At 28 years old, I sort of live my life as a silent protest against a world of endless consumption and wastefulness. As I type this, I am watching a television show about a high school group that is performing the musical "Hair". This is a play about peace and love. But between the segments of the program are the typical advertisements that barrage our lives in an attempt to make us feel like what we have now is totally inadequate and our life will only be happy with the addition of the product they are selling. This attitude seems to affect some people more than others, no matter if you are rich or poor. I find this an interesting oxymoron because not only does the musical teach about love and happiness, but the students actually learned how to get along and work well with each other as a team to put on the performance by putting away social status and stereotypes. They found peace and love not in how much stuff they owned, but in the companionship of each other.
In this hectic world though, I guess a person like me is one of big-business's worst nightmare. The reason is quite simple, I just simply don't have the desire to have the latest and greatest thing. I sort of call myself a "bottom feeder" because I pick up things to live with after they have become out of style, become obsolete, or have become victim of planned obsolescence. My house is full of old appliances, electronics, clothing, furniture, and many other things
that have been acquired secondhand. I have very little debt, which I imagine is the way most people can purchace all the excesses they have. As far as the clothing I wear, well, you can see my attitude on clothing choices here!
It is amazing the condition of most products when I pick them up out of the trash, or at a second hand store. Goodwill and the Salvation army thrift stores are a great place to shop for clothing. What were people thinking when they got rid of this stuff that is in such good condition! The same holds true with appliances and stuff I have picked out of trash piles, and have been given in less than perfect condition. Most of this stuff just needs a few simple parts or some routine maintenance to get it back into good working order. I guess part of this stems from the fact that in this fast Ė paced society, most people donít really take the time and effort to learn about a product they are purchasing, what it takes to maintain it, and how to repair minor malfunctions when they occur. Of course, the business model of todayís society is based on replacement, not repair.Hereís some of the latest stuff Iíve picked up that needed only minor repairs:
De-humidifier: cleaned coil that was clogged with dirt, and lubricated motor so fan would spin
Air Conditioner: cleaned coils clogged with dirt, replaced $5 fan switch
Kerosene heater: Needed new wick, and a good cleaning
Television set: Needed adjustments to hi-voltage power supply
Digital audio tape deck (DAT): needed tape head alignment
Chevy Chevette: Needed some new shocks, tires, muffler, and some other minor maintenance parts totaling about $250Pentium computer: no faults found, just old, only a 166Mhz, but good enough for internet browsing & E-mail
See my page on basic appliance repair to see how to repair common failures to the stuff you use everyday!
As I am typing this out, I am using a 10 year old laptop computer that is in pretty rough shape,
but it seems to be performing it's job quite well. The hinge holding the screen up is broken
and I am propping it up against the lamp on my desk. To anybody else, this piece of junk is
ready for the trashcan, but to me, it is just as useful as the day it was new.
Let me look at the total wastefulness of energy that comes in our day to day living and working.
These are things that could save us a fortune with only miniscule changes in our lifestyle. The
other day, I was traveling down the sprawling suburban road called "West Broad Street" in my
hometown. This is main drag though the northern side of town, where all the retail establishments
locate It was late at night, yet I hardly needed the headlamps on my van. The light pouring
out of the parking lots of businesses was enough to film movies with...yet most of the businesses
were closed for the night. One remarkable location I noticed was the K-mart. They had turned
their parking lot lights off. Why these places were lit up so much when nobody was even using
them is beyond my figuring. Many say the lighting is for security purposes, but only a few
lights need to be left on for a passing police officer to see any mischievous activity.
Being proficient with electricity and electronics, I decided to add up some numbers in my head.
The typical sodium-vapor fixture in a parking lot uses a 250 watt lamp. Most light poles have
four lamps to a fixture. I counted 20 poles in the parking lot to one of the big-box retailers
out here. That is 20,000 watts! Around here, we pay about 7 cents per kilowatt hour for
electricity. So these light fixtures, every hour are burning about $1.40 worth of electricity.
Another thing I noticed was the sprinklers were going in many of the small patches of greenery
in front of the buildings and offices. If I remember correctly, it rained about 24 hours ago. I
cannot believe the grass is starving for water that quickly. Now, where is this water coming
from? It is chlorinated, filtered, purified water that is made fit for drinking and cooking.
Otherwise known as "potable" water. Seriously though, I don't think the grass really cares
where it's water comes from. In fact, If you pumped sewage onto it, it may even grow better if
the patrons to the business could stand the smell! My point though is that this water that is
being used to keep this grass green is not only in excess, but it's too nice. It reminds me
that in many third world countries that people are thirsty for safe drinking water, and here we
are using it to throw on our greenery.
Another thing I noticed about the watering of the vegitation was that the sprinkler systems were
in major need of maintaince, and some better engineering. Many of the sprinkler heads were
either broken, or mis-aimed. I don't think that asphalt will grow that much when you spray
water onto it! Many places, multiple sprinkler heads were aimed at the same location, the
ground was saturated at that location, and the water was running off into the gutter.
Okay, now that we are on the subject of commercial landscaping, I want to stray a little bit
off topic, and bring up an important safety issue. For some reason, many businesses like to
plant bushes and low level greenery right at the corners of intersections. Now, I drive a van.
It sits up tall, and has a very short hood, but I still have trouble safely looking around the
corner to check for oncoming traffic. I know owners of sports cars, or other low-riding
vehicles have an even harder time with this issue.