I was almost a teenager when Planet of the Apes hit the theaters in 1968. The film was a futuristic cautionary tale of what we were in for if we kept living like we were living, ending with a shocking image of the Statue of Liberty buried up to her armpits in desert sand.
My experiences today showed me exactly how that’s going to happen.
For some time now, the faucet in our kitchen sink has dripped. Today was the day I finally decided to do something about it. I’m not necessarily the quickest to take care of such tasks, but once I take it on I stick with it until I get it done (because I know if I don’t finish it while I’m somewhat motivated I will let it lay there for another six weeks). I took the faucet off – after turning off the water – and removed the cartridge assembly (as I learned it was called) to take with me to the hardware store so I could make sure and get the right part. I stopped first at Taylor Lumber, our local hardware store, because they’re our local hardware store. The last time we had a drip, they had the part. Not this time.
From there I headed to Lowes, where we bought the faucet five years ago when we moved in. The first guy I talked to seemed fascinated with the concept of running water inside the house. He had no idea where to find the part. I went back to the kitchen faucet display and found the exact faucet we have at home. With the model number in hand, I went back to the plumbing aisle and moved one step up the food chain to a guy who did know something about plumbing. He said,
“How old is your faucet?”
“Five years,” I answered.
“Oh! Well, we don’t keep parts for anything that old.”
I was holding a solid metal part for a faucet they still had on the shelf and they did not stock the part. His answer was to buy a whole new unit.
I left and drove to Republic Plumbing Supply, which had been recommended by the guy at Taylor Lumber. The guy looked at the part and asked me what brand it was. When I told him Price Pfister, he said, “That’s one of the home warehouse brands (meaning Lowes and Home Depot) and we don’t carry those parts.” When I asked who did, he pointed me to a place in Quincy – fifteen miles away – and then suggested I go on line. After two hours of running all over the area looking for a ten dollar part, I stopped at a local coffee shop that has free wireless internet access, logged on to the Price Pfister web site and, after a ridiculous number of steps, found and ordered the part I needed. It will be here in a week.
It shouldn’t be this hard.
I’m talking a solid metal piece here with a ceramic center. When I was with the first guy at Lowes, as he methodically pulled down every part on the wall trying to find a match, I couldn’t help but notice everything was plastic; the metal parts were long gone. The parts were created to be replaced quickly. The life expectancy of kitchen fixtures should be longer than five years. How can a culture survive if we treat everything as disposable?
Last night at the restaurant we got to talking about the state of the world and the talk turned to unusual food products. Actually, it started with one of the servers talking about how much she loved Velveeta. Though I will admit it makes a mean chile con queso, I’m not much of a fan of “cheese food.” What exactly is it? From there we moved to Cheez Whiz and then on to Go-Gurt. My issue with the latter (“The Grab-n-Go Yogurt”) is this: if you’re five years old and your schedule doesn’t allow you time to sit down and eat your yogurt, your life is seriously messed up. A five year old should have nowhere to be other than being five in the midst of loved ones who surround and protect him or her, not rushing them off to wherever carrying a tube of cultured nutrition. To put our kids under than kind of pressure is to say we consider them as disposable as our faucet parts.
Why should we throw away either one?
As a youth minister and a high school teacher, I worked with five year olds who were fifteen and sixteen. One summer in Fort Worth, I put an afternoon on the calendar for the kids to meet me at the park between the Amon Carter Museum and the Kimbell Art Museum. About twenty kids showed up. We sat around in a circle for a few minutes and then one of them asked what we were doing.
“This,” I answered. “All we are doing this afternoon is being together.”
We spent an afternoon like that almost every week that followed for the whole summer. It was the most popular youth event by far.
Though this post is starting to smell as though we are heading for a “You see, Timmy” moment, I’m not looking to teach a lesson as much as mark the time. Somewhere around four o’clock on Thursday, October 26, 2006 I realized how the Statue of Liberty will end up buried in the sand: one grain, one faucet, one package of Go-gurt at a time, stacked one on top of the other.