It will be nice when we hear that honeybees are plentiful and monarch butterflies are returning in record numbers, and the evenings are full of croaky frog-song, and we think: "Oh, that's so 2021."
In other words, good news large and small will characterize the year. I remember when everyone was complaining about that utter Dumpster-conflagration, worst year ever — you know, 2019. Hah! Never make Father Time say "Hold my beer" while he attempts some new move that will really put him in the record books.
That said, here's some news from the waning hours of 2020. Headline: "More than 190,000 ceiling fans sold at Home Depot are being recalled after reports that the blades fell off while spinning."
Whenever the word "recalled" is used, it makes me think of someone having a pleasant nostalgic reverie. "You seem lost in thought; what are you remembering?"
"Oh, that trip we took to Cancun. Before that, 190,000 ceiling fans."
"Individually, or collectively?"
"Collectively, silly! Some of them had three blades, some had four, so you really can't recall the exact number of blades. But it's nice to sit here and think of 190,000 aggregate units."
Ceiling fan blades flying off and embedding in the drywall seemed apt for 2020. Because we are stuck in the 2020 mode of thought, you might wonder: "Who can we blame for this? Who can be pilloried and cast out of polite society?" Can't say. But you know someone approved a design that had insufficiently strong attachments. You know how that probably went:
"OK, boss, here are two designs. This one attaches the blades with four titanium screws and can withstand the centrifugal forces if run at maximum speed for 365 days straight. This other design has two screws made of a cheaper alloy, and 72% will fail approximately three hours after the warranty expires. It's cheaper, but ... "
"That's the one."
"The cheaper, less reliable one?"
"I wouldn't put it like that. The more advantageous price point, that's what I'd say."
A year passes. He opens the paper one day to see a story about a ceiling fan blade flying off and concussing the family mutt. He folds up the newspaper and stuffs it in the trash.
"It's just one," he figures. "If I throw away the paper, it'll be like it never happened."
The next week there are 67,943 more reports of fan blades flying off. And the reports keep coming.
At this point the guy has two choices. He can take responsibility, or blame the designer who gave him the cheaper option. The first is something a true man would do. The second is despicable and craven, and would make it hard to look at himself in the mirror.
On the other hand, if he takes long, hot showers, the mirror will be all fogged up.
By the end of the day he's convinced himself that the company that made the screws is responsible. He meets the boss in the restroom, and makes a great show of swinging a stall door back and forth, frowning.
"Oh, just testing the door. I heard from maintenance that there's a bad batch of screws going around, and I didn't want to wait until the door falls off and someone's in there. It would be embarrassing!"
"Not as bad as 190,000 defective fan blades," says the boss. "I want a report on my desk by the end of the day."
Well, we'll leave our imaginary executive now, because his story just gets worse, and we've learned our lesson: Don't be like that fellow. Always buy the best bolts.
I fully expect to see late-night ads asking if I, or any member of my family, was injured or suffered emotional trauma due to a detached ceiling fan blade. If so, I might be entitled to compensation! Yes, this law firm has undertaken a class-action suit for justice. It's like a movie! A scrappy attorney with a troubled past will find personal redemption in an emotional appeal to the jury, pointing to Edna Pearson in the spectator gallery, the blade still embedded in her head.
"Look at her, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. Do not avert your eyes. If they take out the blade from her head, she could lose her memories of her children and grandchildren. Doctors say she might even lose all the recipes that she remembers her Maw-maw used to make, including the dumplings her husband loved. He's gone to his reward now. She thinks of him when she makes those dumplings. I'm asking you to think of her dumplings, too, and find the defendant liable for gross negligence."
The jury awards the plaintiffs $400 million. Six years later, blade-trauma sufferers get a check for $1.04. Court costs and fees, you know.
Or maybe no one will sue. Maybe the companies will offer rebates and send around repairmen to install the replacements. One of the technicians — a handsome fellow who's just doing this until he can start his own ceiling fan company; he's got lots of ideas for new innovations — will be smitten with the daughter who's home from college and working on her novel, and he'll ask her out, and they'll fall in love and marry and have a beautiful baby on Christmas, a day after she learns her book will be published.
I hope that's so 2021.
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