It begins to feel as though I am running a nursing home for inanimate objects. I’m surrounded by aging, temperamental appliances, technology, and vehicles. These geriatrics wheeze, whine, groan, and have an idiosyncratic assortment of inexplicable preferences and tics.
My work truck was one of the first to show its kinks and wrinkles. I think of it as a grumpy, old man. Large, white, and unwieldy even in its prime, it is not aging gracefully. It complains querulously at every intersection, groaning its way around turns, whining strangely in low gear. “Back off,” it tells the sporty young hybrid behind us. “I’ll get there when I get there; got sciatica, you know. Got a pain in my joints.” It doesn’t, of course. Once it gets moving, limbers up, it roars along just as it always has done. However, it has become incontinent. The oil leak that has been “fixed” three or four times still leaves a rainbow film on the top of puddles, and a less iridescent black excremental ooze on gravel. Do they make Depends for F-250s?
Our personal pickup is only slightly more sprightly. Outwardly, it is considerably more cracked and shriveled. The left rear tail light and panel sport an ugly scar from a run-in with one of those careless kids. Obviously the truck has overdone the sunbathing in its youth; that would explain the cracks lining its face. Its back needs waxing, too. Green back hair has sprouted in the bed from improperly exfoliated follicles clogged with hay residue.
The Expedition is an attention-seeking old biddy. She’s let herself go a bit, she sags at the running boards, has neglected the moisturizer. But, she could get along just fine if she would just pull herself together. She has developed a door paranoia. “Door ajar! You left my door open; can’t you feel the draft?” She screams this at us every time the key is turned in her ignition. At first, we fell for her ploy. We tended gently to her, coddling her every whim, walking around and around her, opening and closing doors and windows solicitously. No. She just wanted the attention. She also likes to play with the door locks if she feels neglected. Parked, turned off, keys out of the ignition, she will randomly lock and unlock the doors as she sees fit. We’ve learned not to leave the keys on the seat.
The Expedition has another fun trick. While her overall health is fine, she will develop a crisis whenever it is least convenient – blowing a fuel hose on I-5, in the rain, before school; flat tire the day before a trip for a family wedding in Yosemite, necessitating an off-budget replacement of all four tires. She’s like that; she saves her medical crises for the moment that will garner the most attention.
The house at least has an excuse. At nearly a century old, it can be forgiven a tendency toward decay and frequent replacement of parts. But, does it really need to have a major surgery every year? If the kitchen is the heart of the home, our house definitely has some cardiac issues. The trouble began with the refrigerator; it failed in our first year. This wasn’t really a surprise, but the funds for replacement had been earmarked for cosmetic repair – you know, a nip here, tuck there, a little lift, some paint and fixtures.
The dishwasher succumbed the year after the fridge; arrhythmia, valvular degeneration, who knows? The cascade was firmly set in place. Water heater – check. Heating and air unit – yep, that too. The paint job wasn’t really a surprise; when we accepted stewardship of the house, we knew that was coming. The outside walls had some troubling patches of alopecia, and hyperkeratotic scaling that looked pre-cancerous. We are currently ignoring the fact that the lesions may be recurring.
The fire has gone out in the house’s belly; literally – the oven no longer bakes. And, the pipes are showing signs of severe plaque and arteriosclerosis. A major bypass is indicated, but the insurance doesn’t cover the procedure.
Even the laptop on which I type tics and twitches and shows signs of dementia. It can’t remember how to find a wireless signal unless it is walked through the same steps an indeterminate number of times. “Oh,” it says. “That’s what you wanted. I don’t understand why you didn’t just tell me. Just speak more clearly.” Today it forgot my name and tried to access my husband’s internet account from my desktop. I visit every day, and it can’t remember who I am. I tried airing it out, cleaning its closets, helping it get rid of the unnecessary clutter. It didn’t help. The hard drive can move through the hallway more easily without all the piled up boxes, but I think it’s mad that I threw out some of its horded programs.
Sometimes the computer sulks. Locks up entirely, sitting sullenly in its chair. “Don’t rush me. You always rush me. I don’t feel like going out. Too hot out there. I’m cold. Get me a blanket. You don’t need that window anyway. In my day we made do with just one window, and we were lucky if we got that. Go away. You don’t appreciate me anyhow.” At that point, all I can do is put it down for a nap and hope it wakes up in a better mood.
I wonder what would happen if I brought home a puppy…