“Hate and Particle Board”
15 February 1999
When I was a kid, my parents and the church both told me that “TO HATE” was evil. “Hate” was a feeling created or stirred up by the devil and I should not feel this emotion and certainly never hate anyone. Although, I can not say that all that my parents tried to teach me or all those Sunday school lessons stuck with me, the idea that “hate” is evil did, and I have tried to pass this concept on to my own children when the subject has come up.
Recently, however, I had to repair a cabinet which has sides and a bottom made of particle board and evil or not, I HATE particle board.
Made of pressed and glued saw dust or tree bark or only God knows what, God help you if it ever gets wet as it will begin to stink to high heavens and have a screw or nail pull out of it and it is near impossible to repair. And now, if all that was not bad enough, I find out that where particle board used to be at least 3/4 of an inch thick because even the manufacturer knew the stuff had no strength, now it is only 1/2 inch thick!
“HATE”? Too strong a word, you say? Perhaps you are right but maybe particle board is my selected icon, my selected symbol, for a whole class of goods and services which are not true products or services at all but only something which sort of fits the definition of what it is trying to be. So particle board is a board? I think not! Perhaps it fits the general definition of a board because it looks like a board but that is where any similarity to an actual board ends. Board? Not even close.
And how many other things are like particle board which only sort of represent a definition and nothing more? Lots. For years Detroit build these things they called cars but which only fit the definition of a car as something with 4 wheels and a motor. The quality was so bad and maintenance as much a headache as trying to replace a screw that has broken out of particle board. On one mid-1970’s era car, you actually had to remove motor mounts and jack up the engine to replace spark plugs. Oh, assembled with cost in mind but without a thought to disassembly. Repair? Not a thought given to it.
“HATE”? Yes, I HATE particle board and what it presents as a mind set, a way of thinking. A cheap substitute for the real item which is no substitute and more and more we are not being given the chance to choose between particle board and the real McCoy which is even worse.
Those in power, the accountants and engineers of the world, are deciding that no one will pay for a product which actually serves it purpose and at the same time is built to last and be repaired. Use cheap ingredients like particle board and replace steel with plastic and the customer will never know or see the difference or at least not until it breaks or cracks and then, he or she will simply buy another one as the old one is dam near impossible to fix.
Oh, I can sort of forgive the bean counters, the cost accountants, as they probably do not know any better and focus on “the competition” rather than product but the engineers? What is their excuse?
Now trying to appease all those lessons on “Hate” taught when I was a kid, perhaps, maybe, I could see where particle board could be used, maybe. In the case of my cabinet repair, perhaps, maybe, the sides of the cabinet are valid being made out of particle board as in the end, the cabinet is screwed to the wall and thus the sides don’t have to do very much other than hold the thing together in shipment from the factory to my home (wonder if cardboard would do here? God, help us if someone thinks of that one). But the bottom of a sink cabinet? Sink means plumbing which means water and water means leaks as it is some sort of law of nature and so lets put a particle board bottom in a sink cabinet which will soak up any leaking water like a sponge and then stink, stink, stink. Sure!
And so, after my most recent experience with a product which is a product in definition only, perhaps I am now adjusting my thoughts on “Hate” which allows me to have the feeling for objects and concepts but not people. My parents would say and the church would say, that “Hate” is addictive and sure, you start on objects and pretty soon you graduate to the hard stuff and are hating people but I don’t think so and probably, actually, maybe, I really do not hate particle board at all, but it sure is a reasonably good approximation of the definition of “Hate”.
For more Ron Stultz writings, click here.