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The Over-Improved (D-I-Y) Van Syndrome

Notice to readers: to find the information that used to be in the margin of my old layout, click on the three parallel lines in the upper right of this page.

I did a double-take when I biked by that van this morning. The lady of the house was resting in her bed, with the van's rear doors open to the glorious morning sun.

Rightly or wrongly, I tend to open conversations with mock-scolding about something that the other person is quite proud of. (On "paper" this approach would create an instant enemy. But in person, they can tell you are just funnin' them.)  In this case, the entire roof of a huge Mercedes Sprinter van was covered with solar panels. She got the joke, so we ended up with a nice conversation about their converted van.

It was a marvelous piece of D-I-Y work that they deserve to be proud of.  But, several times in the conversation, a yellow light started blinking in the back of my head.

I wondered how many of the converted vans or cargo trailers are over-improved. Don't tell me it doesn't really matter -- supposedly the person got suckered into the D-I-Y approach to save money, and they probably need to save money.

So why did they over-improve?
  1.   They have just watched dozens of You Tubes with titles like, "My Over-the-Top, Think-Outside-the-Box Van conversion."  They begin to yearn for something 'special'. They become suckers for some deluxe or hyper-specialized product or backyard-invention. What difference does it make? They already 'saved a fortune' by taking the do-it-yourself approach.
  2.   They don't see the conflict of interest in being influenced by a monetized blogger or You Tuber. As long as the You Tuber has a winning personality and a loyal following, everything they say must be gospel truth.
On and on it goes: MPPT solar controllers, AGM batteries -- now superseded by lithium batteries, floor coverings, industrial quality fuse or circuit breaker boxes, high power inverters, composting toilets, hot water on demand showers, induction stoves, expensive furnaces, Green perpetual motion machines...

But a friend put it more succinctly: that "the van people are engaged in an arms race" between themselves.

Of course, people are influenced by the Yoob Toob channels that are just using bare vans (or cargo trailers) as an advertising platform for a thousand-and-one aftermarket upgrades, whose job it is to generate clickbait income for the yoobtoober.

It's almost as if they are conflating a hyper-specialized and over-improved RV (or van) with a super-wonderful lifestyle. If so, they have re-invented the psychological trap of the conventional recreational equipment industry. The 'means' has supplanted the 'end'.

But wait -- I thought that van campers were rebels as far as conventional bourgeois values are concerned? 

They would benefit from turning away from so-called 'practical' advice about being 'cheap' or 'simple', and look at the big picture. Middle class Americans are programmed to put themselves into an early grave, struggling to own the 'house beautiful', the large McMansion in a gated community up in the Foothills, with a couple more square feet of granite countertops than the Joneses. 

Since the van-dweller isn't getting that sort of ego gratification, they have a problem: a lack of bourgeois respectability, and in America, that is the only kind of respectability that exists. Supposedly they have bailed out of the rat race. But what if the rat race has the power to come chasing them, by re-inventing itself, disguising itself?

Has the modern Odysseus forgotten the first Odysseus, who was always running into a shape-shifting Athena or some malevolent god such as Poseidon? So it goes...


Ed said…
On No, someone has hacked you blog. Either that or you have Over Improved your old one!
Not over-improved, just long overdue for a smartphone-era look. And it was free.
Jim and Gayle said…
Interesting new blog template. Thought I was on the wrong site for a minute. Looks good!
As a tech-savvy, millennial hipster, I just can't put up with a circa 2010-era blog layout!