Tuesday, March 1, 2016

It’s Broke, Don’t Fix It

Stuff breaks. But when money’s tight, how do you fix it?

My VCR broke about six months ago. I haven’t missed it one bit. After all, tape is dead. Then there’s my air-conditioning. I’ve been told for years it needs to be replaced. However, now that summer’s over, I can just wait on that one.

It’s not so bad when you have stuff that doesn’t break all the way. You can still use it, even if it’s not performing optimally. In the meantime, you ignore the problem until you have cash for the repair.

I’ve got leaking faucets in my house, a screeching dryer, cordless phone batteries that last maybe 10 minutes, an old computer that’s got broken keys and runs as fast as dial-up Internet. I’m not bragging. I simply don’t have funds to get it all back in working order, and the list of broken stuff is adding up.

The other day I tried to get into my house and the handle finally gave up. That’s when it hit me: Eventually, I thought, all this stuff that’s halfway broken is gonna break all the way -- all at the same time.  

I couldn’t take a chance on that happening. But when money’s tight, how do you fix it?

I have that workbench out in the garage, I thought. And that tool box with all those tools. And I have a parts cabinet full of all those parts. I have everything I need to fix everything that’s broken.

I thought about fixing that leaking faucet, the one that spills water from the handle all over the kitchen counter. That was a simple fix -- a cheap rubber washer. A few cents.

Then I remembered the bathroom sink I “fixed” a few years back. The parts were so old and dry that when I took it apart to simply replace one of those cheap rubber washers, the whole mechanism crumbled in my hands. I had to buy a whole new faucet. Not cheap.

Then there was the time I tried to fix an electrical problem. I opened up one of the outlets and, before I knew it, I didn’t know what the heck I was doing. When I called home warranty to fix the problem (an easy $50 cost), not only did they charge me the $50 to come out and solve the problem, but they charged me full price for the repair because I’d previously tampered with the wires in the wall.

Making matters worse was the fact that, after seeing what the electrician did, I could’ve easily finished the job. I’d just given up too fast.

I won’t give up anymore, I told myself. I’ll fix everything. You’ll see.

But what about my dying computer? And the air conditioner that needed replacement? Those were unavoidable hefty costs. I couldn’t even afford to buy new cordless phone batteries.

I thought about the stuff I could fix myself: I’ll need the right tools. I’ll no doubt have to buy new ones. And what if I break the tools I do have, which always happens? I’ll have to replace those. Not cheap.

And then all that driving back and forth between home and the hardware store, and Google searches necessary to learn how to fix everything, my slow computer making matters worse. I’d get mad, impatient. My wife would wonder why it looks like someone threw a screwdriver through the wall.

I was right back where I started, leaving everything as is until it all breaks at the same time.

If it wasn’t for that stupid door breaking, I thought, I never would’ve gotten so worked up.

And that’s when it hit me: All I really have to fix is the door handle.

My wife and son were on the porch still waiting for me to get them into the house. My plan: bust my way in. Call home warranty.

Our door handle mounts in two places -- it’s not the simple, affordable doorknob. A decent replacement handle (one that wouldn’t break in a year) was about $120. But when money’s tight, there’s home warranty. HW would replace the whole handle for $50.

Still, 50 bucks was steep for me. Heck, I have burned-out light bulbs that went dark last Christmas. But two 20s and a 10 were doable considering the importance of the job.

I banged on the door handle, yanked at it, threw my 165 pounds into it, hoping it’d break all the more. I just needed in. This time I wasn’t giving up. I kept slamming into that handle until the door flew open. Then I dug up my home warranty contract number, called the office and stated my case.

Yes! I thought. The world is such a better place with home warranty.

Someone was coming to replace my entire door handle within the hour. For only $50!

But first I had to make my regular $200 home warranty payment. Only then would they come out.

-October 2013

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