Bulky Waste pickup is usually scheduled on a Monday, so people can clean out their basements over the weekend and put stuff at the curb on Sunday night.
By Sunday afternoon the prowl begins. I usually scan the outgoing trash as a secondary activity – on my way to or from someplace else. But many go out specifically to cruise the trash. I see them in old green pickup trucks, their wagons piled higher than Jed Clampett’s.
On a recent Sunday, I hit the Bulky Waste Jackpot. I was walking my neighbor’s dog and came upon a pristine curbside pile in front of a house around the block. The wicker patio set was beautiful and unbroken – in fact, it looked barely used.
The dog had not yet pooped and this instantly became an issue between the two of us. “Hurry and poop,” I commanded. “I have to go get the car.”
I’m not sure if any dog poops on command, but this one didn’t even try. He sniffed around seven lawns making it seem like he was about to do his business, but he had no intention of actually going, no matter how many times I implored him.
“Poop!!!” I hissed. I tried to make my voice harsh and strained, the way I do when I want my kids to obey me. (It doesn’t work with them, either.)
Finally, I brought him back and locked him in his yard, beseeching him to poop on his own while I went to do my business. I ran home and got the car, taking corners on two wheels so I could claim my prize before someone else got to it first.
I pulled up alongside the furniture, which had miraculously not been snatched up in my absence. And then…I couldn’t get out of the car.
Oh Lord, what if these people are home and they see me loading their castoffs into my car? We don’t know each other, but I’m sure they’d recognize me from the neighborhood. I felt my breath quicken as I sat quietly waiting to see which would win out, shame or greed.
I don’t think I’ve ever done anything in my life as fast as I loaded that furniture into the back of my car. I sped back home, unloaded, went back to tend to the neighbor’s dog and then I did what I always do after I’ve done something I’m really embarrassed by: I started calling people to confess.
“I just took a whole mess of wicker furniture from someone’s bulky waste pile,” I told Shelley.
“That’s great!” (I knew she would say that.)
“I don’t know. What if they saw me? And what if someone really poor came by and I took all the furniture first?”
“When I think of what poor people need, patio furniture is not what comes to mind,” she said. “Besides, when people put that stuff out they want you to take it. They’re hoping someone will be able to use it.”
I do think all that is true, and it did make me feel better. But what really made me feel better was when she named all the things in her house that had been acquired curbside. And then when several other people I called named their best finds.
What makes me feel best, though, is when someone comes up on my porch and sees my “new” wicker and, when I tell them where it came from, they respond with a big high five.