Point of no re­turn

The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Siob­han Con­nally is a writer and pho­tog­ra­pher liv­ing in the Hud­son Val­ley. Her col­umn about fam­ily life ap­pears weekly in print and on­line.

Some gifts re­ally are a bother.

The gift of si­lence, for in­stance. It could be the ab­sence of sound, or it could be the im­po­si­tion of soli­tude de­pend­ing on how you think about it and how much you want to share that thought aloud.

How­ever we feel about ear­buds, my daugh­ter had left hers on the din­ing room ta­ble where the cat had found them, and toyed with them un­til they were dead.

An­other mother may have scolded her daugh­ter and told her to be more care­ful with her things. Made her dig into her piggy bank to fund the re­place­ment.

I had, on the other hand, just picked up an­other pair on im­pulse at the check­out. Gift horse, meet mouth. Which, a few days later twists into a bow as she un­plugs one ear and holds one of two teth­ered ear­buds inches from my face.

“Lis­ten to this,” she says with a hiss.

I don’t know what to ex­pect as I take the of­fer­ing ten­ta­tively. Not sure how close I should po­si­tion the de­vice next to my ear, how loud the vol­ume will be, or what f la­vor of mu­sic my daugh­ter will in­tro­duce.

She lis­tens to all kinds. Just like her brother ... And their fa­ther ... And, let’s face it, my­self. Truth be told, I rarely find fault with the mu­sic she loves, though I’m not ex­actly keep­ing up with the times. My over­all im- pres­sion has been that the an­thems of her youth are ex­po­nen­tially more up­beat than the an­thems of mine. Though I can’t quite say that the bulk of her songs are sugar sweet. Es­pe­cially when they try to har­mo­nize with the songs that seep out from the dark, musky-smelling sweat- sock lair that is my son’s bed­room.

Of course, I don’t know for sure be­cause I have en­forced an ear-buds rule for du­el­ing sound sys­tems. The ca­coph­ony can be crazy mak­ing.

Which is what I’m gear­ing up for as I take a lis­ten.

But what comes out of the ear­bud isn’t mu­sic at all. It’s the sound of metal scratch­ing stone or static in­ter­rupt­ing more static.

“Did the cat get them again!?”

“No ... that is just the sound one half of a $7 set of earphones makes three days af­ter you buy them.”

In case you were won­der­ing ... she didn’t say this with mal­ice. She said it with the same ex­as­per­a­tion I would have used had she bought them for her­self. Know­ing full and well that a $20 set may have fared no bet­ter.

Of course, I know that the part of her that is ap­pre­cia­tive of the act of re­place­ment would NEVER com­plain about the amount spent on said re­place­ment. Nev­er­the­less, that part of her state­ment con­nected to the part in me that tells me I am guilty of al­ways try­ing to save a buck by throw­ing away six.

Be­cause ... let’s face it, the like­li­hood of me re­turn­ing the cheap and faulty ear­buds di­min­ishes by thirds with each pass­ing mo­ment, un­til the mo­ment when I re­al­ize I’ve al­ready dis­posed of the pack­ag­ing, and then the like­li­hood of re­turn evap­o­rates al­to­gether.

It’s not as if mar­keters don’t know the op­ti­mal price points for the point of no re­turn.

It’s kind of why we should all be look­ing gift horses in the mouths.

Siob­han Con­nally

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