Monday, January 9, 2017

Making it Tough for the Fix-it Man

 It’s the time of year when the things you got for Christmas start to break. The time for this phenomenon, popularly known as TID (Toss It Day) has shrunk from about mid-March in the ‘70s to three weeks after you got them, now-a-days right about now. The length of useful time has shrunk in proportion to the use of plastic to make stuff and China’s introduction to it.
It struck me how difficult it is to fix anything anymore. It used to be that when you had trouble with an appliance, a tool, or some other piece of equipment, you dragged out your toolbox, tore the think apart, fixed it and put it back together. (Not many people still alive who remember those days.) But now it’s nearly impossible to get the thing apart and, try as you might, it never seems to go back together – at least for someone suffering the drawback of having only two opposable thumbs.
I visited the Shake-Me-I-Rattle appliance factory and spoke with New Product Developer Herschel Highpockets, a new man in the lab.
“I see you’ve just completed something, Herschel, whatcha call it?”
“That there’s a Handy-Dandy Thigamadoodle, Newshawk” he replied, sticking his chest out just a bit.
“What’s the Handy-Dandy Thigamadoodle do?” I asked.
“It automatically peels grapes and, by flipping this lever here, it helps you pick stuff from between your teeth.,” he announced proudly.
At that time Snidely Prattle, the quality control chief, arrived to inspect Highpocket’s invention.
“Well, I see you’ve finished the Handy-Dandy Thigmadoodle, Highpockets. Let’s have a look.”
He picked up the device, turned it all around, looked it over closely, then, pointing to the head of a bolt, asked, “ What’s this here?”
“The head of a bolt,” replied Highpockets.
“What’s the bolt do?” asks Prattle.
“Holds the Thigamadoodle together. Just unscrew the bolt, and the Thigamadoodle comes apart for easy repair.”
“NO! NO! NO!” screeched Prattle. “That’s a no-no. Are you nuts or something? You can’t put the head of a bolt right out in the open like that! Geez, everybody can see it!”
Well, er … It’s not an ugly bolt,” Highpockets stammered. “I can’t see …”
“ANYBODY can take this thing apart!” Prattle seethed, showing his teeth. “That’s not how we do things. It’s too easy! Why, I’ll bet the holes line right back up again when you go to put the Doodle back together!”
“Yeah, but …”
“NO! NO! NO! That’ll never do! Does the nut inside that screws onto the end of the bolt stay in place when you dismantle this thing?”
“Sure …”
“NO! NO! NO, Highpockets! The nut has to fall down inside someplace that’s impossible to get to. That increases the chances of losing it for future use. Is the bolt head metric? It doesn’t look metric.”
“No sir,” mumbled Highpockets.
“Oh, it MUST be metric! Most do-it-yourselfers have conventional tools. We must think of our service people. Shame, shame on you,” he admonished, shaking a finger at Highpockets. “How many functions can the Doodle do?” Prattle wanted to know.
“Well, er, ah, two.”
“Two? TWO?” Prattle couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Oh, now wait just a minute, young man! You’ve gone too far. What you’ve done calls for making two Thigamadoodles. One for each function. We market variety, not versatility. That’s a thing of the past. We’d be the laughing stock of the industry. Does this thing really work?”
”Oh, yessir. Perfectly.” Highpockets beamed, not having learned his lesson yet. “It has all metal parts.”
“WHAT?” Prattle howled. Surely you jest! I’m gonna have to keep an eye on you, I can see that. Plastic. Always think plastic. Use plastic for moving parts. Metal parts take too long to wear out. Service. Think service . New sales.”
“But, sir,” sputtered the good-hearted inventor, “wouldn’t people be more inclined to stick with a brand they knew they could get good service from? Don’t people appreciate quality and versatility anymore?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Prattle snapped. “They can’t buy what they can’t get. Now get back to work, Highpockets, and remember: Keep it simple, keep it metric, keep it plastic, and, above all, don’t forget to hide the bolts!”

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