We Have The Same – Ugh

November 15th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

homomilkA broken desk chair and milk have an overlap — homogenization.

For the milk, I’m a Boomer and as a kid brought in the milk from the insulated silvery box outside the front door. The quart bottles had snug caps that nestled over the necks. Underneath each cap was a flat paper lid with a wee tab to pull to open the bottle. Under each of those lids was the invariable plug of yellowish milk fat, the thickened creamy stuff.

Nowadays of course, getting those relics requires touble and expense. You either contract with an atavistic dairy delivery or go to a hippie dippy food store and pay as much for a quart as a gallon of mass-processed milk, plus the bottle deposit. Everything in ordinary stores is homogenized.

Super-shaking milk so that the fats broke up into tiny pieces and disappeared in the liquid was but one of the seemingly endless points of pride of the WWII generation. From nylon for stockings, developed during the war, to vaccines, to oleomargarine, to breeder reactors, our parents and their media nearly deafened us with the glories of science all around us.

We got to know some downsides to those glories. Think of margarine, allegedly a much heart healthier, lower calorie alternative to butter. Well, I can believe it’s not butter. It tastes more like Elmer’s glue than a dairy product and its synthetic composition seems to cause many physical problems. It would be far better to eat a little butter and lay off the chemical spread entirely.

I honestly can’t think of anything wrong with stockings, nylon or silk. Pantyhose are awful, but stockings are sexy and fine with me.

Breeder reactors, on another hand, are crazy stuff. We were told how wonderful it was that we wouldn’t have to mine fuel for reactors, which could now make their own. They didn’t mention that disposing of the excess, plus the radioactive fluids and rods involved meant planning for 50,000 years of hot, fatal waste. No thanks.

Homo milk though is pretty cool. As the main family cook, I would appreciate the clot of creamy fat to cook with, but I don’t use it that often and can buy reasonable substitutes. I don’t get along well with any form of milk other than yogurt anyway and pay the internal price for ice cream and such. Yet, I admire the cleverness of mixed-together milk.

To the desk chair though, wider marketing homogenization that has been occurring for about 30 years came into play again. In a few areas of our lives, like supermarkets and wine/beer/liquor stores we have expanded choices. In far too many others, we constantly settle for ubiquitous homogenization.

Think such market segments as books, toys and hardware. If you can’t find what you have in mind in one store, huge or wee, you may have to forget it. The next store and the next and the next are likely to have identical products with the same brands in the same shapes, colors and sizes.

We learned when our now adult son was a little guy that Toys Я Us:

  1. was everywhere
  2. drove specialty toy stores out of business with low prices
  3. carried best selling items
  4. was not interested in special ordering anything

We see that in far, far too many retail areas. Again, you might be able to get fresh fruits and veggies your parents never knew existed, but you’re going to settle for what’s available in too many places.

Thus with hardware. I saw that again when I went to replace one of five casters on a steno chair.

It has been on sale at a Staples, the Toys Я Us of office supply. They didn’t have any parts, couldn’t get any, but would love to sell me another, different chair. I was supposed to toss mine.

Well, as my mother’s son, I don’t do that if I can help it. I repair or adapt and conserve.

Looking in office supply and hardware stores, including several home centers, I found homogenization. The same loose or bubble wrapped casters, not appropriate for my chair, were everywhere. The same sizes, colors, brands, configurations, and fittings were here, there and all useless to me.

casterClicking around wheel and caster manufacturers and wholesalers was frustrating. I eventually found a model that might be adaptable, as it came with five casters, each with four stems types. The package cost more than the chair or a replacement for it.

My damaged and useless caster had split and would not glue to repair. I know the implied rule of our era is to consider inexpensive items disposable. I was not raised to waste.

Alas, I set the chair aside and fell back on my lottery-as-a-retirement-plan strategy. I would not throw the chair away, rather I would keep an eye open for a discarded version with a similar 2-inch wheel set that I might adapt.

I decided that last night. As it was trash night, it struck me that I could start this perhaps quixotic quest the next day. My whole, dispersed and varied part of Boston’s Hyde Park neighborhood has rubbish pickup on Monday. I pledged to take a shoulder bag on my bike ride, just in case a discarded desk chair with the right sized caster was obvious.

To my disappointment, I tooled around Fairmount Hill — a cardio challenge on foot or bike — and saw nothing remotely resembling my need. Swinging by Mayor Menino’s neighborhood, where natural gas imploded that house and cracked the bakery’s oven, and through and around Dedham, I was grokking streets and sub-neighborhoods. That’s a great benefit of urban biking, truly fixing the layout of your trips.

Finally on the way from Dedham center toward Hyde Park and up my monster hill, I noticed a hillbilly like display. A sidewalk had a disgusting sofa and matching chair just like the necks put on their porches. Upside down on the sofa, over stained once-tan fabric was a standard desk chair. The trash guys were running late.

I figured the casters were 2-inchers. I pulled off one and saw that the stem was wrong. Figuring I might be able to adapt it, I took one, then a spare, tucking them in my bag. Fairly giddy with scavenging luck, I cycled home.

Sure enough, with some considerable prying, I was able to remove the stem, and cut loose the Gordian netting of old carpet stuck in the two wheels. My chair’s stem is a tiny bit loose, but it fits. I’ll throw some filler in there and call it perfect.

My mother would approve.

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One Response

  1. Uncle says:

    Gotta love it. Now about the milk. When I went to UNH, it was about 60% native, 40% flatlanders. The dining halls served homogenised milk out of those big dispensers, but the student union served it in cartons. We natives used to crack up the flatlanders because we would unconsciously shake the carton before opening…sort of like sailors knocking the weevils out of their hardtack.

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