From TV sets to watches, we inhabit a throwaway society

In his weekly column Trevor Laffan reflects on our throw-away society.
From TV sets to watches, we inhabit a throwaway society
DIFFERENT WORLD: Passers-by watching the Eurovision Song Contest on TV at Fitzgerald's electrical shop, Grand Parade in 1970.

MY television went on the blink not so long ago and it developed a mind of its own.

It only worked when it wanted to, so I got the TV man to come and have a look at it.

He told me to put it in the car and take it to another man in the city, the go-to-guy for fixing TV sets.

The go-to-guy kept it for a few days and then called me to break the bad news. Even he couldn’t bring it back to life and it was time for it to be recycled.

I wasn’t really surprised because that seems to be the way of the world these days. When something breaks you just throw it away and get a new one. The days of repairing stuff seem to be over.

I can remember as a young lad, wearing socks with lumps of wool stitched into the heels where they had become worn. My grandmother attacked them with needles to save them from being chucked in the bin, and each sock looked as if it had a tumour attached to it. Comfort wasn’t taken into consideration.

I had jumpers with patches stitched into the elbows and I was regularly sent to the cobbler to hand in shoes that needed new soles or heels. You didn’t get a new pair until you were almost barefoot.

There was always a lady who could replace a zip in a pants or a jacket, but these days nothing is repaired. As soon as it breaks, throw it out.

I have a watch that I got as a present years ago and I’m very fond of it. It’s not a Rolex or anything fancy but I like it so, when it stopped working one day, I brought it to my local jeweller. He told me that it would probably cost more than the watch is worth to repair it and he suggested throwing it away.

It was like telling me to put one of my kids into an orphanage. I was shocked.

He told me that there were only a few people left in the watch-fixing business because most people just replaced them when they packed up.

I stuck to my guns and got it repaired eventually, but it had to be sent to another planet, so I had to wait a while to get it back. It cost me a few bob too — but it was worth it to me.

It’s the same with a cooker, a fridge or a tumble dryer or anything electrical. When something packs up the first thing you’re asked is “How long have you had it?” You tell them that you only got it a few years ago and they look at you with pity in their eyes, shake their head and tell you: “Yeah, that’s about the life span of those. You did well, it owes you nothing.”

So, you buy a new machine that they guarantee you will last for years. “Best thing on the market by a long way. It will out-live the lot of us.” 

Sure, see you soon.

So, it came as no surprise that my TV was destined for the crematorium, or wherever dead sets go, and I had to buy a new one.

Something told me that this was not going to be straightforward and of course I was right.

When I was buying my recently deceased set, I was told that it had to be plasma. This was the best for picture quality and if I bought anything else, I would be wasting my money and I may as well just be looking at my kettle.

Then I was told that plasma is old hat and LED is the way to go. So, I went on the internet to have a look at what was available, and this is what I was met with.

“A 55’ Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR LED TV with Catch-up and 4K Streaming with web OS Picture quality: 50 Hz, Tuner: Irish Digital Ready HD Connectivity: HDMI 2.0.b x 3.”

I have a reasonable command of the English language, and I’m not a complete idiot, but I had no idea what this meant. So, I decided the best thing was to go to the shop and talk to the guys who are supposed to know about these things, and leave it to them.

But even the experts can be wrong and modern technology can let you down.

I have a Kindle and I recently bought three eBooks from Amazon but only one of them was delivered wirelessly to my device. The other two were wandering around somewhere in cyber space.

So, I popped off an email to Amazon who invited me to an online chat. We were messaging back and forth for a bit before they told me that they were having a little technical issue, but the books would arrive in a couple of days.

When the books still hadn’t arrived a week later, I sent another email. I was invited to another online chat but I declined, because I didn’t see the point in going over the same ground again. So, I asked them to just refer to the previous conversation.

A week later I was back on to Mr Amazon again and this time, the problem had shifted. Now they told me that the technical issue was on my side and I was advised to de-register my Kindle and then re-register it. I could see this leading to all sorts of complications so I just decided to cut my losses and forget about it. As soon as I made that decision, the books arrived in the Kindle, all by themselves.

This was good news because I was just about to throw it away.

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