21 April 2009

My Nemesis

I was going to call this post “My Enemy” but after thinking about it “My Nemesis” seemed like better choice. The word “nemesis” means “unconquerable opponent or rival” and in Greek mythology Nemesis was the goddess of divine retribution. This fits very well with what I think about the anonymous, cheap, light-weight, portable, waterproof, stackable, washable, polypropylene plastic patio chair with which the entire world has been inundated. These chairs go by the name of “monobloc” and are are stamped out on an enormous press from a two kilogram piece of 3/16” thick polypropylene plastic in one fell swoop about every 60 seconds. They cost only about three dollars each to manufacture and they have become one of the world's most universally accessible, mass-manufactured object. You can find them in every country in the world. Trash dumps and land fills are overflowing with them and millions more are on their way. Why don´t I like them? Because one size does not fit all and I am a fairly big person. Okay, okay, so I will be honest with you. I am fat. It pains me to squeeze my fat rump into a monobloc chair, not to mention the insecurity I feel about the chair collapsing or the sweaty feeling I get in my butt crack from sitting on the hard shiny plastic. Why, oh why, do we put up with this stuff?

The whole thing began with the GM Corvette Stingray. In 1953 they began making the Corvette out of the newfangled fiberglass and they made the fiberglass panels by hand by using fiberglass “cloth” impregnated with a plastic resin and placed over a mold. They only made about three hundred cars the first year and for that the hand layup process wasn't so bad. When they needed to increase production, however, they started looking for an alternative. They found a company in Ohio that was making bread trays for delivery trucks out of fiberglass using matched metal dies into which a chopped fiberglass and resin combination was forced under pressure and they turned to that process for their car bodies. A company named A.O. Smith was the fabricator of Corvette fiberglass bodies under contract to GM from 1953 until 1966. When the contract ended A.O. Smith had this enormous press for making the fiberglass corvette bodies and to keep this press running they turned to other products. One of these products was fiberglass trough hatch covers for use on the new one hundred ton capacity jumbo covered hopper cars that the railroads had begun using to haul grain out of America's heartland. One thing led to another and as the pressure fed matched metal die process improved and newer materials were developed other people began to see a big future in “plastics”. If you remember the movie “The Graduate”, Dustin Hoffman's character (Ben Braddock) was given the tip by an old timer to get into plastics. Do you remember THAT Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft)? How about YOU Elaine (Katharine Ross)?

People began experimenting with extruded plastic matched metal die chairs in the late sixties. The designers fell in love with them because the plastic looked so modern and artsy fartsy. After about a decade of improvements in both materials and designs the moduloc chair began to take over the world. They are manufactured in every part of the globe in places like Russia, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico,the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Turkey, Israel and China. Companies such as Corona beer and Coca Cola began using the chair as a give away to their wholesale customers as promotional items to ensure customer loyalty. So many times I have walked into a small restaurant in Mexico and the only places to sit were on moduloc chairs with the Coca Cola logo. I could never enjoy a meal while squirming around on one of those things and I avoid them like a passion. They are the scourge of the Earth. I'll never forget the day that I flew back to Chicago to visit my parents when I walked out onto their patio and spotted a stack of shiny white moduloc chairs. My Dad said to me, “Hey look at the chairs that I just bought. You can stack them up and you won't believe how cheap they were”. “Oh, no” I thought, “The aliens have come and taken over my Mom and Dad”.


Constantino said...

My experience is that the place we stay at in Mazatlan has them. There they are in the sun all the time and they are not treated for UV designation.
When I lean back it has been common to snap some of the back ribs or a leg now and then. The only positive thing is that they are better than the predecessor....you do remember those? They were the wire mesh chair that were made in China , the ones that the plastic came off after one season immediately preceding the legs rusting.....but they were cheap about $4.99 a chair....

glorv1 said...

These chairs are very dangerous. I have had 2 collapse and nearly hurt my back and my brother went to sit on one and it just collapsed and h e went to the floor. He was okay. Guess what though, I still have them in my garden. ??? Take care.

YayaOrchid said...

I only have them cause they're cheap, and cheap to replace. :)

I wish I had only fancy wrought iron chairs, but those are expensive.

Calypso said...

Great info Bob - Yes I remember Mrs. Robinson and the plastic advice.

We have three of those type chairs also because they are cheap and stackable. Two are broken at the seat from standing on them - talk about dangerous - they do not make good height boosters.

But, if you come here we have some wooden chairs and even a bench to accommodate the wider playing field.

So please don't scratch us off your visiting list because of plastic chairs.

Bob Mrotek said...

My apologies to everyone who happens to have molded plastic chairs. I certainly didn't mean to offend anyone. It's just that personally I would rather sit on an upturned five gallon (19 liter) bucket. Calypso, I certainly hope to visit you someday to learn how to make really good coffee. I am afraid of what your neighbors might think though. When they see me coming the will probably say, "Oh no, there goes the neighborhood" :)

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.