again, more quietly than before. It seems to quiet a little as it runs, and now is operating like a normal fridge: just the serenade of a fan, no sound of grinding motor.

At 1:53 p.m., the thing is running as quietly as it gets: motor and fan noise audible, but no rattling or roaring.

* I can’t hear it in the bedroom.

* It seems pretty loud here in the family room/dining room/kitchen, but it’s not audible in the back of the house. If you were like most Americans and had a TV or stereo babbling away all the time, you’d hardly notice it.

What to do???

This runaround has been quite the little nightmare. There’s really no excuse for a retailer to sell a total piece of junk, at least not without explaining to the mark what to expect: If I’d been told that the machine would make a lot of noise for the first week or so of operation, I would not have gotten myself into this uproar.

On the other hand…

  1. If it is now working normally, I can’t really justify not paying for the damn thing, no matter how much of a runaround the incompetents at B&B gave me.
  2. If this intermittent peace is maybe the way it’s supposed to work but it in fact has something wrong with it that causes it to rattle and run noisy off and on, I should get my money back so I can buy a competent machine at HD.
  3. Its apparently “normal” fan noise is pretty loud.
  4. My level says the thing is only very slightly out of level, and so it’s hard to believe that’s the issue. The floor itself measures as perfectly dead level.

If I go back and do battle with B&B, even with AMEX behind me, it’s going to be another monumental, headachey hassle. If the machine will work quietly enough not to be heard in the back of the house (we shall see tonight!!), then the path of least resistance will be to just let it go.


What to do about the money AMEX is withholding from B&B?

My sense is to wait and see what they do. This cannot be the first such episode that’s ever occurred in the history of American consumerism. American Express will know how to proceed and when to proceed. Probably the best course of action is to wait for direction from AMEX, and if and when they get in touch, do as they advise. If they say nothing, B&B says nothing, and I say nothing, then maybe I should just hang onto the refrigerator, which at that point I may glom for free.

That seems unethical, but the weeks-long hoopla and hassle I’ve been through – which could have been ameliorated if they had told me what to expect or had just responded to me when I complained – has consumed a great deal of my $60/hour time and caused a great deal of worry and anxiety. Maybe B&B deserves to pay me for the uproar their incompetence has caused.

And speaking of unethical, as I wrestle with the thing and fiddle with the thing and adjust the thing, I find two places where it has some small but distinct dents. Whaddaya bet its problem is that it’s been beaten about down at B&B’s shop, or in transit to the Funny Farm? Matter of fact, I see a place under the front end where they’ve glued a thin piece of Styrofoam, apparently trying to fix some kind of damage or defect. Like…what, pray tell?

I find it hard to believe that all refrigerators make a noise like a wrecking yard when they’re new. This is NOT the first refrigerator I’ve bought – we got one in the Encanto house, and I believe we bought another one at the North Central house. I would remember a circus like this! Therefore it’s reasonable to think there’s an issue here that should have been addressed, either by warning me at the outset or by responding competently to my complaints.

2:17 p.m. Fridge switched on with loud buzzing; buzz shut off in less than a minute – possibly less than half a minute. It’s now running not quietly but not raucously.

I go over and mess with the freezer.. This makes the noise louder. I whap it on the side (away from the wall: its right side) and that cuts the volume of the noise. It still rattles, but more softly.

Push against the machine’s right side, giving it two or four shoves. The noise has now completely stopped except for the sound of the fan running!

Suspect the thing is rattling/buzzing because it or some component inside it is slightly out of level. That’s why there’s some sort of dap and stuff on the bottom of the cabinet: they must have tried to level it so they could unload it on an unsuspecting customer.

I’m going to ask AMEX to return my payment because I believe B&B ripped me off: they knew they were foisting a damaged or substandard product on me. This is evidenced by the obvious jury-rigged repair job at the unit’s base.

What to do next?
Persist with trying to get my money back via AMEX, since it appears likely – even evident – that B&B knew the unit was not running up to par. Keep it for about a year, if possible; then go to Costco or Lowe’s to replace it with a new refrigerator.

Moral of the story: NEVER buy local!!!!  Always buy from nationally known, nationally respected vendors.

Ahhh, The Good Ole Days….

My daddy’s dream car…

I have a friend who likes to send out emails of the forwarded-forwarded-forwarded variety. Most of them are sappy…but this one takes the cake. “No idea who put this together,” sez he, “but it is Fantastic!” It really set me off, I’m afraid:

1950’s version of an E-Mail

Long ago and far away, in a land that time forgot,
Before the days of Dylan , or the dawn of Camelot.

There lived a race of innocents, and they were you and me,

For Ike was in the White House in that land where we were born,
Where navels were for oranges, and Peyton Place was porn.

We longed for love and romance, and waited for our Prince,
Eddie Fisher married Liz, and no one’s seen him since.

We danced to ‘Little Darlin,’ and sang to ‘Stagger Lee’
And cried for Buddy Holly in the Land That Made Me, Me.

Only girls wore earrings then, and 3 was one too many,
And only boys wore flat-top cuts, except for Jean McKinney.

And Oprah couldn’t talk yet, in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had our share of heroes, we never thought they’d go,
At least not Bobby Darin, or Marilyn Monroe.
For youth was still eternal, and life was yet to be,
And Elvis was forever in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We’d never seen the rock band that was Grateful to be Dead,
And Airplanes weren’t named Jefferson , and Zeppelins were not Led.

And Beatles lived in gardens then, and Monkees lived in trees,
Madonna was Mary in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We’d never heard of microwaves, or telephones in cars,
And babies might be bottle-fed, but they were not grown in jars.

And pumping iron got wrinkles out, and ‘gay’ meant fancy-free,
And dorms were never co-Ed in the Land That Made Me, Me.

We hadn’t seen enough of jets to talk about the lag,
And microchips were what was left at the bottom of the bag.

And hardware was a box of nails, and bytes came from a flea,
And rocket ships were fiction in the Land That Made Me, Me.

T-Birds came with portholes, and side shows came with freaks,
And bathing suits came big enough to cover both your cheeks.

And Coke came just in bottles, and skirts below the knee,
And Castro came to power near the Land That Made Me, Me.

We had no Crest with Fluoride, we had no Hill Street Blues,
We had no patterned pantyhose or Lipton herbal tea
Or prime-time ads for those dysfunctions in the Land That Made Me, Me.

There were no golden arches, no Perrier to chill,
And fish were not called Wanda, and cats were not called Bill

And middle-aged was 35 and old was forty-three,

And ancient were our parents in the Land That Made Me, Me.

But all things have a season, or so we’ve heard them say,
And now instead of Maybelline we swear by Retin-A.
They send us invitations to join AARP,
We’ve come a long way, baby, from the Land That Made Me, Me.

So now we face a brave new world in slightly larger jeans,
And wonder why they’re using smaller print in magazines.
And we tell our children’s children of the way it used to be,
Long ago and far away in the Land That Made Me, Me.

If you didn’t grow up in the fifties,
You missed the greatest time in history,
Hope you enjoyed this read as much as I did.
If So, PLEASE FORWARD this note to
someone who will appreciate these memories…

Hm. Actually the 1950s were pretty dreadful, as I recall.

  • Constant threat of nuclear warfare; weekly air-raid drills, school evacuation plans based on the likelihood that we would never see our parents again — whee! what fun!
  • Hatred of anyone whose skin was a different color from yours or who spoke a different language from yours.
  • Mediocrity: celebrated as the norm.
  • No real job opportunities for women. College women couldn’t major in the sciences or business management; if they contrived to weasel into a program, they couldn’t get a job with their degree. All girls were forced to take a year of home ec in K-12, and nevvermind if you needed geometry, algebra 2,, or trig to get into a decent university.  Why would anyone want to spend money sending a girl to university anyway, since all she was going to do is spawn and raise children?
  • Ohhh what fun it was. Mediocrity celebrated. Air raid shelters well stocked. A big, bloated car that was unsafe at any speed. Smog so thick you couldn’t see across your high-school campus. My father kept a crate of canned water in the back of the car, just in case we managed to escape down the Peninsula and get outside the blast zone before the bombs fell.

If anything had happened to him, my mother and I would have gone hungry until she could land another man — as a female, she couldn’t get a job that would support us and put food on our table.

Uh huh. Them’s were the good ole days…

Wanted: Indiana Jones for Senior Consumers

One of the many joys (yes: that’s /s/) of aging is the attitude of Americans toward the elderly. This ranges from the nasty to the predatory: overall, Americans regard their older compatriots as idiots, negligible fools, and nuisances. One aspect of this is said to be that merchandisers all across the board target the elderly (when they notice us at all) for scams and rip-offs.

It’s true: they can and do pull the wool over your eyes more often and more easily, because older people tend to be more trusting. And if experience serves…that opinion appears to be true. I do not remember vendors, back in the day of my Misspent Youth, trying to cheat me, people trying to feed me ridiculous and obvious lines of bull, salespeople trying to overcharge me as a routine matter…and on and on.

The business with the junk refrigerator is a case in point. Nothing more has been heard from AMEX about that fiasco — one of the several “fun” chores on the slate for today is to call American Express and rattle their cage about that. Meanwhile, I need to buy another refrigerator — one that doesn’t keep me awake all night rattling and roaring…which will set me back another $1400.

It useta be… that when I wanted something, I would do the research on-line and in consumer publications; then go into a store and say I want this and this and this, and I do NOT want that and that and that. The sales person would appear to understand plain English, and s/he would show me this and this and this and NOT show me that and that and that.

Now that I’m Old, though…EXACTLY the opposite happens. Sales people seem to assume that I’m naive, stupid, and just plug-incompetent.

When, O dear merchandiser, when you insist on hustling me to buy something that is not what I asked for, and when I can see that what I asked for is right there on the floor, then I perceive that you’re trying to rip me off. (Yes: upselling me when I know exactly what I want IS a form of rip-off, thankyouverymuch.) And, my friends…that perception happens more and more often with every passing month of age. How can I count the ways that I’m sick & tired of nitwits trying to rip me off when they decide that because I’m old, I must be stupid?

At this point…seriously: I would be willing to pay a fee to someone who would go to the vendors in town to do the shopping I need to have done — I would PAY YOU to order a refrigerator for me. I would PAY YOU to buy me a new microwave. I would PAY YOU to take my car to the dealership, get it serviced, and repel all offers of unnecessary work. I would PAY YOU to get the plumbing fixed. Because even if I paid you for those things, I would save money…and also escape a great deal of aggravation and frustration.