About a week ago, a fluorescent desk lamp in the office failed. No problem, I thought: the bulb must have burned out. I was ordering office supplies anyway, so I threw in a couple of replacement bulbs for this particular lamp.
The next day, the bulbs arrived, and my assistant changed out the bulb. It didn’t work. Further investigation revealed that the little electronic module in the base had burned out.
It is now illegal in New York City to throw electronics in the trash. On the other hand, light fixtures can be tossed. So what was this thing sitting disassembled on my desk?
I deemed it a light fixture, bound up the cord neatly, and threw it in the wastebasket.
If I disappear all of a sudden, now you know: I was hauled off by the trash police.
This morning, I passed Staples on my way to work. This particular Staples opened not too many years ago. Whenever I’ve been there, it’s always as quiet as a library. I’ve never seen it busy. But as I had bought the lamp in question from them a few years ago, I thought I could pop in and get a new one.
“Desk lamps? We don’t carry then anymore. You’ll have to order them through the Web site,” not one but two staffers told me.
So here I am, in midtown Manhattan, presumably the focal point of the entire known universe, and I am unable to buy a simple desk lamp. In another time, not that long ago, there would have been a half-dozen commercial office supply shops within spitting distance, any one of which could supply a desk lamp. But now there is just Staples, and they no longer carry them.
Fluorescent desk lamps used to be somewhat clunky things, with the tubes in a steel enclosure topped with a red button to turn the lamp on and a black button to turn it off. I remember them from my youth and my first experiences in the working world. They were clunky but pretty much indestructible. Surely someone must still make them, right?
A peek at Amazon turned up something similar to what I remember. But the customer comments told a sad story: a couple of years ago, the manufacturer changed the internals of the lamp, replacing them with cheap Chinese junk.
You really can’t go home again.
* * *
Recently, Samsung had the distressing position of having to recall millions of their latest Note 7 phone because its battery had a tendency to explode. But Samsung’s woes are far from over. This afternoon brought another tale of things falling apart. The Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning about Samsung washing machines, recommending that people use only the gentle cycle to wash some items because the machines had a tendency to shake themselves to bits.
C’mon, people: it isn’t rocket science: it’s a bloody washing machine.
* * *
And just as I was wrapping up my thoughts about Samsung washing machines, my laptop screen went dark. I rushed to plug it in, and my text was still OK, but the screen was flickering terribly. A restart brought everything back to normal, but that was another unpleasant surprise.
But then again, perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised. My laptop, after all, is more cheap Chinese junk.