Letter Re: A Spare Parts Travesty Underscores Americans’ Lack of Self-Sufficiency

Hi Jim,  
I managed a good day today even though I had to negotiate the land mines of our modern technological civilization. Here is my tale of woe: I needed a mechanical device. Went to Sears and bought the largest sized engine/self propelled mower they had spring of 2010. Platinum level. Used it one year. It up until recently has been a great machine that starts easily. By far perhaps the best mower I ever owned.  

This Spring I began mowing again. The self-propelled system fails. Disassembly via detailed parts guide in owner’s manual easily accomplished. Complete owners manual seems really well done.   Remember done is what happens to a hotdog when it is finally cooked. Finished is when a job is completed or visa versa.  

Found parts number [434993, cable drive]. I searched at Sears.com. Screen says, contact for availability of part. Called their 800 number. Nice operator who looked up the part. No go. It’s a done deal. According to her computer the part is not available? What? On just a year old mower?  

Meanwhile, the cutting blade on mower is dinged, beyond resharpening. I travel the 25 miles to local Sears store to get new blades. Recount my contact about the replacement part to the store manager. He says, “I may have one in the back”. No parts, another done deal.   Out of curiosity and because he suspects that I’m a dumbhead, he looks up the part on his in store computer. Finds part number [427411, cable drive] He says it is available! Do you want to order it? Of course! I don’t like done deals rather have finished projects and working equipment.  

The thesis of this communication is this: the computer system of the sears on line system and the in store system did not show the same parts number. Ditto for the owners manual corresponding with the on line system but not the in store system. Why? Beats me.. unless it was a done deal and someone’s brain was on full cook and the end of the day when this system was put together.   Lesson: if I had not been in the store just after a very stressful contact with the Sears on line system. I would have probably not found out that the part in fact was listed under another number on an apparently separate Sears computer system. If it was the same system, why the two different numbers and access to them from different points did not indicate that an alternative was available?  

Survival of stress: when the situation finds you broke down mechanically or in a personal confrontation of sorts you must find a substitute, make a jury-rigged replacement and/or defuse neutralize a situation. And above all make things work and not let stress put you into a mode of incapacitation. You function or you fail. Failure is not an option for me. Today I was a winner. More by chance than my skill. But some days are like that.   In the end the parts will come next Thursday after a five day wait. I will be 70 in three weeks with a weakened left knee. My body needs the self propelled drive to assist with the mowing. That’s about 1.5 acres that I mow at various times from May to September.  

Today is the real world. It is not collapse of the system. It is disfunctionality of a system. This particular system was not friendly and tried to exclude me! I was lucky to have been able to find the alternative.  

I have to have machines work for me like my mower, chain saws, skill saws, drills, grinders, well pump, 25 year old truck and car. Physically I am in pretty good shape for my age. But it ain’t 1960 any more and I have to conserve my energy and time. It is a form of survival from the shortcomings of capitalism and corporations. And the miles of living to be 70. – JWC in Western Oklahoma