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Seven-year itch

The poster child of Katrina: coming back to haunt us?

I’m not prone to conspiracy theories.


There’s something going on with hurricanes and refrigerators.

Bear with me here.

Dead refrigerators remain the ultimate icons of Hurricane Katrina. Houses, cars, sinking boulevards and landscapes all proved capable of post-storm rehabilitation. Refrigerators, however, were a different story.

If you, like me, evacuated in August 2005 with a fridge full of leftover red beans and just-past-its-date sour cream, you know this. You know the smell, you saw the fat white maggots, you recall the forest of dead white shells that proliferated curbside, lined up rakishly like duct-taped tombstones, bearing scrawled messages that lamented the recent past with both despair and wit.

Refrigerators signified both our loss and our resilience.

So here we are, seven years later … and I’m seeing a curious trend here.

Dead refrigerators. Again.


This has nothing to do with Hurricane Isaac – conversely, this time around we knew to pre-bag our refrigerator contents, ready to pitch should the electricity fail. It did. We pitched.

No, this has to do with the fact that 21st-century refrigerators seem to have limited life-spans, a sort of self-destruct clock programmed into their innards.

Seven years. Give or take.

My own refrigerator gave out a week before Isaac, its death rattle a steady click-click-click that measured our nights until it finally succumbed.

A friend had lost her refrigerator just the week before. Another lost hers the week after. And another, and another. I kept hearing about … dying refrigerators.

All newly minted coolers bought in the months just after Katrina.

If you were to create a graph of New Orleans area refrigerator sales, I figure there would be an intense spike in fall 2005, an upward thrust with the sharp point of a medieval lance, pointing skyward for a few months, into early 2006, before falling leisurely back into normalcy.

So think about it. The consumer age has spawned a dictum of planned obsolescence – the idea that you must have things that will eventually break, and then you must replace them, and this contributes to the product line and bottom lines of modern industry.

Only now, obsolescence is arriving sooner rather than later. TV sets once lasted decades; nowadays, they become obsolete in less than one. Laptops, smartphones, blenders — all have shorter life spans these days.

Come to think of it, my post-Katrina TV set is starting to act up. Could we be riding a seven-year wave in the life spans of all those mechanical things we had to replace after the storm?

A friend told me after Katrina that he was never again buying anything he couldn’t envision sitting on a curb. He didn’t want to ever again feel the angst of losing something he cherished.

I get it. Once was enough. Especially with refrigerators.

Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie.






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