Deferred Maintenance

When the crunch comes, maintenance gets deferred. The crunch may be time or money or attention, but crunches always come in life--and when they arrive, dealing with the emergency may require at least a bit of neglect elsewhere. The eventually necessary but not immediately urgent tasks will get delayed until . . . sometime.

States do it. I shudder to think how much road maintenance Kansas has deferred during our self-induced budget emergency brought on by extreme experimentation with supply side economics, but my keister feel the potholes of deferred maintenance. The roads will have to be mended someday, unless we really are going to get flying cars.

Businesses do it. I once worked for an employer that responded to a cash crunch by sending office grunts to scavenge about the office for partially used pens and pads of paper to avoid purchasing routine office supplies. I suppose I should have been thrilled about reducing our ecological footprint and all that, but my first response was to wonder how little the poor scavengers must have been getting paid if their time was cheaper than ink and paper bought in bulk; my next response was anger when I couldn't find a decent pen and notebook for a meeting that was actually going to generate much needed revenue. I left the position not long after that experience, because deferring maintenance to such a degree left me skeptical of the future for the business.

Families and individuals do it. Sick children and broken bones can defer almost all maintenance; paying the bills is a type of maintenance that all too often pushes back most others; the necessary but non-urgent things like time together and time alone with our uncluttered thoughts get pushed back.

This week at the very end of the year isn't a great time to patch roads or replenish office supplies, but it is a good time to catch up on other types of maintenance. These are good days to spend some time together, doing things like repeatedly failing to stop multiple global pandemics from destroying humanity. These are good days to re-read your favorite book from long ago. These are good days to spend a little bit of time with your keyboard, if you're into that sort of thing.

These are days to remember that maintenance can be deferred but ought not be ignored.