Unexpected expense

Posted on May 30, 2020


Source: My personal collection

Since I began practicing Vipassana a few years ago, I have been called to make changes to my lifestyle. Live greener. Gentler. Simpler. One of the things I have been trying to do is to avoid buying new things.

This was easy in India. If a shirt tore, we got it raffu-ed. The darning felt like magic to me. I couldn’t even tell where the tear had been. Because we have services like these available for cheap back home, I didn’t learn to do it myself.

And it wasn’t just clothes. My earliest memory is of my mom struggling with the Sumeet mixer. I cannot remember how many times she got that thing repaired.

New things were bought only for special occasions. Retail therapy wasn’t a thing in my household. We were middle class folk. Money was limited and spent on essentials. We didn’t need for anything, but there was no question of luxuries. The amount of thought put into any expenditure takes my breath away. More than anything, I want to return to this way of living. The thinking-before-spending part. Do I REALLY NEED this?

Moving to the West was hard for many reasons, but the biggest shock was the amount of waste that gets created. Services like darning or mending shoes are expensive. (No) thanks to fast fashion, for a little bit more, you can replace the whole thing. Shoe. Shirt. Sofa. I will not lie. I enjoyed having my own money. I enjoyed buying new things. For no reason. I may not have assimilated in many ways into the Western ways of life, but this was definitely something I took to like fish to water.

However, in the last few years, I have been more cognizant of the macro impact my micro actions have. Everyone’s actions impact climate change. Yes, the corporations have the most impact, but when we keep buying and encouraging them to produce, we are reinforcing the capitalistic economy that destroys the planet.

In December last year, our washing machine started giving trouble. It would give an error code every time we tried to run it. We had to run it multiple times and reset it several times to run a single load of laundry. We decided to call in someone to look at it. He charged us $135 to “diagnose” the problem. He told us the drum was damaged and would need to be fixed. It would cost a minimum of $500. He promised that he fixed it temporarily. He didn’t. We called in another person. Same thing. Charged us $125 and said the same thing. He didn’t even bother to pretend like he fixed it. He said it needed to be repaired and would cost between $500 – $600.

I was very upset. A new washing machine costs around $800. This machine was already eight years old. To make matters worse, we would have to buy a washer AND dryer because our units have to be stacked. The installers wouldn’t stack two different makes because their work liability insurance wouldn’t cover them for accidents. We couldn’t get our friends to stack them for us because the home insurance would not pay out if there was any damage from an accident with two “incompatible” units being stacked.

So now we were looking at an unexpected expense of $1500 at the minimum. I felt the pinch. I had just given up my job to write full-time.

We waited two months, till the machine stopped completely to get a new one. Very sadly we ordered a suite from Costco. It wasn’t as nice (read fancy) as our current laundry set. Our laundry set was top line and I was really happy with it; it had come with the house. I was very upset because I would have to discard the perfectly functional dryer. There was no way Sid and I could lug it down two floors and load it into a van to donate it.

We made peace with spending the money. We consoled ourselves that the people who removed the units would sell it to someone else. The day the units were going to get delivered, a strange thing happened. They opened the box and found the new washer damaged. We couldn’t take the delivery. But one of the delivery guys told us why don’t you sell the dryer yourselves!

Sid asked me to create a Kijiji ad. I asked him how much we wanted to sell it for and he said let it go for free. Just let them know they would have to come pick it up from two floors up. Within seconds of putting the ad online, I had several inquiries about the dryer.

Finally, a woman said her husband could pick it up right away. We asked her to ensure that he brought help with him as there were many stairs in our home.

I was surprised to see a man, 40ish, with a boy…10 perhaps…standing at our door for the dryer. We weren’t sure how he was gonna take the dryer! But he said dryers are light; washers are heavier and he would manage. And he did!

He looked so happy to see the dryer. He said it is one of the best on the market. He asked us if he could take the washer as well. We truthfully told him what we knew. He decided not to. He asked us if we were from India. We said yes. He said he was from Pakistan. He was moving and needed a new laundry set, but couldn’t afford it. I didn’t say anything, but felt a twinge of sadness and happiness.

Sid walked them to their van. He told me it was a completely beat up van.

I felt so much better. Even though the expense of getting a new laundry set would have pinched us, we were nowhere close to being in a situation where we would go to someone’s house to pick up a used machine.

In fact, I was happy at the turn of events.

We were without a laundry set for three months. The first one was damaged. Then the pandemic hit and the deliveries were stopped for two months. We hand-washed what we needed. Went to the laundromat once. Every time I was exasperated at my first world problem, I thought of the family that had the dryer and spent the time being grateful.

Our new set has arrived. It is not as fancy as the old one. But it is good. I couldn’t have afforded the best one on the market. Yet, every time I run this one, I am grateful again for having the finances, the technology, the water to do a simple load of laundry. Everything we touch can be an object of connection to something deeper and meaningful.

Unexpected expense? Unexpected blessing? It depends on the way you look at it. If you have an unexpected expense, I invite you to look at it through the lens of gratitude.

I am back!

Posted in: attitude, life