1.28.2009

Fixing to go crazy

Brewer's First Law of Possessions: The more stuff you own, the more time and money you spend on repairs.

Most purchases -- anything more complicated than, say, food -- eventually will break. Then you're faced with a crash of decision-making and out-of-pocket expenses. Do you replace the item? Do you call a repairman? Do you repair the item yourself? (Hahahaha.)

Cheap goods get thrown out and replaced. But big-ticket items, such as cars, should be fixed, if possible, so you get the most out of your "investment." This makes good financial sense, but it rarely stops there.

Brewer's Second Law of Possessions: If something breaks in your household, several other items will immediately follow suit.

All your stuff is slowly wearing out. It's a long march from the factory to the landfill, and your stuff is trudging along, corroding and eroding and collecting error messages. Your computer sees your toaster fall dead, and decides it can't push on any longer, either. A toilet smells obsolescence in the air, and the plumbing stumbles. Pretty soon, you're up to your neck in repairmen.

Each household object you accumulate moves you farther along the Time/Money Continuum until you reach the point where the slightest ripple -- a broken coffemaker, say, or a transmission leak -- can result in tsunamis of lost hours and cash.

Which brings us to the Ultimate Theorem of Owning Stuff: Eventually, all your money will go to maintaining the things you already have, which means you can't afford to buy any new stuff. This (along with the size of your garage) proves that the Financial Universe is finite.

All these theories were proved recently at my house as we went through one of those spells where everything seemed to go kerflooey at once.

My minivan, a Ford Lemonstar, needed a new power steering unit (again). The house's water heater sprang a leak. The vacuum in our swimming pool decided that it sucks to be a vacuum, so it stubbornly would only roll backward. A lamp switch in the living room stopped switching. A cell phone got confused and would only talk to itself. Computers lost their minds.

People who believe in astrology tell us that such universal mechanical breakdowns occur when the planet Mercury is in "retrograde." (And wouldn't the "Mercury Retrograde" be a good name for a car?) Others attribute such woeful periods to coincidence or bad luck or Job-like trials of faith. I prefer to think that my stuff is conspiring against me; I'm pretty sure I hear appliances whispering together at night.

I spent a month dealing with plumbers and repairmen and auto mechanics and pool equipment dealers and Technical Assistance people in India. Many hundreds of dollars disappeared in the process, and more of my hair turned gray. The accumulated aggravation no doubt took years off my life.

Some people tackle such everyday problems as if they're no big deal. Some actually enjoy fixing things themselves, and wouldn't dream of hiring a repairman every time something goes wrong. But I'm not the handy type, and I don't want to spend every waking moment of every weekend trying to fix stuff. That would cut into the time I devote to watching football on TV.

(Of all the broken stuff I mentioned above, the one thing I was able to fix was the lamp switch. Expect an electrical fire at any time.)

We spent all our money on repairs, which means we don't have any left for new stuff. And that, friends, is what they mean by the "service economy."

2 comments:

Darcie said...

Funny, things usually break in sets of three for us. Maybe you are over the worst!

poodleland said...

At our house ALL working vehicles and appliances will break at the beganing of the year. This is so that we have to use ALL of our tax return to fix them!