"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When Appliances Break Down—A Survivor’s Guide

Go on, life-hit me with your best shot.

I’m studying the synchronicity of household appliances that are failing at the same time. Breakdowns seem to be “my thing” this month and I’m contemplating the downside of inconvenience versus the feeling of freedom from things electrical, followed all to quickly by a heightened sense of appreciation when they're all working again.

My exercise began with a simple change in propane suppliers. The old company charges $85 to drain the tank if it is more than 5% full. Ripoff! It seemed easy to monitor our usage, but since one of the reasons we were changing was because the gauge didn't function, we underestimated. Our tank ran dry on Memorial Day weekend. No stove or hot water heater for three days.  

Days earlier we hired a handyman to do some odd jobs, one of which was to put in a new kitchen sink. He was buttoning the job when he discovered that the new faucet was defective. Since we had to let the sink adhesive season for two days we agreed to a replacement faucet shipped by overnight mail. Overnight became three days without water in the kitchen.

Couple of days later the microwave bid adios in a hale of fire and sparks.

Then the black DIRECT satellite box sent out a stench of singed electrical wire and everything went fuzzy.

A week later the growl in my computer expanded to intermittent freezing and a cacophony of whirls, grunts and agonizing groans. What I thought was a bad fan turned out to be a warning that my hard drive was crashing.

The  following week we were traveling north in our pickup, towing a trailer toward a truck stop with $3.89 diesel a mile ahead when the truck sputtered to a stop. The computer claimed we had forty-five miles of fuel left, but an empty tank was the least serious scenario of our choices. It was and we did, but running out of diesel involved having the system recharged. The AAA tow truck driver couldn't do it, so we had to be loaded onto a tow truck and the trailer towed to the nearest Dodge dealership.

So that’s been my month. I’d like to say it’s been hell, but actually I enjoyed every adventure.
I’ve learned a lot about myself through these trails. Mostly that I like living a slower-paced existence and that change is fun. That conveniences don’t define me or limit me as much as I feared. The primitive woman emerged and is having a great time living with less.    

The lack of a stove and running water gave me some well-deserved days off from the kitchen. We ate out a couple of times, had paper plate picnics with sandwiches and cold cereal. We peeled oranges and listened to the birds singing. I suspect we ate less. One night we drank Margaritas for dinner with guacamole and chips. Thank God the coffee maker still worked.

The missing faucet gave me a chance to appreciate all the things I take for granted. I thought about the women and girls who have to walk three or more miles to the river and risk rape every trip. All I had to do was fill a pot with hot water from the bathtub spout and count my blessings while I washed dishes in my pasta pot. Hand washing settled me.

I’m still without a microwave and happily steaming veggies and boiling water. I use my wok and sing while I cook. I’ve missed the satisfaction of taking my time.  

The replacement satellite box arrived a few days ago and we haven’t hooked it up yet. Who knew that  sunsets happen during my favorite program. That neighbors walk their dogs while I’m tuned to the tube. I’m not saying that I’ll NEVER hook up again, but for now, it’s nice.

The truck debacle allowed me to watch my husband be a hero with reflectors and road flares. We rode in a tow truck like kids, and chatted with the parts guy at the Dodge dealership while his mechanics fixed the truck, added five gallons of diesel and refused any money.

I’ve intended to replace my computer for years. It was given to me nine years ago by a retired geologist from Nevada who had used it for five years. It was time. I unplugged the old soldier and phoned my computer guy and he’s building me a new one.

What I learned this month is to take a deep breath and give thanks when life changes directions. I’m strangely happier and relaxed. Life is better. Go figure. 

What’s  it like when something you depend on breaks?