When I was very young, our milk was delivered. Once a week, the milkman would drive up in his truck and put the milk in the metal box on our front porch. My sisters and I looked forward to these deliveries: You never knew when the milkman would deliver a quart of ice cream, too. We’d walk through the front room and open the screen door leading to the porch. We’d open the metal lid and take the milk into the house and put it into the refrigerator. We didn’t want it to spoil.
I spent a lot of time playing in that front room—a room little used except for overnight guests and as passage to the front porch. I remember sitting on the green carpet, building a tower of wooden blocks. The blocks were red and blue and green and yellow. There were squares and rectangles; circles and octagons; even cones that could be used for turrets.
But my tower would invariably fall over. I would restack the blocks. They’d fall over. I’d stack them again. Again, they’d fall over. Every time I got my little tower about six blocks high, the structure would collapse.
“I hate you! I hate you! I HATE you!” I swatted at the few standing blocks with a tiny, angry hand. Then I picked up a yellow block and bit it.
“Are you having a temper tantrum?” Mom asked from the other room.
* * *
When we were living in Canada, I met a woman studying to be a nutritionist. She bought a hamburger from a fast food joint one day. She pulled the patty from the bun and placed it—unwrapped—upon a shelf, just to see what would happen. For years, that hamburger sat upon the shelf, never changing, never decaying.
* * *
“Everything I work on is less than five years old.” John sat at the kitchen table, reading glasses perched on the end of his nose, our ice machine before him. He’d just finished repairing our new dishwasher—only a few months out of warranty. He fixed the ice machine and reassembled it and began to draw up a bill.
“Oh, hang on,” I said, producing a white knob. “This snapped off my dryer. Could you order me one?”
He took it and examined the back. “I may have something in the truck. Be right back,” he said, letting himself out onto the front porch.
He returned a few moments later with a knob. “Doesn’t match and it’s the wrong size, but I’ll give it to you for free if you can make it work.”
I ran upstairs and slipped it into place. “It fits,” I said, coming back downstairs with the channel locks we’d been using to start the dryer.
“The manufacturer will charge you eighteen dollars for a new knob.” John handed me a bill and I handed him a check. My husband and I walked him to the door. “I really hope we don’t see you for a long time.”
“I understand.” He laughed and folded the check in half and stuck it into his pocket. “The manufacturers guarantee their parts for thirty days.”
I’m sure my eyes goggled.
“But I guarantee them for a year. I’d go out of business if I played by the manufacturer’s rules.” And he got into his truck and drove off to his next appointment.
“I bet we’ll see him in six months.” I told my husband.
In the seven years we’ve lived in this house, we’ve had three new refrigerators and a new dishwasher that broke within eighteen months. Our garage doors haven’t worked properly since we had them installed. The sinks leak. As does the master shower—a known construction fault common to all the homes in our development. And the front windows must be a smidge off because every year when I wash the windows the screens refuse to go back into place.
“I HATE you!” I informed an unfortunate screen, as I threw it out the window last week. Then I told my husband I wanted to live in a cave where nothing breaks down.
* * *
My husband and I went to the grocery store the other day. “We need milk,” I told him. “And pretzels.”
We picked up the milk and checked the date. “We have two months to drink this milk,” I informed him, picking up a carton of ultra-pasteurized super-dee-duper milk that extends the milk’s shelf life to up to ninety days, if stored under proper refrigeration.
He looked at me dubiously. “I dunno. Think the fridge will last that long?”
It seems nothing lasts. Cell phones and i-Pods—even the battery in my laptop is “nearing the end of its usable life”.
Nothing lasts. Nothing lasts save a half-gallon of milk and a dried out hamburger sitting upon the shelf.
Labels: Canada, Consumption, Environmentalism, Ohio