When Bevie was driving to work the other morning, her car went over a bump, and one of the windows dropped open about five inches. After she had arrived at work, she was able to slowly nurse the window back in place, but on the way home, it dropped back down again. Repeated efforts to get the window to stay up failed, and she was finally forced to leave the car at the car place where she gets work done on the car. Possibly a gear broke, or a seal went bad, or a widget got out of place, but as usual, the dealership had a quick, easy solution: for $239 they wanted to replace the motor that ran the window up and down.
I am familiar with issues with electric windows: my last two cars both had the driver’s side window lock in place and refuse to come back down. Each time I asked about repairing the window I was told that the only thing they could do was replace the motor (usually at the cost of $249 or so). With the first car I suggested that they simply swap out the motor in the driver side window with the motor in the passenger side door, but they assured me that you could not swap out a right-hand door and left-hand door motor because they were different. For years I simply drove around with the driver’s window permanently rolled up, carefully opening the door at drive-through windows.
Over time, we seem to have built up the mentality that it’s easier or more convenient or cheaper to replace things rather than try to repair them. When I was driving around in my Volkswagen beetle in the sixties I didn’t need anything but a simple screwdriver to replace a burned-out light in the headlight, but not anymore. I’m baffled by the strange pieces of hardware that hold things in place and can’t seem to figure out how to even remove the headlight, let alone replace either the headlight or the burned-out bulb. To quote Zork, I have neither the tools nor the expertise.
Some of that seems to be a result of the computerization of things. Most new cars have an endless supply of hidden computer chips that regulate and control the car. We all know you can’t fix a computer chip, you have to replace it.
Your toaster not working to cook all the slices? There’s really no way to replace the broken coil, you throw the toaster away and replace it with a new one.
Many times in the past I wore through the sole of a shoe, and I can remember going to a cobbler – not the kind you eat, somebody who could actually repair shoes. Do such people even exist anymore?
If your computer starts misbehaving, you probably can’t fix the registry or update the right drivers all by yourself – it’s easier to back up any files you want to keep and reinstall the operating system (or replace it with the newest version). That hasn’t worked too well for me, I still can’t play CDs on either of the computers that Windows 10 was installed on.
Perhaps the most blatant example of replacement winning out over repairs is silverware and dishes. Bevie now stocks paper plates, plastic cups, and plastic utensils in the kitchen. Our dishwasher hasn’t been used in at least a few years, so we throw away our plates and forks and spoons after each meal and replace them the next days with clean ones. Washing metal utensils must be too much like making repairs to be an option anymore.
At first blush this doesn’t seem like a real problem: if things are designed to be cheaply replaced, it shouldn’t be necessary to deal with repairs. Unfortunately, replacement at times seems too much like a trick to make upkeep more expensive.
Even worse, it may be that we have built a mindset that doesn’t even consider repairs anymore. Not convinced? Wouldn’t it make more sense to repair the problems with Obamacare than to discard (repeal) and replace it? Not in Washington!
The Bee Gees are probably best remembered for their string of disco-related hits in the late 70s, but they really had three careers. The group had a few local hits and television appearances in Austrailia when they were barely teenagers, then moved to England. When their first big single came out (New York Mining Disaster, 1941) rumors swirled around in the US that it was the Beatles in disguise, but we quickly learned it was the Brothers Gibb and a pair of friends. A string of hits continue for a few years, and then battles over which songs would be the singles broke up the group. They reformed in 1971 and had a few hits again, and then struggled until the Disco years turned them into mega stars. Here they are with a number one song from their middle career, trying to repair a broken heart.