Finding, repairing, and (reluctantly) replacing things

by Kat

duct tape smallerI took my bike to the downtown repair place / coffee shop after noticing that my tire needed to be replaced. I’ve been ignoring the poor thing for a month, hoping it didn’t have a slow leak (as the bike guy had previously said it might after pumping up the tire again). I’ve had my purple bike since I started grad school. I feel like an unfit bike owner sometimes: The poor thing is trying to rust away after being left to fend for itself in numerous rainstorms. Its back fender was held together with purple duct tape after the washer previously holding it together kept falling off. The leather on its seat has cracked from sitting in the sun and is also covered in layers of black duct tape that sort of matches it.

The repair guy helped me get the purple duct tape off the fender and securely fastened the new washer to the web of metal frame outside my tire. I was sadly amused at the effort it took to peel off the tape, which stuck stubbornly to the metal, eventually needing to be cut away from that surface.

I don’t replace things easily. I don’t know if it’s my spendthrift grad student nature (that’s money that could be spent on tea) or my general dislike of change — probably a combination of these factors. I’m happier to use something that mostly works, rather than replace it with something that reminds me how much I miss its predecessor. Even things that are falling apart do so in a predictable manner. A family member passed on their toaster to me after noticing that mine refused to pop up on one side. I found myself asking them to demonstrate the superiority of their toaster before I could part with mine.  We had a toast-off between the models at breakfast that morning. Although the temperature markings had faded from their silvery toaster, it won.

I like secondhand things. When I first moved to my grad student apartment, I was glad I could furnish my apartment mostly with items I’d acquired from family members who’d parted with them (e.g., the white plastic table that sits in my kitchen) or found at local thrift shops. It was a cheap way to create a functional space. I still fondly use the garage sale television that a relative gave me prior to my leaving for grad school, which lacks AV ports since it was made prior to the commonplaceness of DVD players (yay for AV port adapters). I find it fascinating to think about the life of such items before I found them. It reminds me of glancing through the margins of a used book to see what the previous owner was thinking or what they’d found notable. The notes and underlining are a narrative of sorts. Maybe my furniture has stories as well.

Repairing things helps me to be conscious of the things that exist in my life — rather than immediately replacing something, I ask myself if it could be salvaged somehow. I feel a sense of accomplishment when find yet another use for duct tape to piece something back together or mend clothing  using what little sewing skills I have. In doing so, I accept responsibility for maintaining “my little corner of the world” (1).

1. “My Little Corner of the World” by Yo La Tengo — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1whpx9f9XA