Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Step Right Up

I watched a TV commercial the other night for a set of tools that come, intoned the announcer in a dark brown voice, with a 'lifetime guarantee'. Tom Waits would be impressed. If I had any mechanical ability at all and was permitted by my wife to buy tools, those are the kind I would buy. In my house, my wife has the Home Depot card. She is on a first name basis with the manager of the local Ace Hardware store and has memorized the layout of the Lowes, because she's the only one of us who knows what she's doing with the hardware, tools, wrench box sets and ratchets and all the other stuff. I cannot tell one tool from the other at ten paces, or nearer or farther away.

I am the only person I know, or ever met, in a hospital emergency room, who cut himself with, of all things, an apple corer, so deeply and badly I needed medical attention. I know--'that's a kitchen implement, not a tool per se.' And you're right, but in my house, every opportunity is a two-edged blade and I have also cut myself with an electric razor and agree with my wife that we're both better off if I stay away from the stuff that I don't understand. In light of that statement, it's amazing I get out of bed in the morning, but I suspect as long as most of my collisions with reality happen outside our home, we'll be fine.

Many things come with guarantees for replacement and service even the appliances bought at the "big-box stores", and many of those guarantees are for a finite period of time. I remain intrigued by 'lifetime' and had on a previous car, a lifetime guarantee on the muffler or brakes, or maybe both (I've lost track). What was, and is, unclear to me is the definition of whose lifetime the guarantee is referencing.....

I'm 56 so, actuarially speaking, if it's my lifetime I'm looking at, it's another twenty or so years of having that set of Craftsman ratchets. Perhaps it's the lifetime of the people who made the tools (do we divide the number of the folks involved in the manufacture by their aggregate age? Math is not my favorite vegetable so make it fast, okay?) Or maybe it's the lifetime of the announcer in the television commercial? What happens if you believe in reincarnation? Should you save receipts?

How much of a guarantee should there be on anything and how seriously should we take promises, or threats, of a lifetime guarantee? Should we be reassured or daunted--intimidated or inspired? It's a poor artisan who blames his tools, an ER nurse once told me while removing a muffler from my big-box appliance. And a fine line between being a spanner in the spokes and a Spaniard in the Works.
-bill kenny

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