C. tells me she is taking her laptop in to be serviced “as its sooooo SLOW”. Reconditioned, she calls it, then, as a quick aside, she adds, “maybe they ought to take me in too, to be reconditioned.” Now there’s a thought. When I was growing up, everything was ‘reconditioned’ with a lick-and-a-spit and a replacement of a this-and-a-that. Back then, first approach – often only approach – to something that had broken was not to replace it, but to fix it: change the timing belt, replace the seal on the washing drum, salvage an element for the cooker – although, for the longest time, I’m sure we had a cooker with only three functioning elements, but then again, who has four pots on the go at any one time?
It’s trendy to talk about built-in obsolescence, to believe that manufacturers allow for purposely frail designs so that we will spend more and replace regularly. But I like to think most things can be repaired if you can only find the right person, he or she with fixing fingers and/or the correct hoard of old parts to hand. The sheen of new things wears off so very quickly, but the joy of having something old restored to working order is wonderful – old shoes soled and polished up, the fraying strap of a favourite leather bag re-stitched.
My car mechanic told me the other week that the leaky valve in my tyre is something manufacturers ought to be able to resolve at production line stage but choose not to. It was his opinion they deliberately seed this problem-in-waiting so that after a given number of years (for me it has been nine), in you go and fork out to have the leaky valve sorted. I don’t mind, I expect to get the car (and other things) seen to more often the older it gets. I know the basic rule of life that all lightbulbs in the house will go at once. I know that one of these days I’ll get fed up with my toilet’s faulty flush and get a man in to fix it. I know that life is a long conveyor belt of reconditioning and that the ultimate item for in built-in obsolescence is us. We are definitely going to wear out, even if – like my friend C – we plan for or even follow through on occasional self-reconditioning. Yours might be the external reconditioning rendered by the beauty parlour which only gets you so far as they buff you to a high shine without opening the bonnet. Nicely shaped eyebrows don’t add longevity (to the best of my knowledge). A step up from that, is the physical reconditioning of diet, exercise, fresh air, more sleep. But the hard core, high level reconditioning is the spiritual – the ashram, retreat, meditation, where you ping your own bonnet and have you look inside at the tangle in there, straighten it out somewhat and come to terms with the fact that there will come a time when we can no longer be reconditioned, and we’ll be recycled. In the meantime, I’m getting my hair done tomorrow. Yeah!