Are Toolboxes An Endangered Species?

The repair shop sign passing outside the car window seemed fairly unremarkable to me.

“Television repair shop? Why would you want to repair a television?” our teenage daughter said, her voice genuinely incredulous.

Her words struck me odd as yet another increasing indicator of how different her world is from the one where I grew up.

In my childhood, items – radios, washing machines, and small kitchen appliances – could be found taken apart in our home with my dad’s go-to toolbox alongside them. His standard box, a dark green with a silver handle on top, opened much like a tackle box. Only inside rattled loose wrenches, different types of hand pliers and maybe an occasional spark plug. I can still here the exact pitch of forged wrenches while his hand sifted though the box in search for a specific tool.

My daughter, raised in the ‘disposable society’ of today, would never consider attempting to fix a kitchen alliance. The thought would simply never cross her mind.

In today’s world of low-cost, practically disposable items, repairing a broken (fill in the blank) is quickly becoming a lost art.

Recently I stopped by a neighbor’s house. Parked outside on his driveway was a late 1960’s Pontiac Firebird convertible. While I found the simple lines timeless, what I really remember is the engine bay. Carefully leaning over the front quarter-panel and examining the engine, I spotted something unheard of in today’s cars: you could see the concrete driveway below. While this might not seem to be a big deal to many, years ago, this was normal. If ever a wrench got away from you, the tool would harmlessly bang once or twice before finally resting on the concrete below. Many of today’s cars, with an engine spouting enough houses and belts to rival Medusa, are much too intimidating for most of us to even know where to start.

Historically a television set found itself a significant investment for most homes. And my dad, with a box of tubes and electrical testing tools with dangling red and black probes, never considered replacing it because of the color not being ‘just right’. And when, after spewing parts around the living room and then reassembling the television over the course of an afternoon, he determined he couldn’t fix the problem, we’d carry the television to a small repair shop up by a local pizza parlor.

The thought of buying a new television – or anything else broken – found itself relegated to the very last possible option on the list. Not too many years ago, the replacement choice severely injured the ego – a sign you’d failed.

Today our world encourages us to simply dispose of items. Low replacement costs combined with the difficulty of repairing integrated electronically circuitry make the days of my dad’s toolbox increasingly rare.

Several years ago at our home the television stopped working in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. Instinctively I researched the problem to see if the television was repairable. Fortunately the answer came back yes – but the parts would cost the better part of a brand-new unit with better resolution, more options and larger screen.

My toolbox never saw the light of day.

– 30 –


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