I’m an ardent supporter of the old adage “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.” Not sure why but that’s always made sense to me. Perhaps it was observing my grandfather, who was brought up during the Great Depression. He kept everything and used it until it couldn’t be used again, then he’d try and find another use for it before eventually, reluctantly, discarding it. And by “discarding it” I mean he stored it in his garage/workshop.
I take a good deal of pride and satisfaction in making something last. I’ve written before of a beloved twelve year old polo shirt, that I still have by the way, and my attachment to it. The old worn out belt I’m wearing right now is nearly as old and I’ve had my Costanza-sized wallet since the mid 90’s (a gift from my grandpa).
Last night I saved a toaster that we got as a wedding present from a diabolically placed Lego. Some of you may say, ‘Hey, 10 years is a good life for a toaster and you could get a new one for under $20.’ And you’d be right but that’s not the point. That toaster still has some life in it. With a little TLC I’d love to squeeze another ten years out of it.
I wear socks and pants until they get holes in them and then try to conceal those holes as long as I can so my wife doesn’t throw them out. This practice my grandfather would not approve of. I remember as a child staying at his house, in Sun City, for the summer and having an argument over a holey football jersey that he didn’t want me to wear any more. In a battle of wills two stubborn cusses dug in our heels and I ended up spending the remainder of the summer at my grandma’s apartment in Glendale. But I digress.
On the surface, to most people, this would seem like a virtue and I’ve long viewed it that way. However, there is a dark side to this game that borders on the unhealthy. Deep in the murky recesses of my mind this need to stretch the usefulness of things meets with my cheapness and my aversion to change and an unnatural connection is welded by my fear of becoming old and useless. I feel a bond to an inanimate object and forge an imaginary relationship that exists only in my head. I’ve tried to deny it, to hide it, but it’s there; ever-present, lurking in the shadows.
With something as simple as a toothbrush I feel a kinship entirely of my own making; a sense of loyalty and gratitude born not of logic or reason but of madness. My wife cavalierly tosses her toothbrush in the trash and opens up a new one without a second thought, almost as if she’s glad to be rid of it. My toothbrush has served me well for the past several months and to me that should be honored and regarded with a bit more ceremony and reflection when its time is done.
It doesn’t end with toasters and toothbrushes either; I mourn the unexpected premature passing of a tool, a t-shirt, a cup, really anything I use or wear. Several years ago my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo threw a rod and died because I overloaded it on a youth trip and was trying to climb a mountain when it was past due for an oil change. To this day the sight of a grey ’99 Rodeo saddens me.
I know I shouldn’t care this deeply. I’ve been told it’s wrong to feel the way I do but I can’t stop. I’ve tried. I’ve flipped an old “useless” pen in the trash with a smug nod and a grunt, only to turn the corner and pay silent homage in my mind to my old trusted recently parted companion.
No longer will I apologize for this. No longer will I hide my old mission backpack in the back of the closet, banished, sun faded and threadbare; it hung from my shoulders for two years and carried school books and church manuals long after. There is no shame in being well used and it’s time that my old friend returned to the marvelous light of day and felt valued and appreciated again. Something that feels this right can’t be wrong.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m having a small intimate service today for sleeping pad who met its untimely demise in a thicket at the bottom of Tonto Gorge. You will be missed mi amigo, you will be remembered.