James Lileks
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Everything's cheap and everything breaks: the common complaint.

"I can't believe this belt I bought from the FUMU website for $.79 broke after a week. It didn't just snap in two, it lost all molecular cohesion, and disappeared."

Well, what did you expect? Didn't you learn your lesson from the $3.99 shoes that dissolved in the rain? But yes, I understand. Things do seem to break faster these days. I had an air fryer that was recalled after a year because it, er, might burn down your house. My battery-powered vacuum cleaner stopped charging — although to be fair, if someone grabbed me by the feet and stuck my nose in the corners to inhale all the dog hair, I'd lose my will to live, too.

We had a fridge die a few years ago. It wasn't very old. I think the milk I put in when we bought it was still good. Bad compressor. The warranty only covered "butter container hinge." In the old days, fridges lasted forever — the turquoise Frigidaire with which I grew up gave three decades of service before it lost its will to chill. Now? You get five years out of them, and they turn into sarcophaguses.

The other day I pushed the lever on the fridge door to get ice, and nothing clattered into the glass. Hmm. This was wrong. We assume there will be ice, because there has always been ice. Why would there not be ice? This is America. The bin was empty — but fear not, I had the manual, and could troubleshoot.

Step one: Was the water filter old? With shame, I admitted that it was. I'd probably been drinking pure plutonium for a year. I drove to the store, bought a new one. Solved nothing.

Step two: Remove the ice bin, find a reset button the size of a gnat's nose, and press it. One chime means it's communicating with the central processor. Several chimes means it is not. I got one cheery beep.

"Is it working?" My wife asked, hearing the beep.

"No, but I think I reset the random access memory and cleared the cache."

"Of the ice maker?"

"Of the ice maker."

Alas, this didn't work. Next step: Disconnect the power. This only reboots the fridge; it does not zero out the expiration date on any food or beverages, so you don't need to store your work before you shut down.

If the fridge had one of those displays on the door, I'm sure it would've given me a login screen and asked for my password, and I'd have to find a Post-It note from 2021 that had the dog's name and a bunch of numbers, and I'd get it wrong, and the fridge would ask if I'd like to reset my password and send a link to my email, unless I'd set up two-factor ID with my fridge, in which case it would send a text, so I could have ice again.

This did not work. Called the manufacturer. If you are calling about an ice maker problem, press one. (BEEP).

When that's the first option, you know they get this problem a lot.

I gave the customer service rep the model number, which was MB40DZEDFFS-LOL4563/SN-00001B. It's so tiresome. That's M as in Mold, B as in Botulism, Four, Zero unless it's O, D as in Dysentery, E as in E-coli, and so on. They set up an account for me and created a ticket, a solemn ceremony that officially recognizes the outstanding ice-drought issue. I had to write down the ticket number, which was basically pi to the 247th place.

I explained everything I had already done, making it clear that I was a man of action who had consulted the manuals and done all he could. They said they would send out someone.

For a few days we lived on bagged ice. The stuff that dissolves on contact with liquid. The store also had Rich People Ice — huge cubes and spheres so dense they exerted a small gravitational field. Probably sourced from a core sample a mile deep in Antarctica, which explains the $9 price.

Then the repair guy arrived. It was not, as I feared, a mechanical or circuit board problem. The maker had attempted to make ice before the bin was empty, and excess ice had built up and blocked the exit. My appliance was not broken. It was constipated.

He fixed the problem and charged only for the service call. Lesson: Not everything is cheap and breaks too soon. The ice maker stopped because it was trying too hard to give me all the ice I wanted. More than I wanted. So take heart. Not everything is cheap and breaks!

(Note to the editor: Excuse the misspellings. My lptop has two ded keys. I guess some stuff does brek.)