How Long Will This Last?

I don’t know about you, but I ask myself this question a lot. It’s usually as I’m anxiously awaiting something: the end of a congested crawl through the Lincoln Tunnel in a minivan with no air conditioning, the words “you’re all done” signaling it’s finally time to slide out of the MRI tunnel or the unwrapping of an 8 oz, 62% dark chocolate cocoa bar with little nubs of crunchy raspberry scattered throughout the creaminess.   

Today I’m not nervous, I’m just asking “how long will this last?” about two things. 

  • 5,000 staples 

My husband bought a stapler and a box of 5,000 staples in August of 1986 and took both things to college. I know he used them frequently when he stapled together term papers he wrote for a Marriage and Family class and maps of constellations he created in an astrology class, but that barely put a dent in the supply. 

So, when we got married in June of 1990, he brought the stapler and box of staples with him. Back then, I predicted we would run out of staples in 18 years. I used a lot of staples during that time AND in 2008 we had just emerged from an intense preschool “crafting” era with our three kids. They liked to create works of art by stapling together two pages of brightly colored construction paper, ripping that into 1,000 pieces, and then stapling the whole thing back together to create a beautiful, crumbling metal and paper mosaic. Yet at the start of year 19, we still had staples.

My next guess was that 5,000 staples would last a full 22 years. Every day in those four intervening years, our junior high-and high school-aged kids stapled together several pages of math and French worksheets, field trip permission slips, and quizzes peppered with a match-the-sexually-transmitted-disease-to-its-symptoms game. Surprisingly, that didn’t use the rest of the staples. 

Then, in July of 2019, I cut out the front of nine of my daughter’s old concert t-shirts and stapled them onto nine different 12 X 12-inch square canvases and used the last staple. I finally know how long 5,000 staples last: 33 years, 11 months and a few days, give or take.

  • An LED alarm clock-radio

My husband received this 6 X 8-inch metal rectangle with faux wood paneling and red LED lights as a gift in 1987, and it has been glowing ever since he plugged it into an outlet in his college dorm room. I predicted that alarm clock would never survive living with six guys for four years, especially when the engineers-in-training rewired the room to their specifications and altered the electrical supply. But it did, and he brought the clock with him when we got married.  

Every time we moved from apartment to apartment or house to house, that clock came with us. It taunted me when I glanced at it in the middle of the night without my -6.5 diopter glasses on – all I saw, instead of segmented numbers, were three red, blurry globs. I know I dropped that clock with each move, yet it continued to last.    

When the power goes out, that clock powers right through and instead of blowing a circuit, it simply starts to blink “12:00.” It’s possible to reset the time by holding down two buttons and looking for the tiny red dot that indicates AM or PM.  But I can never remember if the red dot “on” means it’s AM or PM or if the red dot “off” means it’s AM or PM, so even when the power comes back on, I have no idea if it’s morning or night. And when a 6 AM alarm beeps continuously through our 6 PM dinner, everyone asks, “How long will this last?”

This alarm clock also has AM/FM radio capabilities and over the years I have tuned into local FM stations to listen to music. My husband tends to tune into and set the alarm to AM talk stations. When I wake up to loud voices and yet another wrap-up of Monday Night Football, I find myself wishing that alarm clock-radio would just give out. 

But after 32 years, those little red numbers refuse to dim, the “wood” refuses to fade, and the sound quality is still pretty good. I can’t say for sure, but I have to assume that this LED alarm clock-radio will, unfortunately, last an eternity. 

P.S. I figured out how to add email to my site! If you have something in your life that you wonder “How Long Will This Last?”, I’d love to hear about it! Please send a short description to me at and I will put some of your answers in an upcoming blog post. If you have a picture, please include that, too.

Have a great weekend, Lisa

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