It’s cheaper than skiing.

I basically run Repair Public as a really weird hobby. In the right hands, I’m sure many people could run it better, hold bigger events, fix more things. This is just what I feel able to offer with the time and resources at my command. I’m not in it for the compliments or recognition (though those don’t suck), and I’m not in it for the money. That said, Repair Public is way cheaper than many other hobbies I can think of. I’ve surely blown far more unrecovered cash on my metalworking hobby for a far smaller return.

People go skiing! Skiing is expensive! Some people even own boats with motors. I’ve seen ’em! They ride these boats out onto the water for long distances, then tie knots onto shiny, pointy objects with transparent string suspended from sticks in hopes of catching fish, some or all of which they might throw back into the water. I like Repair Public. We have yet to throw anything into the water.

People tell me I should make money from Repair Public. This seems to make sense to a bunch of people, but it doesn’t make so much sense to me. I ask instead: “Why should I make money doing this?” And then, people tell me “You deserve to get paid what your services are worth.” But, that word “deserve” makes me uncomfortable sometimes. So many people seem to have opinions on my behalf about what I deserve, without even asking me, and it makes me feel weird. Especially when, say, I blow forty bucks on a big roll of lamp cord for Repair Public and I’m suddenly a hero, but some other guy spends fifty grand on a “Sport” SUV and nobody thinks that’s weird. I think it’s totally weird. How are you going to use that SUV? Maybe if you stuff it full of seven people and tow a boat with it, sure. But then we’re back to the fish and the transparent string, aren’t we.

How can you have a Sport SUV? What sort of sports do you do with it? I want to see the SUVlympics. I want to see the vault, then the long jump. The Romanian judge takes half a point off for the leaky muffler. $50,000 is 1,250 rolls of lamp cord. I do get it that some people will actually use and abuse a seven-passenger SUV for all its practical capacity, and that’s great if you’ll use it. I’m just saying that I don’t understand how so many people normalize a $50,000 “treat yourself” possession but somehow find it astonishing that I would blow a few hundred bucks on a hobby that, though kinda altruistic, is still essentially play for me. I’m having fun!

I have enough money. I don’t have a whole lot of it, but I definitely have more than enough. I think the word “enough” is important. Possibly because obtaining even more than enough usually takes even more work, and I’m kinda lazy sometimes. But maybe also because I think repair is one of the simpler paths to enough, especially if you start with close to enough but then stuff breaks. At some level, I think most of us get this. If you have a car and your brakes break by not braking anymore, if that’s the only thing broken, you don’t just get a new car. You repair the broken brakes, or have them repaired.

Say you have a blender. Work with me here. You like smoothies and milkshakes and frozen margaritas because hell yeah to at least two of those. Your blender stops working. You no longer have enough blenders for smoothies, and smoothies are awesome for you. You have a few options: new blender, used blender, blender repair attempt. Your goal is enough blenders. If you buy new or used, you now have enough functioning blenders, but you also have too many blenders total, and no use for a blender that won’t blend. You don’t know what to do with a blender that won’t blend, so you trash it, because that’s kinda what we’re trained to do.

A lot of people won’t think about repairing the blender. I’m not sure why that is. I want to fix that by making the option to repair busted stuff a thing more people think about and get done. Because then if you start out with not enough working blenders and you repair the not-working blender, then you have enough blenders and you don’t have to throw anything away. You get to the result of enough blenders without going through having too many blenders first.

And I guess that’s it. I guess I don’t feel like I have to go through having too much money before realizing that I’m lucky enough to have enough of it, especially if all I really want in the first place is to make and fix things with my hands, spend some time with good people, act as part of my community, and drink smoothies and/or frozen margaritas by way of a working blender. These things make me happy. Maybe I’m too simple. Maybe other people are too complicated. How would I know either way?

Repair Public has many unofficial objectives (though what do we do that is “official”?). One of those is to get the word Repair into general consciousness a little more. Another objective, somewhat more subtle, is to get the word Enough into an equally general consciousness a little more. Third is, of course, to keep things out of landfills where they’ll do no good. Fourth is to hopefully help people rediscover a sense of agency over the things they already own; a re-ownership of sorts. Fifth that comes to mind is getting community members who would otherwise never meet under the same roof to show up to an atmosphere of discovery and collaboration.

I’m very, very lucky that I’ve been able to tap so many community resources and make this happen on a budget way smaller than that of a fish-hooking boat with transparent string. Not everyone is so lucky to have the resources I do. It makes me way happier to share these resources with other people than it would if I were to buy a Sport SUV for the long jump. I’m in competition with nobody. I collaborate with other repairs in the area (hi, Susan!) because we get more done when we do that. I hope more people start repair events.

I’ve written all this down to answer some questions I get asked a lot, and also because I’m hoping you’ll find some resonance in my reasons for doing the things I do.

Love and wrenches,

–Ben

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