Make-ism: why being able to fix things matters

In the last week or two I've fixed my own garage door, installed rear shocks on my car, and replaced my house's hot water heater with the help of a friend. It'll sound cheesy, but the sense of empowerment I got from it stands in sharp contrast to the frustration I feel about, say, my phone.

I bought a house that didn't need work--not because I couldn't, but because I'd just spent four and a half years working on another house. I used to do my own car repairs too, but that was the 80s.

Now my phone ... damn. I won't bore you with a list of my grievances against it. The fact is that things do go wrong, and I can't fix them. It's immensely frustrating to rely on something and be helpless when it won't perform its function.

The economy crashed. My position on the time-money continnum shifted. So when my house broke, I fixed it. When my car broke, I fixed it. I'd been thinking about paying more per month for a new car just so it wouldn't need repair, but now I feel like I can keep driving this car even if my commute keeps scraping the suspension off the bottom of it. I feel empowered. I might actually prefer to own things I know I can repair.

So what about my smartphone? Make would tell you that if you can't open it, you don't own it. I'd extend that by saying that if you depend on it and you can't support it, it owns you. Maybe I should reduce my dependence on my smartphone: find another way to do the "smart" functions.

I'm thinking that the loss of convenience would be far outweighed by the added peace of mind.