At 52, I thought Id pretty much dodged the classic symptoms of midlife crisis. I can see clearly that I have fewer probably much fewer years to go than Ive gone, but have not felt compelled to leave my wife, change careers or buy a red convertible, a faster motorcycle or a boat.
But I would like to get myself something new and thats made me realize becoming a geezer has some special consequences for those of us who take maintenance seriously. All my stuff is now also well past middle age, but its still working and I cant come up with a good reason to add or replace anything. It has me wondering if buying quality, taking care of it properly and repairing rather than replacing really is the most rewarding strategy.
It started a few weeks back when my car quit running. This was the second time its stranded me in 15 years and 210,000 miles. The first time (July 2001, 116,000 miles) the coil quit making a spark. This time, it was also the coil, and I missed an important appointment. When I explained what happened, the fellow questioned my judgment for relying on such a high-mileage car. I started to think he could be right the beast is old and rusting, and maybe I should just replace it. Then I realized its the newest vehicle we own, it runs great and it gets more than 30 mpg. Im about to go ahead and order the parts for its third cam belt change, and while Im at it Ill replace the weeping crankshaft seal on that end. Maybe Ill buy a spare coil and toss it in the glove box.
I bought my riding mower used in 199[?] and even then, it was old enough to cause the guys at the counter to roll their eyes when I came in to order parts. The tires have been almost worn out since the day I got it, it blows a little oil smoke, and Ive had my eye on a particular new model for years. But its been no problem to feed it the occasional belts, bearings and brake shoes, so thats what it gets, and thats what Ive got. It has a single 30-in. blade and this weekend I noticed it isnt cutting very evenly. For the umpteenth time, I imagined how the double blades on my dream machine would do a much better job. Then I remembered its time to sharpen the blade.
Our dishwasher was the apple of Consumer Reports eye when we bought it in 1992. The electronic display lost a few segments about the time the warranty ran out and Ive had to re-solder relay connections in the circuit board on two separate occasions, but its always done the dishes, so when the racks started rusting I suggested to my wife we spend the $300 they charge for new ones. She said no, the rusty racks didnt matter to her, so I started to look for an excuse to replace the whole machine. I thought I had one when it sprung a water leak, but that turned out to be a rust hole in the tub, and epoxy and a screw put it back in business, probably for at least another year.
The list goes on and on, but you get the picture. If your plant is anything like the one I used to work in, Im sure there are plenty of examples of good, old machines and battered but working tools, and perhaps more than a few time-worn practices and procedures that you might be wise to consider discarding for something more appropriate to the 21st century.
Its true that with proper care, good equipment can be made to last a long time, and the more familiar you become with it, the easier it is to anticipate problems, diagnose failures and make repairs. But new equipment may be faster, safer and more efficient, and its fun, too. If youre good at keeping old stuff running, how do you decide when to replace it?
Darned if I know, but at my age, its clear that if I dont buy some new stuff pretty soon, Ill never get my money out of it.
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