Several of my best friends are inanimate objects: the washing machine, the sewing machine, the car.
These jeweled products of the Industrial Revolution do what friends do: they’re close by; they pitch in and help; they make the day go better; and when they break down, I do my part and make sure they get the assistance they need. Admittedly, I have never called an outside source to cart my human friends off to a dumping location while another friend takes their place in the laundry room, but one can only take this metaphor so far.
Both of our cars — acquired used for good prices from the lot — are Silver Dull, and I have always dreamed of owning a hot, sultry, expressively sexy red vehicle. The washing machine is white — boring boring boring — and I covet a ruby-red model (what is this with red?) with a giant front piece through which I could watch the clothes tumble.
(Incidentally, is there anyone out there who actually watches their clothes shiver and shake their way to clean in the washing machine? Anyone other than me, that is? I find the movement and gentle noise fascinating, with one scarlet sock trembling at the surface before diving down into the depths, then resurfacing, 20 seconds later, a few degrees to the right of where it descended. If this is a strangely psychological quirk, then why do manufacturers make washing machines with picture windows?)
Do I need a hobby?
My sewing machine is white too, and it would greatly benefit from being — what else? — hot flaming fire engine RED.
So why not buy the red appliances, lady?
I am the product of Depression Era parents, whose combined genetic code of frugality fills every available micron of cellular space, and I could no more exchange a perfectly fine working, yet yawningly prosaic washing machine for the new model than I could feed a roasted rump roast, sliced with gravy, to the dog.
College Girl called the other day on a new phone because the old one — 8 months old — had died. (“It lasted a long time,” TechnoClerk told her. “A cheap $50 phone doesn’t work so good.”) I recoil as much at the clerk’s calling a $50 phone cheap as I do his abysmal grammar.
“It’s last year’s model,” College Girl explained, “so it cost less. Some people think I’m behind the times, but it’s all I can afford.”
Personally, I find it difficult to find anything out of date about a hand-held device that connects, via cellular towers, the voices of two people 350 miles apart. If the phone is still working — and apparently according to TechnoClerk there is no surety about this — then why toss it away for a newer model?
We all enjoy fun, new things, but we also have serious, inflexible budgets, and perhaps it makes sense to curb our tendency to design upgrade everything from the filing cabinet to the Marguerita blender. Not everything in our life has to match or, more importantly, be the color red, and frequently, a tool continuing to adequately do the job for which it is designed is reason enough to not buy a new one.
My parents have this — what else? — white refrigerator that, in my childhood, held little bowls of plastic-covered pudding for after school snacks. Thirty-seven years ago I was 10 and deciding between lemon and butterscotch, and 37 years ago, my parents’ refrigerator had been around for a while. It runs better than my — white — five-year-old model. My mother does not care that her refrigerator is not red. She cares that there is enough money to put food in it.
This is how Depression Era people think, and this is one of the main reasons that they made it through the Depression in the first place.
Use it up, make it do, or do without.
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Both say basically the same thing, but the first is a gritty reminder that life is not always about abundance, while the second is more of a preaching poster plea from people who have too much to people who buy too much admonishing them not to use up too much.
I prefer the homey wisdom of my Grandpa Bob: “You can talk yourself into anything, and you can talk yourself out of anything.”