I am undecided on whether to put the pot on the curb with a sign that says “FREE!” Maybe it’s too small? Or too suspicious?
(You might be wondering what’s wrong with the pot. The bottom isn’t flat, it turns out, a fact I finally confirmed the other day while boiling eggs. It jittered and jerked around the flat stovetop like something unholy was about to hatch, and I might require a supplementary exorcism with breakfast.)
I don’t think it’s fit for donation to a resale shop, not without taping a lengthy explanation/apology to it that reeks of justification and ends with “Maybe you could store nails in it!”
No, my thoughts turn to the springtime solution of taking it to the curb.
It’s the time of year when municipalities are offering their spring cleanup services and residents schlep all sorts of stuff to the curb to be hauled away: yard waste, broken things, a surprising number of toilets, creepy sheets of profoundly weathered particleboard. That’s the junk pile for city staff members to scoop up.
But then there’s the stuff that’s slightly off to the side, not tossed in with the tangles of tree limbs and an inexplicable number of torn blue tarps.
If I’m feeling generous, it’s the “Maybe someone would want it!” pile. But if I’m being honest, at least in my case, it’s the “If I have to borrow a truck, heave this thing into it, pay the landfill fee, then shove it into the abyss of my and society’s shame, I will lose my mind. Instead, I will summon a bare minimum of energy, wrestle it outside and hope that our most furtive of economies, the curbside one, doesn’t let me down” pile.
I turn to the curbside economy when I can’t bear the thought of a yard sale, which is always, or when I lack the courage to face strangers perusing my unwanted stuff and possibly wondering why I have it in the first place. The curb is for things I hope someone else will want and will haul away so that I don’t have to.
A lot of mental gymnastics happen at the curb: Sure, this love seat looks like it was a longtime enrichment item for elephants at the zoo, and the only way a sane person would agree to sit on it is if they were offered an ammonia bath immediately afterward. But the frame is metal! Surely someone could at least get that metal out and sell it for scrap!
I think this is why a lot of the curbside economy occurs in the night. Items get hauled out after dark, and pick up patrols happen then, too.
A couple of months ago, I picked up two tall, narrow bookcases that a neighbor several streets over had put on the curb with the requisite “FREE!” sign. The effort of getting them involved two 5 mph trips with the bookcases laid across the back seat and poking out an open door, and it happened at 10 p.m.
For some reason, I didn’t want the neighbors to see me taking the bookcases, which… why?? Why would that even matter? They clearly didn’t want them. They sat on the curb for at least a day, but curbside transactions tend to be secret like that. Stuff appears and disappears as if by dark magic.
It was the same thing with a box of mystery plant bulbs another neighbor put on the curb last fall (with “FREE!” written on the side of the box, naturally). I walked by them in the daytime, thought about it, then went back to get them later. So, maybe the nighttime nature of the curbside economy is explained by dithering – do I want it? Maybe I want it. Or not. But it could be useful. Maybe?
And that’s the other thing about the curbside economy: the tragedy of things that don’t get picked up. I’ve seen ancient La-Z-Boys and broken trampolines sit sadly on curbs for days or even weeks, with the “FREE!” slowly dribbling down the poster board.
I find an innate sorrow in the unwanted thing that the curb can’t save and grant second life, but I’m never sorrowful enough to actually touch it or take it home.
The point, I think, is to be clear-eyed and rational, or rational-ish. Some stuff is clearly junk and the “FREE!” sign should actually say “I DIDN’T MAKE IT TO FREE DAY AT THE LANDFILL!” The curb is under no obligation to redeem that stuff.
But then there’s stuff that’s actually still good and doesn’t have any suspicious or alarming stains, I just don’t happen to want it anymore. Like the dining room chairs in my basement that lack a table. Surely someone wants some chairs! All they need is the curb and a “FREE!” sign, right?
And maybe if I put the convex-bottom pot on one of them, I could trick someone into taking it, too!
Rachel Sauer is at email@example.com and is keeping an eagle eye peeled on your curb.