Value to the buyer

22 02 2015

So the other day I had an industrial accident.

Nothing as grandiose as a chemical spill or a Simpsons-like radioactive incident. No – I broke my glasses. I was taking part in a training session with the rest of the Product Management team and doing my bit by carrying an 8’x4′ sheet of 3mm Sintra PVC above my head to avoid knocking over anything in the machine lab. As I slid it off my head onto the printer’s flatbed, the edge caught the arm of my glasses and flipped them onto the concrete floor. Naturally, by the same law of physics that requires toast to land butter-side down, one of the arms snapped making the glasses unusable, despite the lenses themselves being remarkably unscathed.

I consider myself somewhat resourceful, and luckily I was in a laboratory setting which amongst other things offered a broad selection of tapes to select a temporary fix from. I began with some low-tack blue tape, but decided this was a little too geeky given my age and professional position. It wasn’t quite the “full-on” geek nose bridge repair look, but blue tape was far from discreet. I’m just not Hipster enough to carry it off any more. In the end I found some “invisible” tape (it was hard to spot!) with which to affect repairs, and this extra level of discretion put me on for a day or so.

I took a trip out to Langley to enquire at Costco whether they could repair or replace the broken arm. I was even hopeful they might still be under warranty since I’d only had them a few months. Well… about that: it turns out I’d actually bought them 3 years ago, and they were well and truly out of production, let alone warranty. Doesn’t time fly?! These glasses were part of my slow acceptance of the march of time and my first “progressives” – the modern equivalent of bifocals, offering graduated focal length rather than just the traditional far/reading distances. They’re also UV sensitive so I don’t need to bother carrying separate sunglasses around. Anyway, the point is that they were far from cheap (almost twice the cost of my first car, if memory serves) and I was very loathe to replace them if a repair could be had.

Sensing that there was little to no chance that I was going to be persuaded to buy some new frames/lenses, the guy in Costco suggested I try a repair shop all the way out in Burnaby. Though a genuine attempt at being helpful, I didn’t really expect to be anywhere near Burnaby in the foreseeable future and filed the offered business card away. Yesterday however saw me hiking up near Squamish and finishing sufficiently early in the afternoon to be able to detour via Burnaby on the way home.

Having first complimented me on my mad taping skills, the receptionist took the glasses out to the back room for the technician to proffer an opinion regarding a permanent remedy. Turns out that they couldn’t fix the plastic nor replace the entire arms. The suggestion was some major mechanical surgery involving laser welding and replacing parts of the frame, adding new hinges and firmware upgrades. OK – maybe not the last one, but the rest was real. Price: $90, but not until Tuesday. Seeing my face drain of colour at the price, I was assured that the $90 included “free” replacement nose pads. That’s those tiny bits of plastic that stop your glasses sliding off your nose. Woop-di-doo!

I said I’d think about it, and beat a hasty retreat for the door. The next customer – an elderly gentleman – had come in to ask for a replacement screw for his own glasses, and I wondered if his credit rating would cover the gold/platinum screw he was about to be offered.

As I drove home, I pondered the issue. $90 was a chunk of change, but still less than 20% of the price of a replacement pair of glasses, given the transition light sensitive material and the progressive lenses. Then the fixer in me woke up and I realised that the only reason I’d been able to affect such a reasonable temporary fix with a small piece of tape was that the break was overlaid by a steel band as part of the aesthetics of the frame design. Plastic and stainless steel were both good candidates for cyanoacrylate adhesive (Super-glue/Krazy glue), so I made a small detour on the way home and paid a whopping $1.25 for a pack of 4 1g tubes of glue at the local dollar store. The damn stuff only lasts a month after you open it anyway, so 4 1g tubes might actually last a bit longer than a single 3g tube which was the same price. I wonder if anyone ever gets to fix more than one thing with a single tube anyway!

So, a Q-tip dipped in methyl hydrate (“meths” in the UK) – which I keep as fuel for my Trangia camping stove – worked well to degrease and generally prepare the plastic and metal; a couple of drops of the glue applied carefully to the broken surfaces and the surrounding metal bar; and finally a clothes peg to apply pressure until it had properly set… and voila!

Of course, not everyone thinks having a clothes peg stuck on the side of your face is a fashionable look, but I think I can carry it off.

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