From the archives: Spring Cleanup 2006
It was time again for the strange spectacle of spring cleanup. During the first week of May the city allows residents to go over the 2 garbage-can limit and I scour through the basement, dig in the garage, and generally hem and haw over whether I should keep that empty box or broken floor lamp just more year. That in itself is not so strange because I'm generally a packrat and I like to keep things "just in case." What's truly strange is the parade of vehicles that comes through our neighborhood from early in the morning to late in the evening the day before the city crews come to pick up the extra garbage.
Every spring cleanup tops the last and this year is no different. It's worse than Hallowe'en because at least on Hallowe'en the cars only come for a few hours. This year I noticed that in addition to the steady stream of cars, there was actually foot traffic: people out for a pleasant walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon, perusing the selection of unwanteds left out by friendly neighbors on the sidewalk and along the driveways. I couldn't let my kids play in our normally quiet cul-de-sac because of all the cars. As I am writing this now, I can still hear cars outside and it is well past 11:00pm! Actually, it slowed down earlier in the evening, but now it's picked up again. I guess some people like to browse in the dark.
The parade of people looking through the junk piles creates another strange phenomenon in me. I can't help be curious to see what kind of garbage other people are interested in. Well, I guess to them it's not garbage. I pretend I don't care and I go about my business. Out of the corner of my eye I try to see what they've picked up or are bending down to examine. I'm disappointed, even slightly offended, when they take something from the neighbor's garbage but fail to take any from ours. I actually complained to my wife today, "Our garbage isn't as good as the neighbor's garbage!"
I even went as far as to label our garbage: "Still Works" said the label on the Black and Decker coffemaker we had since university. "Never Used" said the label on the headlamps I bought for my 1988 Tercel when it was still new. There were a few more items that were never used including a 35mm film camera and garbage pouch car accessory. Actually a young couple who jumped out of their car to grab the baby ride-on car toy that I had labled "Recycle" was also eye-ing the garbage pouch and suddenly I wanted it back--I could use the clear plastic bags for something I thought. I was so relieved when they didn't take it. It's now sitting in my garage awaiting some sort of purpose other than what it was designed for because it's just too tacky to use in the STI.
I had also labeled a water and sand play table but no one had shown any interest in it. "Maybe I should put it back together so people can see what it looks like," I suggested to my wife. "If they see what it looks like, they'll take it for sure." Her reply was don't bother. After dinner I put out a few last things, including an umbrella stroller we no longer needed. As I was putting more cardboard into the yellow recycling bag another couple was looking at it. "It's not broken," I said. "Do you want me to show you how it works?" Luckily enough, even they recognized the absurdity of me being salesman to my own garbage and politely declined.
The next picture is so poor because the window was closed and the flash went off. What's significant about that white van is that it had a spotlight on it's roof and was filled to the brim with stuff.
I'm not sure who's more strange, the people taking advantage of this "free" garage sale and doing us the great service of recycling junk before it goes to the land fill, or me for taking pictures of them.