It's been used gently over its 24 years. There are just over 170,000 miles on it, and for a Honda of this vintage, there is only negligible rust on it. The interior has some tears in the driver's seat, the door locks, having frozen and then broken during harsh Chicago winters, only operate with the key, and the rear window hatch needs to be propped open with a stick,
For its age and life experience it still gets over 30 miles/gallon around town and would probably do better if I felt the need to take it on the tollway. I don't.
At least twice a year somebody comes up to me in a parking lot, stops at my driveway, or rolls down their window next to me at a stoplight and says, "Hey, man! Interested in selling that?" My answer used to be "no." Now I usually give them a ridiculous number (like $6000.00) and then explain to them that it isn't possible to put a value on this little workhorse that, with regular maintenance and necessary repairs, just keeps doing its job.
This week was one of those "necessary repairs" weeks. The starter went out and left my wife sitting at work. I'm not patient enough to make the repair myself, and don't really know too much how to do it, although I'm sure I could figure it out. Instead, I put my AAA membership to work and had it towed down to my trusted guys at Kellenberger Auto. They expertly took care of the starter and it's back on the road. It will need a clutch soon, too, a more expensive proposition, and that got me to thinking.....
When and how do we decide to keep something or to replace it instead?
Jack and Larry at Kellenberger like to say that, with cars these days, the choice is between a monthly payment or the expenses of fixing an older car on a regular basis. Either way there's cost involved in ownership. Cars have to be one of the most resource-exhausting tools in our lives. Often it comes down to fix or replace.
Sometimes we treat people the same way.
Our culture is becoming a disposable one. Lots of things we purchase these days aren't able to be fixed, or the out-of-pocket cost of fixing them outpaces the cost to replace them. I just threw away my toaster oven and got a new one. When something can't be fixed, or is cheaper to replace than repair, we simply throw it away. I tend to think that manufacturers understand this phenomena, and strategically design items in a way that requires consumers to buy more of their products more often. Cynical, I know, but still....
I see this happening to people, too. When they can't be fixed, or their value seems to be outweighed by the challenges they pose, then we get rid of them. This disposition happens in businesses. It happens in families. It happens in churches.
Another spin on the throw-away approach relates to my Honda Civic. Because sometimes it requires a significant amount of effort to repair (a head gasket, for instance), it would be easy to decide to get rid of it rather than repair it. The time and money required to solve the problem overwhelms us and our reaction is to give up and start over with something new(er). There are days, like when it needs a new head gasket or the original clutch is finally giving out, that I feel exactly this way about my Honda Civic. But I also know that with the proper attention that little engine will run for many more years. I know precisely what I'm dealing with. Oh, and I love that little car.
I see this happening to people, too. When it seems easier to replace than repair the person or the relationship we have with them, we get rid of them. This disposition happens in businesses. It happens in families. It happens in churches.
I recently helped my 18 year old son buy his first car. It's a 2014 version of the Ford Fiesta, a stylish and spunky little car. It, like my Honda Civic, gets great gas mileage and comes with strong ratings. With any luck he'll own it for 24 years. But it did get me thinking. Well, maybe not thinking. More like coveting, desiring the hands-free bluetooth connections, the 1.6L ecoboost engine with 197 horsepower, the racing interior, and sports suspension.
We're often enticed by our desire for something new. Marketers understand this, and prey on it. Our consumer economy counts on it. In order for us to have a growing economy, our desire for the new, even when the old still works, must prevail. While the old may still be good and solid, it does not have the appeal of the new, and so out with the old and in with the new.
I see this happening with people, too. When someone new and more exciting comes along, we are enticed and "phase out" the ones who are already here. This phasing out happens in businesses. It happens in families. It happens in churches.
Our relationship between the old and the new is complex. It's one thing to think of inanimate products, consumer goods if you will, and how we covet, care for, and dispose of them (and these things are important to consider!). It should be something quite different, though, when we think about people and the relationships we invest in.
Unfortunately, it seems that there is "consumer creep" in our approach to people. People become a commodity. They become disposable. We treat them as replaceable. They're not.
I understand that it's complicated. I have cut people out of my life for "good" reasons. I have contemplated throwing away lifelong commitments in favor of "newer and better" opportunities. I have fired people from jobs that I knew they needed.
I'm glad I got my Honda Civic fixed again. Today it will get my wife to work and then to the doctor. This evening it will get me to the grocery story and a meeting. Tonight it will sit familiarly in the driveway next to an under-used 2006 Starcraft pop-up camper and a shiny orange Ford Fiesta ST. The family vehicle, a 2006 Honda Pilot, will rest in the garage.
I'll be glad that you're still here, too.