M. Giant's
Velcrometer
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks


Friday, September 17, 2004  

Curbstomped

You can imagine the volume of unwanted detritus that can accumulate in a house’s basement over the course of a couple of decades. Especially if said basement isn’t being used for much else besides storing said detritus.

But Trash’s stepfather doesn’t have to imagine it, because several years ago, when he was remodeling their basement, all that stuff had to go. Out to the curb, to be precise. The problem was that there was too much crap for the garbage truck to pick up on any one trip. So we were talking multiple garbage weeks of stuff from downstairs. But my stepfather-in-law wanted to minimize the number of necessary trips. To, like, fifty.

It was a delicate balance, putting out enough stuff to make a dent without making a big enough pile to scare the garbage truck into blowing right by (which it did a couple of times). But that was no way to get everything out there, at least before the mortgage got paid off. So the night before trash day, he’d put out an innocuously-sized pile. And then, the next morning, he’d wait and watch out the front window for the truck to stop in front of the house, and when it did, he’d start carrying stuff out as quickly as possible and adding it to the pile. It would turn into a weekly race, with SFIL schlepping as much stuff as he could into the collection zone before the two collectors could clear it. After a while, those garbage men hated him.

Almost as much as Trash’s aunt hated garbage day. She was living with them at the time, and the time she needed to go to work tended to coincide with morning garbage collection. She’d sneak out of the house in embarrassment, hiding her face as if from paparazzi. She probably would have stayed with them a lot longer if it hadn't been for that.

Even so, it was still a job getting rid of everything. SFIL also put various items out on the curb during the week for the use of anyone who might happen to drive by. Only thing was, nobody ever drove by. They all stopped.

I actually saw this firsthand one evening, when I went over to help SFIL haul some of the heaviest stuff out to the curb. This was just random crap that happened to be really big. Not that that stopped anyone. Or, rather, failed to stop anyone. From stopping, I mean.

One guy passing by pulled over, examined the stuff critically, and left empty-handed. He returned fifteen minutes later with some kind of mutated short bus and his entire family. More cars stopped, drawn by the sight of potential free garbage. Soon it reached critical mass, and every human in the northern suburbs was crawling over the pile like trailer-park Jawas. I was so freaked out I hid in the house and called Trash, who heard the horror in my voice and instantly wondered who was dying. I had to leave not long after.

Not that everyone was so undiscriminating. SFIL told me about one woman who had stopped to examine a discarded desk. This was another day of hauling stuff out to the curb, one in which I did not participate. So I didn't get to meet the woman in question.

"Is this your desk?" she asked SFIL.

"Well, I'm getting rid of it," SFIL said.

"It's nice," she said.

"I suppose," he agreed.

"And you're just getting rid of it?"

"Yeah."

She busied herself with a closer examination while he went in to get more stuff.

"So I could use this as a computer desk, or a work desk," she said when he returned, as if trying to get him to sell it to her.

"Sure," he said, completely uninterested in selling anything at any price.

"What's wrong with it?" she persisted.

"Well, the bottom of one drawer is broken, but you could probably fix that," he offered, just to be polite.

She recoiled as if from a bad smell. "Well, it might be good for someone else, but not for me," she sniffed, and took off, satisfied in the knowledge that she was too smart a shopper to take home a slightly broken desk for free. She was probably already composing an offended story in her head about the shameless huckster who had tried to put one over on her at his curb.

The funny thing is, she ended up being right about the desk. It was good for someone else. And as far as I know, so was everything else on every curbside pile for the next couple of months.

And yet when we helped them move to Iowa last year, there was still enough to fill two U-Hauls and a convoy of cars. Go figure. There was a minute there where I was just about prepared to abandon one of the trucks on a lonely, snow-swept stretch of Interstate 35 in the middle of January, minutes before sunset. If I'd opened the back door and dumped everything out on the shoulder, I'm convinced it would have all been gone within ten minutes.

Today's best search phrase: "Going to push your face in." At the time, this site was the only hit on Google for that phrase. Now I don't come up at all. Someone at Google is not getting the message.

posted by M. Giant 9:17 PM 3 comments

3 Comments:

One way to explain why something's at the curb, if you really want to interact with lookie-lous, is to glare at the object and say, "I have to get rid of it! It's CURSED!"

By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 18, 2004 at 4:11 PM  

Before finally breaking down and investing in a good one, my husband and I went through a series of cheap vacuum cleaners. When we moved, we at last got around to taking these hunks of useless, broken metal and plastic down to the curb for pick-up. An hour later, various neighbors had helped themselves to our trashed vacs. That was our last week in the neighborhood, so we didn't get to see whether any of these machines reappeared at someone else's curb the next trash day.

By Blogger Claudia, at September 21, 2004 at 11:10 AM  

My mother *cannot* drive past a pile of junk on the curb, which means that her garage is filled with crap from other people's garages in perpetuity.

But this story really reminds me of my late grandmother and her garbage-management skills. This was at a time when our city charged you extra for multiple trash bags, extra for yard waste, and extra to haul your crispy Christmas tree away after the holidays. Gram absolutely refused to pay extra for anything, and so she would haul the Christmas tree out into the (crowded!) garage and hacksaw it into bits, a few of which she'd layer into the regular weekly garbage for months. MONTHS! I think she'd fully dispatched it by August.

Dang, I miss her!

By Blogger Kim, at September 23, 2004 at 3:54 PM  

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