Struck by an odd thought as the ember on my cigarette crisps in the cool breeze of what is certain to be a perfect day to carve out my destiny, I had a thought…
My temporary living situation isn’t much different now than when I first struck out on my own. I’m not talking about moving out of my parent’s house, but the moment I decided to get far enough away that there would be no going back for small problems, when I moved to Jacksonville, Florida, and I had no idea how things would turn out.
I saved paychecks for months, preparing to go from my job at the time to something with better pay, which ended up being the same job in a new location. I was a surveyor back then, and hard work was a part of life. I found a tiny one-bedroom apartment not far from the office, and became part of a small community in Southern Jacksonville.
Yes, surprisingly similar to my current arrangement. I want to be at my property in the woods, but there’s still much to be done so that I can avoid further problems with ticks and rodents. I have a bare two-bedroom in West Plains, and neither of the bedrooms ever get used. I live on minimal means, and when I say minimal, I mean it.
There’s no television, no couches or end tables, no stereo, no amplifier for my guitar…I don’t even have a bed. The carpet is soft enough, and unnecessary things are unnecessary. The sleeping bag stays at the property in my cabin (where I’ll be spending tonight). There’s a small folding table, and a folding chair. These are my creature comforts to make writing a little easier. I have a coffeemaker that my brother bought me, a pot, some random silverware, and a bowl. Humble living is good for thought.
Yesterday, while working on my little rocket project (my version of down time, I suppose), a few flakes of kraft paper fibers dropped on the carpet. It won’t be long until it needs a vacuuming, but I thought how silly it would be for me to purchase one. Your average vacuum these days is over a hundred dollars and has a ton of unnecessary parts. I am quite intrigued by those robot vacuums that do the job without needing to be driven, and most consumer reports say that they’re pretty good. But with most of these vacuums, I swear they are made to fail after so many sweepings. After a friend recommended for me to start having my carpet cleaned, I found the website https://carpetcleaner.solutions/ which taught me I could clean my carpet rather than hoovering it, with amazing lasting impacts and lost costs.
But I live in a building with six other people, most of them single and living alone with minimal accents. Most of them are doctors or med-students that will be gone in a month or two, back to their normal practices and hospitals far away. Surely someone already has a vacuum and wouldn’t mind sharing it once every week or two for ten minutes.
As the cigarette burned down toward the filter, the solution to the problem was obvious enough. People don’t care to share, and that restriction goes up exponentially based on the price of what is to be shared. Almost anyone will offer up a slice of pizza, or let you borrow a screwdriver. I’d loan out any of the tools I carry with me in a moment. I wouldn’t be so quick to fork over my guitar though.
While on paper, it would make sense for everyone in the building to pitch in for a communal vacuum cleaner, I don’t think anyone will go for that. Why? Because people break shit!
That’s the worry, is it not? The real reason to make a tapered hum with a hint of squeal when someone asks to borrow something is just that, I think. It’s not that you don’t like the person. It isn’t necessarily that you think they will abuse your property (though I can point out many cases of neglectful handling in my history). The more complicated things get, the more protective we become of them. The expenditure and price tag aren’t the only worry. Things break from normal wear-and-tear, and I don’t think anyone wants to be the person holding that communal vacuum when the motor decides to crap out.
Blame, scorn, retribution, and replacement. Notice I didn’t mention repair, as that is almost unheard of in the current climate for most things. I would let someone check their email or social on my laptop in a moment (though I would definitely be hovering), but when it comes to an untrustworthy mechanical thing, the stakes go up. That and nearly everyone has their own view of how to handle or treat something respectfully.
But stop and think for a moment. An average modern apartment complex has at least ten homes, mostly accessible from one another without ever stepping into the weather. A vacuum cleaner might get run once per week. When the walls are paper thin, constant vacuuming would also annoy those around you. Why then, would such a building need ten vacuum cleaners?
Drawing this out to a larger conclusion, why would each apartment need three or four sets of silverware, cups, plates, bowls, multiple televisions, two cars, two Swiffer mops, a set of car cleaning soaps, waxes and towels, etc? Why does a tiny neighborhood need a riding lawnmower and complete toolset in a shed behind each house? Are we so distant, so isolated, so jaded, that we have stopped sharing anything or everything. You might talk to your neighbor every morning and night, yet asking to borrow a weed whacker seems like an intrusion. Why?
I’m not saying that we should swap to some communist ideology. If anything, rash shifts in living conditions and paradigms can end up screwing things up even worse. But sharing the burden, even a tiny bit, I believe would be good for people. Sure, there will be some fiscal responsibility to figure out, there will be some things that you simply don’t want to lend out, and eggs are gonna break. But maybe, just maybe, if we stop to consider some of these things, then the idea of “being neighborly” will begin to seem a little less alien to us. Perhaps borrowing a drill once in a while instead of running out and getting a woodworking starter kit will help us appreciate that there are more important things in life than material possessions.
If you break something, offer to replace it. If a part wears out, offer some funds to help replace the device. Accept some degree of accusation, and ask about handling techniques that might lead to less breakage. Discuss projects before borrowing complex machinery, the owner will know better than you what their gear can and can’t handle. I.E. don’t try to rip 4 inch thick walnut on your neighbor’s ten-amp table-saw. But within reason, I think we can all find a little common ground, and bring some sanity back to communal property, even if each bit has a designated “owner.”
I’ll probably be spending the night in the woods, but when I get back, I’m going to ask someone if I can borrow their vacuum cleaner. Worst case, they tell me “no fucking way” and I have to go purchase one. But if I don’t ask, I’d be doing that anyway. No worries.
I wish you a blessed day. Thanks for reading. If you think someone you know might find this article interesting or insightful, feel free to share it on social media. There’s buttons around here somewhere to make that easier. Cheers.