Of all the all-too-human characteristics I find in myself, the most maddening is dependency. And it doesn't much matter what I'm depending on, or whether I actually need it or not: I hate it, and I want it to go away as fast as possible.

The single worst incident, I think, was that day back in the 1980s when I applied for food stamps. I was utterly horrified at what had happened to me, even though it was pretty much my own damn fault; I don't think I spent more than one coupon out of the entire book, out of sheer embarrassment. Today, of course, this kind of reaction is discouraged, lest one's self-esteem be affected negatively, or some such nonsense. It took entirely too long to get back on my feet, but I swore I'd stay there once I did, and so far I have.

Then there is what the government delicately calls "substance" dependency. For the last seven or eight years I have been taking the edge off with lorazepam, a cousin of Valium that might have even greater potential for addiction: a single milligram of the stuff carries approximately the kick of 10 mg of Valium. I take as little as I dare, and believe me, I know what it's like to miss a dose. Does this make me some sort of junkie? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, I hate it.

But lately, what has been getting me down has been dependency on machines: the gizmos and gadgets, large and small, that I rely on every day of my life. Yesterday two such, at opposite ends of the spectrum, threw me curves, and worse, curves that cost money.

The smaller of the two is my Sonicare electrowhatzit toothbrush, something once recommended to me by a very pretty dental hygienist with sharp instruments, substantial incentive indeed. The Sonicare indeed does a decent job, but its nonreplaceable nickel-cadmium battery pack is a major nuisance once it goes. And it's been going for some time now: last fall it would barely do its prescribed 120-second brushing on a single charge, and today it can't muster but 40 or 45 seconds before going dead. You can't just throw it away, either: we're talking nasty environmental effects. So at some point I'm going to have to disassemble the old brush, remove the offending cells, and deposit them at someplace suitable for hazmat. At the moment, I don't feel like driving across town to the city's reception point.

And the main reason I don't feel like driving is the unwelcome appearance of the dreaded yellow Service Engine Soon indicator light, which, the last time it showed up, cost me somewhere on the wrong side of a thousand dollars. If it's the same issue, the parts ($600ish) should be covered by Nissan's parts warranty (one year); if not, well, we'll worry about that when the codes are pulled. I'm kind of hoping that it's the catalytic converter: I will be appreciably poorer, to be sure, but I'll have fairly-fresh emissions gear everywhere south of the exhaust manifold, which can't be too bad a deal as the car approaches the 100,000-mile mark. And perhaps most important, I won't be so much poorer that I'll have to apply for food stamps again.

The Vent

  23 May 2007

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 Copyright © 2007 by Charles G. Hill