December 7, 2019

What Will We Have Left to Salvage?

By John F. Chisholm •

My daughter and I cleaned, lubricated and rebuilt her bicycles yesterday.

They’re both older machines ― very nice bikes but dated all the same.  Four years of graduate school were not kind to them. So between changing the tires, cleaning and repacking the bearings, disassembling, oiling and reassembling the derailleurs, doing the same for the chains and brakes, it was an all-day occupation.  When finished, we polished and waxed the frames.

The weather augmented our sense of accomplishment.  Outside it was overcast, windy and raining.  Inside the garage, the light, warmth and activity made our day snug, dry and cathartic.

Today those machines are much improved.

I mentioned what we’d done in a telephone conversation with a friend.

He went straight to the point.  “Sounds like a lot of work.  Next time, why don’t you just buy new ones?”

He has a point.  We could have this time.  Strange, neither of us gave the possibility a thought.  You bet, those new carbon-fiber-framed bicycles are great.  There’s no doubt about that.  The problem arises that I remember when the double-butted, chrome-molybdenum framed bikes we worked on were the latest thing, too.   Back then, they were fancy beyond belief and expensive beyond ownership.  Years later I found both of these at the dump.  Somebody else did exactly as my friend recommended.

Hmmm.  Who am I to complain?  I saved and restored them for my daughter.  That, in turn, gave us the time spent together yesterday.

That’s my point.

Because somewhere in the course of “Why don’t you just buy new ones?” we’ve lost more than simply the objects discarded.  Sure, we might’ve gained fancy new bicycles in the process, at least until they wind up junked out like their predecessors.  I suppose that we would’ve helped the economy in the short term as well.

But what about helping ourselves instead?  What about sustaining our minds and bodies with the restorative process of caring for what we’ve created?   What received the most maintenance yesterday?  Those bikes or my daughter and myself?

Speaking personally, I’ll get my first carbon-fiber-framed bicycle after it shows up at the dump.  That’ll be anytime now.  You bet, history isn’t going to be any kinder to them than it was to their chrome-molybdenum-framed forefathers.

That’s why I care for the discarded.  We’re all headed for the same destination.

That being the case, I suppose that sentiment drives me to some extent.  In addition and as noted, salvage itself is a restorative process.  But, more on target, this whole process begs a question:

Thirty years from now what will we have left behind that’s worth rebuilding?