Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Unbreakable" dishes break my heart

Published January 18, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

I got a text from my husband the other day, telling me he’d spent the last of a Christmas gift card on a new set of glasses for the family. I was excited, to say the least. New glasses are my favorite frequently purchased item. With five kids, three cats, a penchant for clumsiness and the occasional bout of unbridled chaos, glasses don’t last long in my house.

The glasses, however, came with lovely stickers that pronounced them, “Unbreakable!” Uh huh. Unbreakable dishes are like bullet-proof glass. They’re all flash and prestige and failure to deliver. Bullet proof glass is no more bullet proof than most things. Given enough of a beating, it will fail. And so it will be with this lovely set of tumblers.

I know, I know. Pessimism doesn’t become me. I guess all those broken unbreakable dishes from my past are still too fresh in my memory. I remember the first time I owned unbreakable kitchenware. Braggart that I was, I confidently tossed one of the plates from hand to hand, saying, “It’s okay! It’s unbreakable!” I’m sure you can all guess how the sound of a shattering plate on a hard floor reverberated around the room.

Now, I’m not angry that the plate broke. I don’t mind having breakable dishes. It’s the way of the universe. It’s natural. It makes sense. You toss a plate from hand to hand and then miss? It breaks. You feel a little dumb, and you clean it up. Such is life.

What I have a problem with is the fact that some company wants to pass off its breakable dish to me, the cynical consumer, and to others, the naïve consumers, as somehow above the laws of physics. They call it “space age.” I call it false advertising.

I’m sure there are research and development guys somewhere objecting to that. They’re all hot under the collar because they subjected those plates to numerous well-controlled and well-funded breakability tests involving monster trucks and steamrollers and the plates handled that fine. Fellas, therein lies your problem.

I do not own a monster truck nor do I own a steamroller. Your plate was tested to withstand a fantasy land in which large vehicle operators have an inexplicable and downright crazy vendetta against dishes. The dish is going to defend itself as a matter of principle. That plate is thinking, “Must…survive...can’t…let…steamroller…win. Must…quote…Nietzsche… whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. I am PLATE! YOU WILL NEVER DEFEAT ME!”

Fresh from battle, you send the plate to me and the plate thinks, “Hey…this lady’s okay. I don’t see a steamroller anywhere. What? She just wants to put her world famous Italian Chicken on me for the enjoyment of her lovely family? Ahhhhhh, this is the life.” What kind of plate subjected to that spa-quality treatment is going to think to defend itself against a little game of toss?

My advice to the unbreakable dish manufacturers: when it’s time to test, call off the wrecking ball. Take back the flamethrower and the military grade cannon. Just round up a couple of impatient four year olds, a busy mom, a curious cat, a sink full of other dishes, and a short flight of stairs. If it can withstand all that, you can call it unbreakable.

If the heavy machinery of the world ever becomes self aware and plots to destroy us, those other dishes will do just fine.