My refrigerator is littered with post it notes of “to do” lists: products to buy, things to be organized, and calls to make. I get a sick sense of satisfaction in crossing things off of the list, each scratch signifying the fact that I am getting closer to settling into my new home and getting it organized exactly the way I want it to be for the year.
A few days ago, I was making a chore of running numerous loads of broken down corrugated boxes to my recycling bin outside of my apartment, clearing out the mess to give myself some breathing room. As I ever so ungracefully hauled my first load out to the dumpster, I saw an older man with white hair standing right outside of that area of my apartment building with his dog.
I had a full armload of trash and wasn’t exactly feeling up to interacting with someone who hangs out by the dumpster, but I couldn’t exactly turn around and go back, as it was obvious where my destination was from my attempt at juggling the awkward lengths of cardboard. He was staring intently at a chair with a busted out seat that had been sitting outside of the dumpster since I had moved in. I took a deep breath and silently hoped that my resting bitch face made me look mean enough that he wouldn’t strike up a conversation with me. No such luck.
“Do you know if this chair belongs to anyone?” he asked.
“I would assume not, since it’s with the rest of the trash,” I answered, as I threw my boxes in the recycling bin. I was staying the course of getting rid of my boxes and leaving. I figured if I kept moving, he would get the hint that I wasn’t really into this whole conversation about a broken chair.
“How long has it been out here?”
“A couple of days.”
“There isn’t a sign on it that says I can take it…but it can definitely be fixed. Look at it! It isn’t that bad! What if it belongs to someone?”
I looked at the chair that had been sitting next to a dumpster for close to a week enduring all of the elements with the woven seat completely busted through and wondered how he saw potential in what I so clearly saw as trash. I also wondered what crazy person he thought lived here that sat outside by the dumpster to take in the sunshine while falling halfway through a chair.
It’s safe to say I see more couches, tables, and random household objects littering the corners here than normal. Most of them have signs saying “Free, please take” or something of that nature, and I rarely see them again the next day. In one sense, I’m glad people are so frugal in their reuse of things. In another sense, I would never in my life pick up a used couch that was on the street corner because I could never get past thinking about bedbugs, lice, or other contamination that would have saturated the fabric.
“If you want it, take it,” I said. I was annoyed that this eyesore had been so close to my home for so long anyways. I figured if I could get it to go away, I was not only doing myself a service, but all of my neighbors as well.
“Are you gonna narc on me?” the old man asked.
I was primarily offended by the fact that he called me a narc, or even saw narc possibility in me based on the whole minute he had known me. The fact that it was regarding something as menial as him taking a
broken chair was simply salt in that wound. I was taken aback, now that this was an insult on my character, and suddenly I found myself roped into a conversation about a broken chair that I was trying to avoid in the first place.
“Why would I narc? I want you to take the chair.”
“I mean I will give you my name and address.”
“What?” I looked at him confused.
“I want you to narc.”
“I don’t know what is happening right now.”
“I want you to take my name and address, and when someone comes looking for the chair, tell them that I took it, and that this is where they can find me.”
I stared at him dumbfounded.
“No one wants the chair. It’s by the dumpster. I’m confident you are fine in taking it,” I said.
He looked at me confused. I sighed.
“Fine. Give me your info, and I will tell whoever comes looking for the chair to get a hold of you if they come looking for it.”
He spouted off his name and address, and I nodded and told him I had it memorized.
“Thank you so much!” he said, and happily walked off, dog in one hand and chair thrown over his back.
I suppose I shouldn’t be put off by the fact that people are so overly concerned with being nice. It is simply a new thing for me. Seattle is a weird twilight zone of niceness and concern for things that, I’m convinced, in any other place, are not looked at twice. There’s a sense of peace that fact brings me now that I’m living here. Knowing that people are out for the better good is a great feeling. However, that also puts me in the higher ranks of harsher personalities that live out here. I guess you have to be good at something. I believe I’m far too stubborn to ever let my guard down completely, and I’ll definitely never be refurbishing dumpster chairs, but I secretly have peace of mind that my little neighborhood is secure enough that people consider taking someone else’s trash a moral dilemma. That makes it much easier to walk back in the door of my humble abode and be one step closer to calling it “home.”