I just dabbed 5-minute epoxy onto the broken Otterbox holster that I broke less than two weeks after I got it from Otterbox. This holster was a replacement for the original holster that came with my Otterbox iPhone 5 case. (I am not bragging about having an iPhone 5. Well maybe a little. But really, iPhone 5 is SO last release!) That holster lasted almost a full year. It broke when the holster got caught in a seat belt getting into my car. The replacement broke when I turned to let someone through a narrow door and caught my phone on the door jamb. The belt clip just snapped right off the holster phone-holder part.
By the way – Otterbox both as a company and as a product is great! I drop my cell phone more often than I think most people do, (or maybe not, but how would I know?) and I am certain my phone works as well as the day I bought it, because of my Otterbox case.
Otterbox probably would have replaced the broken holster again. They were really good about replacing the first one, and their customer service was great. But in all honesty, I felt kind of dumb about how it got broken and so I told myself that I didn’t want to go through the hassle of printing the form, taking the whole case apart, taking pictures of the parts, and sending an explanatory claim email to them.
Actually I just felt embarrassed at having broken another of their holsters in such short order. I could almost hear the ong-suffering customer service person on the return desk making a clucking noise and shaking their head over my klutziness. In my universe my grandmother invented that noise, and I can still hear her make that sound when I do something dumb. It is the “stupid” sound. It is embarassing.
So I looked at the damage and thought, I can fix this with some epoxy and a clamp. It won’t be “as good as new” but it will be good enough.
While I was mixing the Lepage’s Five-Minute Epoxy on a Post-It Note with a generic toothpick, I thought, when did we stop repairing things?
I know. We still repair big things like cars and houses and computers, but how many of us would feel even remotely comfortable trying to fix a toaster or blender or even replace a window pane? Now that I think about it, how many of us even know how to repair our own cars anymore? Can you replace a window pane in a new “modular”window? Put a new battery in a tablet? They have “sealed units” and “computer diagnostics” and “proprietary parts and software” that we, the laypeople who buy this stuff, are not allowed to know about.
Apple invented special screws (pentalobes – Google it!) to keep people out of their products! Not Apple’s competitors, because you know they are getting in somehow, but the average user. Ma and Pa and little Joey and Suzie who purchase and own their products. How many consumer products do you buy these days that say “No user serviceable parts inside.”?
Whatever happened to the neighborhood “Fix-It” shop where that old guy, Fred, used to be able to repair almost anything for a fraction of the cost of buying a new one?
Like soda bars in drug stores and drive-in movies. And video stores. Side note: I have now lived long enough to have lived through the entire lifecycle of a product type and its marketing arm: Videotapes from Beta to VHS and the stores where you could once go to rent them.
But I digress.
While I wait for the epoxy to set (glue dries, epoxy “sets” – my grandfather taught me that), I think about other things that I used to try and fix myself or used to take to get repaired.
Televisions: TV repair guy used to come to your house because the sets were too big and heavy to carry to the shop. “Portable” television meant a less than 50 pound something you could move if you were a strong, able-bodied person. The repair guy had a tube-tester to check all the tubes in your TV set and replace the one that was dead. Like a light bulb. TV sets lasted for YEARS. Event the picture tube could be replaced for far less than what the total set cost. They were big and heavy and flaky and undependable but you could fix them.
I understand why this changed. Tubes were replace by solid-state transistors and soldered into “modules” replacing whole racks of tubes and wires. Smaller, faster, lighter, more dependable…but somehow less “real”. We could no longer look into the back and see the wonder of technology and understand it.
But even simple things don’t get repaired today. I have a lovely retro-style correspondent’s case from a company called Frost River: (https://www.frostriver.com/shop/correspondent-briefcase/)
I like it because it looks like, and is in fact, the same type of bag carried by reporters, archaeologists, scientists and other world travellers from a time that likely never existed outside my own fantasies. Canvas, leather, and brass. Real materials. That wear out. Clips break, straps wear and fray, canvas gets torn. How do you fix that stuff? How big does your sewing machine have to be to sew canvas to leather? Answer: very large.
I don’t have the skills, knowledge or access to the tools to effect even basic repairs to that bag. Do I acquire them? Do I take the time and spend the money to be able to repair the bag?
No. I buy a new one. Maybe a better version. Or that other bag I lusted for, after I got the now damaged one.
Shoes, belts, clothing (let’s not start about torn jeans bought that way on purpose!) small appliances, etc. are all easier to replace now than to repair. Large appliances are staring down this road too. How much for a repair person (plumber or electrician) to come to your home and fix your dishwasher or stove?
How much stuff do we send to landfills or recycling centres because we are too lazy, or unwilling or unable to fix it ourselves to or get it fixed. Sometimes we cannot even find a person who would be ABLE to repair our stuff. The repair shops and the people who ran them are gone.
It seems somehow sad and wasteful that we have left a whole class of people in the past: The craftsman repair-person in no longer a part of the fabric of our existence and the weave of our lives is lessened from that absence.
Well the epoxy has set and the holster is usable again. 60 grams of plastic not going into a landfill someplace. Have a great day!