A Rubber Hose

by

John Wright

 

This true story is about quality. The subject is rather trivial if one considers the material discussed, but very telling and damning if instead we consider the reality of the disposable product world we experience now. There is a lesson about apparent progress that is illusory, and a challenge to return to solid value. I hope you enjoy and are irritated by this story. Perhaps you will do your part to change the current reality.

My father bought three lengths of rubber garden hose from a general store in a little community called Newton Hamilton during the 1940ís. As a child I paid scant attention to his purchases and various uses for the products he bought. I do remember that the hoses served him well for over twenty-five years. At that point he donated them to me, for I was a new homeowner in need of many tools and garden equipment. Note that the hoses never had been repaired for leaks or any other problem. They simply worked, year after year.

Under my care, the hoses had to endure the worst winters, unprotected and not drained. They still worked. As I moved on into my forties I started to realize that the hoses were unique. Unlike anything else I owned, excepting steel tools, the hoses seemed to outlast every other item I bought. This I found to be remarkable, as I was a child of the disposable world of consumer goods. Only I had hoses that didnít have to be replaced every few years.

Now we come to the apparently absurd. When I was fifty-five I was still using the same hoses. They still worked flawlessly. That means they had been and still were viable after fifty years, even though the color was fading. And they kept going. Yes, they had a lot of use every year. To my chagrin, the hoses were lost in a move to the opposite coast. I canít say that I was especially sad for they had given me almost thirty years of service for free. So, I bought new hoses.

No, I am not a cheapskate. I bought the most expensive "industrial" grade hoses from places like Home Depot®. They were comparatively worthless. Within two years they kinked and later leaked. The fittings stuck. I was angry. Iím still angry. It is time to call a spade a spade. Our country became a great creator of garbage products. Today we are great importers of garbage products.

What angers me most is that the materials and technology of the 1940ís should be inferior to that of today. After all, modern polymer science was just starting in the 1930ís with nylon, and many great discoveries have been made since then. So why is it that an old technology rubber hose outlasted all the new stuff by multiple decades? Iíll tell you why. Because we make and buy sh**. Cheap sh**! All to keep the "economy" moving. And consumers of today generally have no idea how good the products could be, so they waste their money repeatedly, replacing inferior products, and in the end they spend far more money. They/we have been "hosed."

Could one buy a truly excellent hose today? Yes, of course. The problem is that hoses marketed through consumer outlets are not excellent. Industry purchases products with respectable life cycles so it is true that a consumer might purchase a quality hose. But that will not happen often for the quality products will not be found in consumer outlets and they will not be price competitive, which is the condemnation of cheap product producers and lazy/ignorant consumers.

Welcome to Progress!

Here is a postscript to the article that surprised me Ö my eldest son read this article and called to inform me that he possesses one of the lengths of hose purchased by my father, and that the hose is still in service. That is amazing as the hose must now be around sixty years old. Perhaps there is something valid to claims about the good old days.