Needle and Thread

1 March 2007

Gotta get outta bed,
Get a hammer and a nail,
Learn to use my hands
Not just my head.

-“Hammer and Nail,” Indigo Girls

This song, which it turns out is not on my iPod even though I could’ve sworn it was on “Live: Back on the Bus Y’all” which is on my iPod, was going threw my head as I fixed my winter coat.

My winter coat, purchased at a Racine, Wisc. Salvation Army for a mere $20 a few weeks before our son was born, has taken me through three winters.  While I am happy to let it go, it is my only winter coat.  My trench coat, even with liner, is not a winter coat according to several friends and students.

What does it mean to live in poverty?  My coat is not in poor condition.  It is stain free, has all its buttons, and lacks any perceptible odor, unlike some other clothes one might buy at a thrift store.  A few seams have come out around the armpits, pockets, as well as the hem in the back: the high traffic areas of a winter coat, no doubt.

What do poor people do when their coats do this?  Patch them.  Fix them.  By hand if they can, or spring for the $30 at the dry cleaner for a tailor to do it.  Yet with mass production being what it is and the added advantage of living in the capital of the Empire, most of the working  poor in the United States can shlep to the thrift, the Wal-Mart, or some other discount store and buy a winter coat for $40.

I wish to patch my coat instead of getting a new one because there is nothing wrong with this one that cannot be fixed.

And here is where my born-working-class, raised-middle-class, now-liberal-thinking-class-and-newly-religious anxiety kicks in: is this a pose?  Am I just being cheap?  Do poor people actually do this?  I am not poor, by any reasonable standard.  It occurs to me that I really don’t know what people do in this kind of a situation.

Yet putting needle to erstwhile seam made me feel a little more humble, a little closer to what I’m supposed to be doing.

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3 Responses to “Needle and Thread”

  1. Larry Says:

    I don’t know if it is what the poor do. It is how I was raised though, and I was born and raised technically in the middle class but I think with german swedish “peasant” values. Or that is at least the interpretation that makes the most sense of how I was raised especially in this regard.
    If something is not repairable then it is worn out. Until that happens there is no reason to buy something new. One fixes things until either they can’t be fixed or the fixing takes more time, effort and/or money than is reasonable in light of being able to buy the new.
    What ever “class” your activity represents I think it is a good resistance to being simply a consumer.
    So in our context your act may simply be refusing to always be a consumer. And that may be the most important thing we can do to find ways to chose to be something other than simply consumers.
    PS. I have very little to do at my temp assignment today as I have said on my blog. Thus commenting twice on your blog today.


  2. Wow, not often that the Fogey agrees with Larry straight up.

    I must be on to something.

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