Linda Gebroe: The Electric Can Opener

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Have you spent a crazy amount of time on things that barely crossed your mind before, just because you have to do something with all that time? Linda Gebroe has.

A year ago, if you had told me I’d be spending half a day researching electric can openers, I would have said you were nuts. Today, I’m afraid I’m the one sporting that title. Recently I spent more than five hours absorbing every detail there was to know about the subject.

Why electric can openers? Because I have arthritis. When using a regular hand-operated opener became too painful for me, I decided it was time to get one with a motor. In normal times, this would have been no big deal. I would have done a quick online search, seen what was available, where it was in stock, and bought it. The whole job would have taken less than an hour.

But these are not normal times. Before the coronavirus struck, I was a busy retiree, seeing friends, volunteering time, getting to the gym, going to ball games and movies and concerts. Now I wake up most days facing a vast landscape of unstructured time. Much of it is spent at home. So where buying an electric can opener was once a minor errand, now it had become a major project, a welcome item in my un-busy day.

I happily spent hours in front of my computer, poring over myriad reviews, taking copious notes, and organizing them into an online table. The manufacturers tempted me with features -- robust magnets to secure the heaviest of cans, side openers that ensured no rough edges on the lid, ergonomic design to bolster user frailty. I managed to resist the lure of can-opening bells and whistles. And in the end I settled on a mid-priced item that does the job just fine.

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However . . . it doesn’t look so great.  While the rest of my appliances are brushed chrome, the can opener is shiny black and appears a bit out of place. Furthermore, the cord hangs out on the counter and I’ve already spilled some tomato juice on it. Other models include a space within them to store the cord.

Is any of this interesting to you? It barely is to me. But for five hours last week, finding an electric can opener was my raison d’etre.

With a Perspective, I’m Linda Gebroe.

Linda Gebroe lives in San Francisco.