Today was “Bulk Pickup Day” in our town. That is the one day per month that residents are permitted to drag their “bulk” items to the curb to be picked by the town’s waste contractors (cue the Soprano’s theme) or the Scavengers (see below), depending on who gets there first.
While the definition of the term “bulk” for purposes of “Bulk Pickup Day” lacks a certain degree of precision, I think it can roughly be defined as stuff (often large stuff, hence the choice of the term “bulk”) that doesn’t qualify as what we would customarily think of as common, everyday household trash (e.g. your chicken bones, ashtray dumpings or banana peels), or “recyclables” (e.g. your paper, cardboard, glass, plastics and aluminum). Although some things seem to elude easy categorization (venetian blinds come to mind), as is the case with pornography, most folks know Bulk Waste when they see it.
In some states, and, oddly enough, even in parts of this state, “Bulk Waste” sometimes finishes out its life serving as lawn ornaments (cue the banjo player), albeit rusty and not particularly attractive (e.g. your old washing machine and refrigerators). However, in my town, I am happy to say that such things are hauled away and taken to God knows where.
I like Bulk Days not only because they prevent Maytags from becoming bird feeders, but also because, on my morning walks on Bulk Day, I can take a look at what kinds of things people are prepared to permanently part with for no money. (Some people hold garage sales to try to make a few bucks on things just prior to their reaching “Bulkdom” status, but that’s a story for another day).
Looking at the various curbside assemblages of castoff stuff may sound like something born of simple nosiness, but really it isn’t. I think about the bulk things more than I do about the prior owners. In fact, I don’t bother to connect any curbside array to its creator. I look at these piles ‘o stuff as an interesting peek into the Zeitgeist.
Here are some of the things I recall from this morning’s walk:
Furniture. Lots of people throw out furniture, but from what I see, they only throw out really, really, raggedy, worn out furniture. My guess is that each piece of furniture that has found its way to the curb has seen years of service by its original owner and then got several more years’ duty either in the basement of the original purchaser or in the house or apartment a friend or relative, who, but for such handoffs, would have no furniture. Thus, in general, by the time furniture becomes “Bulk Waste,” it really looks like crap.
Computers and Computer Stuff. Seeing so much computer stuff being tossed is a fairly recent phenomenon. I suppose it takes several years and a few computers for the typical original purchasers of these things to realize that the Compaq 286 that you bought a dozen years ago (even though it would still work if you plugged it in) is about as useless as a buggy whip today. It is too big to be a paperweight and its shape prevents its use as a hat rack. I have two generations of computers n my basement. I think it’s time for the curb.
Exercise Equipment. Today someone was tossing an inexpensive looking exercise bike. I figured that the wear and tear on the thing probably was from serving as a place to hang laundry. Nobody really interested in exercising buys cheapo exercise bikes like that.
A Fairly Serviceable Golf Bag. I saw this and immediately wondered about the golf bag back-story. I figure that the owner must have gotten lucky and won a new golf bag at a golf outing, and his wife bitched when he wanted to keep his old golf bag and his new golf bag. I can hear her now. “Why the hell do you need two damned golf bags?” The poor bastard. I hope he had more sense than to counter with “Yeah, so why do you need two-dozen purses?” Yeah, that’s gotta be it.
Appliances. Televisions made their appearance at curbside before computers, and it happened around the time when one could buy a new TV for what it would cost to get the old one fixed. These usually appear on the first Bulk Day following the “Cardboard Recycling Day,” when the box for the new TV appears. (Yeah, I look at people’s cardboard too. More Blogfodder.)
Bulk Day Scavengers.
As I mentioned, the town is responsible for picking up Bulk Stuff, but scavenging has become a cottage industry. There are scores of people who begin prowling the streets the night before Bulk Day to see if anyone is throwing away something that they can use, or someone else could use, either by giving it to them or selling it to them.
Some things that the scavengers take are quite predictable and, in fact, probably really are useful or valuable to someone other than the person who tossed the stuff. For example, furniture that is not a complete wreck disappears fast. Once I put out a perfectly good desk (no scratches) and chair (nobody I knew needed it, nor was I about to go through the aggravation of trying to sell it), and it was gone five minutes after I put it out.
By contrast, some things that the scavengers take surprise me. Once, the day before a Bulk Day, my friend (Ken, the Anal Retentive Cruise Director) helped me take apart an aluminum backyard shed. Ken, being anal and all, insisted that we tie up the big pieces of twisted and bent aluminum in bundles. The bundles took up about 25 feet of curb space. They were gone in less than an hour – the day before Bulk Day. I wondered whether the stuff was valuable enough for someone to go to the trouble of picking it up, hauling it around and then selling it. I assume so.
Then there was the time I tossed a box of miscellaneous old band equipment hardware. In the box of junk was one brush – not a hairbrush, but a metal brush with the rubber handle that drummers use to play some slow tunes. Someone stopped the car, looked through the box and took the brush. Go figure.
Perhaps you are thinking, “Yo, Jimbo. You’re looking at people’s garbage. Get your shit together!”
To that, I reply, “Yeah? Yo mama!”