My kids, having spent a large portion of their lives as struggling students or as poorly paid or underemployed workers, are very familiar with the tradition of ‘dumpster diving’ or coming home with ‘finds’ from the garbage. L’il Sis used to find treasures from the middle of the last century–things such as old record players, chairs, tables– that she would refurbish and re-purpose. They added character and style to her apartment. Crazy D, never one for being ‘weighed down by things’, was the one more often throwing things to the curb than collecting them. If it was too much trouble to move something when he went from place to place to place, he jettisoned it. (I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, on some occasion, L’il Sis unknowingly picked up something he had discarded from the side of the road…again proving the old adage ‘someone’s junk is another’s treasure’.)
Gill always looks for ways to get ‘free stuff’ or receive generous compensation for defective products. (She learned that from me when I wrote snarky letters to toy manufacturers when a toy didn’t live up to its billing. She and Crazy D both remember free toys I procured for them.)
I too admit to having done some fine garbage trolling during my student years. But I hadn’t done it in ages. Now that I am a senior, I once again see the value of the practice. I am building up slowly to fully embracing it. When my next door neighbors moved away recently, they left some lovely birch logs by the side of the house — a mere four feet from my side door. I waited for a few days after they vacated to see if they’d return for the logs. They didn’t. The new owners had not yet moved in, so I took the audacious step of lifting the logs. There were only three, but they looked like great kindling. I used them to start our fire when Crazy D and his girlfriend, L’il Sis and The Pig came for a family dinner. I am a good fire builder so was surprised and disappointed when the fire didn’t take. Crazy D struggled for some time, doing everything but throwing barbeque lighter fluid on it. I finally admitted my crime, allowing that perhaps the logs hadn’t been as dry as I thought. Bad Karma was getting me back! At least, being a senior, I can get away with much more than I used to be able to. Seniors are seen as ‘quirky’ or eccentric. Other people who do the same shit are either thieves or whack jobs. Another senior benefit not well advertised!
During the winter months, The Man In My Life often invites me over to his place for a cozy evening in front of the fire. And too much wine and soft music…His fires have recently been greatly improved. I asked why. “Oh, it’s the bits of lumber I find in dumpsters,” he announced proudly.
“YOU dumpster dive?” I asked, incredulous. He spent his career in top administrative and teaching positions at a top-rated university, so this was completely out of character.When I questioned him, I understood. It was a question of not wasting valuable stuff. As a young boy on the farm, he learned the value of money and using everything carefully. A valuable trait. It’s just that I had a little difficulty picturing him leaning into a dumpster, pawing through the contents until he found what he wanted! But again, at this stage in life, image is the last thing on one’s mind. Call us crazy…we may have the last laugh!
In a similar vein — I chuckled, when I was young, at the seniors taking advantage of ‘early bird specials’ by eating dinner at 4:30. Now, I’m not laughing. We hoard coupons for our favorite pizza joint, Swiss Chalet chicken dinners, or cheap movies…and use them often. I look forward to Senior’s Day at The Bay or the drug store and never fail to negotiate with clerks to get the best deal. It’s not that I’m cheap, it’s just that I feel it’s about time, that I’m owed it, and it’s just plain fun to stir things up. It doesn’t matter if I win the game, it’s the fun I’m having while doing it.
See you in the local dumpster!