SCROUNGED

Whenever I go to our town’s transfer station (formerly called “the dump”), I am always on the lookout for useful items that have been discarded. While our transfer station doesn’t have an actual swap building—how I wish it did—it does have a table where people can put things that are still somewhat useful. There is also a huge box for discarded books, and I have found a gem or two in there.

Unfortunately, not everyone uses the table. A while back, when I was at the transfer station, I saw a man throw three perfectly good braided chair pads—they looked as though they were brand new—into the central pit. As it happens, those chair pads were exactly what I had in mind for the chairs around our dining room table, and three would have brought me half-way to my goal. Why would he just throw the chair pads away? It was beyond my comprehension. I stared at the chair pads for quite a while, considering how I might retrieve them, and I felt very bitter feelings toward this man for just flinging the pads into the pit.

However, I knew they were lost. Steve Knight, who teaches science at the high school, recently told me that he is no longer allowed to retrieve items from the pit. He was told that it’s too dangerous, which, of course, it is.  A funny story about Steve Knight, who is such a dedicated scrounger that he makes me look like a piker: Not long ago, someone asked Margy, his wife, if Steve had retired from his job at the high school to work at the transfer station. Steve was at the transfer station so often and seemed so much a part of things that it looked as though he worked there. No, Margy replied, laughing, Steve has not retired from teaching science at the high school. He just likes scrounging at the transfer station.

A couple of weeks ago, I found something at the transfer station that almost made up for the chair pads. It was a blender, an Osterizer, quite dirty but with an intact glass carafe. For a few minutes I debated with myself. Should I take it home? Technically, we don’t need a blender. We have a food processor and an immersion blender. But there are times when only an actual blender will do the trick, say, when you want crushed ice for some kind of drink or a really smooth smoothie. There was also the distinct possibility that it didn’t work, that it really was trash. Finally I grabbed it, thinking, “Oh, what the heck! What’s the worst that can happen? It won’t work, and then I’ll bring it back next week.”

Now, I have often and openly admitted how unhandy I am, and it really is a trial. Luckily, I am married to a man who is quite handy, and after fiddling with the blender, my husband, Clif, said, “Well, it doesn’t work, but it’s not because the motor is shot.” Rather, it was because someone had foolishly put the little rubber gasket under the blade, thus ruining both. A quick Internet search revealed that we could order the gasket and blade for $6.50 with free shipping. Clif ordered them that day.

We put the glass carafe and the cover in our dish washer to give them a good cleaning, and we scrubbed the base with window cleaner and rubbing alcohol until the base was so shiny that I could see my own reflection in it.

A week later, the blade and gasket came in. Clif assembled the blender, and violà! It worked. Smooth smoothies and crushed ice, here we come. Just in time for summer.

There are, of course, a couple of morals to this story. First, we got a perfectly good blender for $6.50. We also saved the blender from going into the trash before its time and adding to the mountain—and I mean this literally—of trash in a landfill just outside of Bangor.

But there is also a larger story. In this country, there is such a surplus that people throw away perfectly good items before they are truly trash. I’ve reflected on this as I buy hardly-worn clothes at the consignment shop in town. Who would get rid of such nice clothes? Lucky for me, some women do, and thanks to them, I can spend my money on things that really matter—a handmade pottery platter for a bridal shower present, a meal at a local restaurant, a CSA share from Farmer Kev, organic food. A play at the Theater at Monmouth.

So while a part of me cluck, clucks over such wastefulness, a part of me is glad to be the recipient of such items.

 

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