Things that have outlasted any reasonable expectation

As I make plans to purchase a new iPhone next week, and think back over the vast graveyard of computers and consumer electronics that stretches out behind me, I’m put in mind of the evanescence of most of the items I use in daily life. And yet, there are things, like the Mars rovers, that have outlasted any reasonable expectation of lifespan and usefulness. Things bought on a whim, or that were unusually long-lived, or just turned out to be surprisingly useful.

And with that, I present to you an ode to some of the longest-lasting artifacts in my collection:

  • Tools

Perhaps the best purchase I’ve ever made was a small package of screwdrivers at a Japanese convenience store. They cost me about $6, and I’ve been using them for over two decades.

  • Blanket

When returning home from freshman year in college, I ended up buying a faux-southwest blanket from a new store in my hometown mall. Even as I paid, I fully expected never to use it. That was over 20 years ago, and though it’s occasionally ended up on a shelf for years at a time, it’s still in active use.

  • Futon couch

After living in Japan for a couple of years, I had been fully indoctrinated into the cult of futon-as-bed. When I got back, I bought a futon couch with an incredibly uncomfortable cushion, and slept on it for years. My wife had her own futon couch, and when we got married, we took her futon and my frame, and still use it as a couch.

  • Comic book case

In middle school, I made a special case in wood shop to hold my X-men comic books. Yes, I still use it for the oldest issues. Yes, my wife thinks I’m crazy.

  • Dictionaries

At the time, the Kenkyusha New Japanese-English Dictionary (4th Edition) was the top dictionary in its class, the gold standard by which other dictionaries were judged. It was the dictionary you found in the school library, unless someone else was monopolizing it. When I got my own copy, it cost me almost $100 (which was painful at the time, but looks like a bargain now). I loved this dictionary, inked in the fore edge (i.e., the edge opposite the spine) to indicate where the letters began and ended, and put dots next to each word I looked up. I spent a lot of time inside that book, and looking through it now, most of its 2000+ pages have multiple dots.

On the other hand, I worked my way through one copy of Spahn Hadamitzky, and had to buy another when it started falling apart. Still, I will honor them forever for making the old, cranky, idiosyncratic, incomplete, and frequently infuriating Nelson Kanji dictionary obsolete.

  • Pots and pans

Right around the time I got back from Japan, my mom ran across a big sale on pots and pans. She bought one collection for each kid, and I still use the damn things (we got much nicer pots and pans as wedding presents, which I also use – but the two sets don’t overlap).

What do you have that you’re surprised you’re still using?

One thought on “Things that have outlasted any reasonable expectation

  1. I saved a blender that sat unused for well over a year. It was a great blender & after it “broke” we had a cheaper, much less useful one but I held onto the broken one for some reason. One night ran across a blog post on how to fix it with a link to a part less than $2. Back in action! Speaking of the rover, how about voyager this week? Well before our modern technical age and kicking after 35 years. It’s official mission was over in 1989.

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