November 30th, 2023
The Thrill Is Gone
My first home was built like a tank. A solid-brick, 1950s bungalow with thick oak framing, plaster walls, a Pennsylvania slate roof and steel casement windows. I loved the look of the windows, but based on their age, single-pane glazing and the condition of the hardware, they were due for replacement. Or that was my assumption, at least.
Someone had outfitted each window with plexiglass coverings. (Based on the rudimentary design, I stop short of calling them storm windows.) Affixed to the exterior edge of bricks, in solid aluminum frames, they formed about a 3-1/2-inch space between the window and plexiglass. And thanks to some of the world’s most tenacious putty, as it turned out, they were about as airtight as any windows I’ve ever lived with.
So, I did what any new homeowner does: I watched, waited, weighed my funds and deliberated. When it comes to replacing things that are outdated but still get the job done, that’s what I do—usually erring on the side of procrastination. And that’s precisely what I found myself doing this Thanksgiving. Or, on Black Friday, at least.
From Windows to Mac
My laptop is my horse. Or … maybe my hammer. It’s at my fingertips all day, every day, and sometimes into the night. At that rate, I’m lucky if I get five or six years out of a machine before some part of it becomes decrepit or outdated. This time it was the battery, which at this point lasts maybe two hours—nowhere near long enough for someone who hates to be chained to a desk. So Black Friday (and Cyber Monday) marked a prime opportunity. There I was, with a fresh new MacBook in three different online shopping carts, yet I just couldn’t bring myself to complete the purchase on one of them.
My kids were completely miffed by this. “Aren’t you excited?” they asked. Had they not asked, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about it. But after a moment of consideration, “No, I’m really not,” I said. And that gave me the perfect excuse to procrastinate further, wondering where the thrill had gone.
It was partly about money. But I also realized there was as much resentment involved as excitement—resentment about having to update yet another device. You see, despite all the new bells and whistles, when it comes down to it—a Mac is a Mac is a Mac. And that made me think: Couldn’t the same be said about windows? Because yes—someway, somehow, my mind always circles back to fenestration. (Which sometimes make me think, “What is wrong with me?”)
When it comes to laptops, short of any major leap forward—which, if you’re a “Mac person” you know goes completely against Apple’s philosophy—replacement is just something you have to do for reasons that don’t always feel that exciting. My Mac from 12 years ago? I still have it. My kids use it. If I had to, I could use it and still get the job done. The Mac I just ordered? (Because yes, I finally stopped deliberating.) It’s a little thinner, a little prettier and I’m sure it will be much faster. But other than that, I suspect you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two of them.
Back to Windows
At 15 years old, my vinyl, double-hung windows look and feel like today’s vinyl double-hung windows. Do they have perfectly clean weld lines? No. Does the hardware operate as smoothly as some of the newer hardware I’ve sampled? No. But, aside from being a little stubborn to raise, lower and line up when locking, they look and work just fine and remain airtight. Don’t get me wrong, I can see it: a slight bow to the insulating glass; weld seams and miter joints that show signs of hairline cracking, and a touch of condensation in the corners when it’s really cold out. They won’t last forever. But let’s be honest—unless you’re doing a complete remodel and aesthetic overhaul of your home, chances are you’re going to replace most windows with something that looks and functions just like what you already have. Or that’s what I would do, at least.
And all of this is to say: Where is the thrill?
I have a shiny new Mac on the way and I feel nothing. Except, perhaps, the pain of being out $1,500. And you know—without a doubt—within the next six months a new model is coming.
When it comes to windows, I know what might be in store for the years ahead: photovoltaic glass; smart windows that automatically tint and tie in with HVAC systems; automated and self-powered hardware. All of that sounds exciting and possibly worth paying for. I guess I just have to hope that my current windows will last long enough to get me there. Otherwise, I’ll do what I and probably so many others do: I’ll replace them when I absolutely must. While deliberating.