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Commentary & Opinion

Reuse it or lose it

The author's juicer
Ralph Gardner Jr.
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The author's juicer

If one can go into mourning over a kitchen appliance that’s what I experienced when I recently plugged my beloved Braun Citromatic orange juicer into an electrical outlet, as I’ve done a thousand times before, placed half an orange on top of its juicing cone and pressed down.

I tend to overdo things, applying far more force than necessary. Typing on my computer keyboard, for example; I admire those with a light touch. My efforts would better be described as pounding the keys, a la Franz Liszt. There’s probably some deep-seated psychological explanation for my behavior. It’s as if I have so little faith in myself that I hope brute force will allow me to overpower obstacles and flatten mistakes.

But no matter how much pressure I applied, my Braun juicer soldiered on. I can’t say for how many years – as you age time seems to accelerate, years whipping before your eyes like telephone polls past the window of a speeding train. That phenomenon also works in reverse. The 1990’s and even the 1980’s feel like they happened yesterday. No matter what, my hunch is that the juicer has been a happy member of the family for at least a couple of decades.

One other thing: I need orange juice first thing in the morning the way a normal person does coffee. As much as I enjoy coffee, light and sweet, I can take it or leave it. Unlike my wife, it’s not the equivalent of a hospital IV. It’s not a controlled substance. But without a glass of fresh orange juice in the morning, and with apologies to Bob Dylan, I’m a creature devoid of form seeking shelter from the storm.

So when I pressed down on the juicing cone on a recent morning – that’s supposed to trigger the motor -- and nothing happened, and then pressed down again a second time and nothing happened, and then removed the cone and collecting dish and reinstalled it and unplugged and reinserted the electrical plug and still nothing happened, I felt like I was in free fall.

Before you ask, I went online in search of an identical replacement juicer and while there might have one or two overpriced antiques for sale on eBay today’s juicer’s look very different. I’m convinced that the brilliance of my device was in our now defunct partnership, the way it allowed me to apply maximum pressure without complaint. I also have a more traditional manual juicer. It’s the kind where you place the orange on the conical center, then press down using a lever. But it allowed me to extract what seemed like a third less juice from each orange.

I was prepared to consign my old friend to the town transfer station when a different old friend, Bruce Shenker, a member of the Columbia County Environmental Management Council, told me about an event occurring next Saturday, October 23rd, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s at the firehouse in New Lebanon, NY. It’s a repair café. You can bring your old, broken stuff and someone far handier than you are, or at least than I am, will attempt to fix it. Computers, jewelry, moth-eaten sweaters, leather goods, bicycles. There will even be a runner going back and forth to the Country Squire hardware store in New Lebanon for replacement parts.

Of course, as soon as I heard about the event I thought of my poor, deceased orange juicer. Or nearly deceased. Something happens when you press down but not much. It’s sort of like when Peter Pan neglected Tinker Bell and her light faded out. I have little left but hope. But sometimes hope is enough.

Until I spoke to Cara Humphrey, one of the organizers of the event, I attributed my attachment to my Braun Citromatic to the fact that I’m a cheapskate and also because it feels wrong to replace rather than repair things. It almost feels like a moral imperative. Little did I know I was part of a “right to repair” movement, started to prevent companies from forcing customers to buy new things rather repair their old ones. When I spoke with Ms. Humphrey on the phone, she told me the movement was born twelve years ago in Holland by Martine Postma, who was troubled about the amount of repairable stuff that was finding its way to landfills.

New York’s first repair café happened in New Paltz in 2013. There are currently more than thirty throughout the Hudson Valley and upstate.

Ms. Humphrey, the Austerlitz member of the Columbia County Environmental Council is bringing an old piece of furniture to be repaired. Her puppy ruined its rattan top.

In addition to my juicer I’m considering arriving with, not on, my bike. Its electronic speedometer/odometer no longer works and I suspect a loose or broken wire. My wife, no surprise there, is bringing her broken Nespresso machine.

Ms. Humphrey suggested we arrive early. “We’ll have an advice corner, an architect, a psychoanalyst, a toy corner,” she said. “It should be a crowd.”

I’m well aware that not everything is fixable. I may just have to accept that my relationship with my juicer has run its course and it’s time to buy a new one. But there’s a sense of well being, of closure, knowing you’ve done everything to save its life before saying your final farewells.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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