We first noticed it several years ago. Someone was stealing our junk. First, an explanation.
Twice a year in our neighborhood, the city of San Antonio sponsors what they fondly call ‘Brush Drives.’ All the cut tree limbs, fallen palm fronds, bags of leaves and poor, dessicated plants killed by the 102-degree summers and other stuff the bi-weekly trash pickup won’t take can be piled in front of the house and nice men in trucks come by and pick it up. Sometime back, the city let us add all the detritus crap that builds up in the garage, back closets, etc. So, we’d add broken dining chairs, moldy pillows (don’t ask), cracked bric-a-brac and the unidentifiable boxes we moved over from the old house and never unpacked.
The next morning, things like the chairs & souvenir gee-gaws from Disney Land (20 years ago. Once was enough.) were gone. And someone had picked through the stack of boxes.
“Who the hell would take THAT crap,” I asked rhetorically.
My wife answered anyway. “Someone who needed it.”
And it was true. People would drive through the neighborhood, scavenging for used household goods or anything remotely usable to either use themselves or sell at swap meets. We’d see the pickup wheezing along the street like rusty sharks.
It took a while, but the Light Bulb of Inspiration finally lit up.
Someone could use our old junk!
We began small at first – a few cracked dishes and some old music cassettes. (Fifth of Beethovan. Why?) The next morning, they were gone. Soon, it grew to stacks of old floppy discs, old computers, printer cables, old phones, a chair that needed upholstery, phone books…PHONE BOOKS! And they were gone.
We cleaned out closets and then moved to the garage. Stuff I hadn’t seen in years went to the front. Gone. Lumber from half-finished projects. Gone. Once, I moved two bags of books to the front. They were gone by the time I returned with another load.
When the basketball goal our younger son had spent many hours using lost out to Xbox, it sat rusting in the back yard for a few more years. But it didn’t last 10 minutes at the front.
Once, we had just manhandled a large hideous couch out to front. We were halfway up the drive when a smoky Chevy truck of uncertain vintage pulled up. A young man climbed and began trying lift the monster into his truck. I turned around to help him and he backed away as though I was going to snatch the treasure away. His wife sat in the passenger side, watching us closely. A small child peeked out from her lap. “We need a couch,” he said. I told him it was his.
As I helped him load it up, my wife approached the side of the truck with an old stuffed toy, a ridiculous looking dog, that had belonged to one of they boys.
“We’re getting rid of this too,” she said to the woman, who I’m sure spoke no English. But the young child in her lap understood. He looked at his mother, who nodded. Then and only then he took the dog as his own. We watched them drive away with the complete realization that we had far too much stuff.
It was time to simplify. Even after the city ramped up its recycling program with once-a-week pickups, we continued to place no longer wanted or needed items on the front walk. And it always finds a new home.
We don’t need it. Someone else does.
OK. In the interest of full disclosure and the fact that someone who knows us may stumble upon this blog one day, I need to add something. We’ve been known to scavenge the neighborhood too. We’ve gone on walks and returned with an ancient birdcage, a wobbly table and a plant stand with a broken leg. Our best find was a painting, a large,semi-expressionist work showing two fencers at work in brilliant white, yellow & orange. It wound up in a son’s bedroom. I’d show you a picture, but he’s already liberated it and taken the artwork to Houston.
The point is, neighbor-assisted recycling isn’t something only the poor do. It’s human nature. We see something laying out by the trashcans and it’s too good, too neat to throw away. So we take it. And something that people used or loved or simply needed/wanted for a while finds a new home and a new use. Though I’m still stumped why anyone would want our old phone books.