Sometimes I frighten my wife.
"All I need is a stereo, sufficient cash flow for a steady stream of Kraft Dinner, a bike and a one-room apartment the size of our garage reasonably close to a good library."
When I say it, I mean it, although I generally regret not including my sailboat, which I love, and which would of course destroy the drama of the point I am trying make about the growing complexity of our lives.
And when I say “stereo,” I really mean my Bose wraparound headphones.
They are incredible. I’ve had them more than 10 years.
The wire on the right-ear speaker frayed last week and my world came crashing down.
I couldn’t believe it. Nothing ever happened to my Bose headphones.
I’ve walked with them in the summer rain, biked with them dangerously on city streets, placed
them on the outside of my toque for walks in snowstorms, disappeared into a movie on Air Canada with them, plugged them into various gadgets (Walkmans and computers and disk things) over the years and they have never let me down.
Yes, I am the old person in the picture next to my name.
The other day, I got on my bike with my Bose headphones in my packsack, not on my head.
I was on my way to one of the best music stores in Canada. I arrived with high expectations. I wanted my headphones fixed and I wantedthem fixed quickly. In fact, before I got there, I thought I might be able to wait while they fixed them the same way we can drive in and have themchange the oil in your car.
I hauled out my beloved headphones, identified the frayed wire and asked the nice man wearing the golf shirt that said SERVICE on it to have it fixed.
Without so much as a preparatory word of condolence, he said, “We can't fix them.”
"You must be kidding; it is only a frayed wire," I said.
"We can't fix them," he said, and he started writing a phone number on a piece of paper.
My blood ran cold. "Jesus, you are not sending me to a call centre in upstate New York or Moncton, are you?”
"Sir, the company does not allow us to fix their products. Do you want the number or not?"
I was angry. First, that he didn’t care; second, that I had failed to fix them myself; third, that he couldn’t fix them; and finally, the absolute dread of the valley of death that lay in front of me.
As I left the service desk (I use the term loosely) and walked by the Bose display, I stopped and stared. There they were: a new pair at $169 before HST. I ogled them, contemplating the obvious. Should I take the wasteful, profligate, spendthrift, extravagant, gutless, cowardly, spiritless, shortcut of just buying the new ones, forever compromising the high ground with my daughter on some future consumer-related debate onwastefulness and the utter depravity of our consumer society, or should I persevere with the help desk?
I’ll spare you the byplay. I called from my cellphone in the mall. The deal was this: “Sir, if you send me your headphones, I’ll send you new ones for $60.” Then he revised his offer to $75 when he got my postalcode and realized I was Canadian. I exploded and he demurred and returned to $60. I will mail my beloved headphones out on Monday,never to hear them again.
My father-in-law is a beekeeper. I know he could figure out how to fix the headphones; he fixes everything else on his farm with a little help from Canadian Tire. I know my friend the lobster fisherman downthe road from my cottage in Nova Scotia could figure out how to fixthem because he can’t and won’t pay the tariff of obsolescence I just agreed to. They don't join the Green Party; they just fix stuff becausethat is how they were raised and how they live.
Many of the rest of us are disconnected from the cause and effect, the accountability, the patience and the discipline it takes to live a more sustainable life at a slower speed.
We acquiesce to what is easy and quick. We are slaves to technology -- from trawlers that destroy our fisheries to cellphones that risk a cancer epidemic -- not masters.
I walk into a store with ridiculous expectations of instant gratification and they meet my demands by creating an absurd, quick and wasteful supply chain.
As I write, it is summer, it is hot, and I fear I will get over my little tantrum.