The other day, instead of making men’s beaded jewelry for my business, Authentic Arts, I set out to fix my vintage turntable. My son and I opened it up and tinkered with some things. (It was broken, anyway, if nothing else I figured my son would enjoy it as a homeschool science project.)
Sure enough, my handy husband couldn’t resist our project. He knew what all the parts did inside, so he hopped over to see if he could help us figure it out. Strangely, everything seemed to be in order. We closed the turntable back up and thought about it while over dinner. I texted with a friend to see if he had any ideas. He suggested lifting up the platter instead of going in from the bottom. From there we might be able to see if there was anything wrong in there.
So, we did as instructed, fussing a bit with a little cotter pin for 10 minutes. Curiously, we watched how the pieces worked and didn’t work. The little brass thing spun, but it didn’t connect with the little rubber disc, which looked like it should be spinning but wasn’t. There were a couple of little holes in a metal arm connected to the rubber disc. We thought maybe a spring had gone missing. We don’t keep an inventory of springs on hand, so my handy husband got a rubber band and tied it on where we thought the spring should have been. The rubber disc turned! We put the platter back on and…it turned! We ran the turntable downstairs and hooked it up to my speakers, put on a record and… the record played!! We achieved our goal and it wasn’t about getting the record-player to play at all.
Why did I have to fix the record player instead of buying a new one?
First of all, the turntable used to belong to my favorite aunt who died a few years ago. She lived with us when she was in college and we were little kids running around a back-to-the-land farm and she was soooooo cool! But, also I wanted to fix it because I believe in the analog. There is comfort in old machines with simple moving parts. We can fix most things, sometimes with only the simplest of gadgets, like a rubber band. Their elegance lies in their simplicity–democratic and enjoyable by all, not a privileged few.
This “homeschool class” offered many important lessons our son will carry with him forever. Not only did he learn some about how the turntable works. He also learned the vital importance of listening to rules and the dangers of working with electricity. He learned more about being self-reliant and taking care of our environment by fixing what we have instead of buying something new. He learned the value of family and teamwork. He learned that he is an important member of our team. (After all, we have our son to thank for “discovering” that the turntable’s on/off switch moved when we wiggled that little metal arm inside the player.)
As a men’s beaded jewelry designer and a work-at-home mom, sometimes I have to put a whole day aside to tinker with the inside of a vintage turntable to see if we can fix it. I have to set aside that time even if I feel like I should be making men’s jewelry or marketing my business.
And if the turntable hadn’t been able to be saved it was still a project worth working on. My son learned a lot of things and I fought another skirmish in the battle for the preservation of the analog in our lives. Digital technology is awesome and useful, but we need to preserve a corner of our collective unconscious for things that can be fixed with the most common of objects and for taking pleasure in simple things. Humans need to remember how to build fires and how to make do with what’s on hand. We need to remember how to do without. My family and I are remembering.
Photo credit: By Kit L. @ iStock by Getty Images