The late columnist Molly Ivins, said that being Canadian must feel like living next door to the Simpsons. A lot of people have made this exact observation. Case in point: our propensity for turning our front lawns into Hooterville and putting up for sale our private possessions is perhaps out-slummed by the phenomenon of the Free Pile. (http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2011/05/selling-the-vibrator/)
The Free Pile is where everything goes that hasn’t sold in a yard sale, hasn’t yet been picked up by a donation agency, and which you don’t have the energy to load into your car and take to a repository. There was such a pile outside my house beginning on Friday afternoon.
It started with the Diamondback elliptical and its power cord. I used the elliptical for years until I got tendonitis from pumping away for too long with my head angled unnaturally toward the television because I couldn’t stop watching the Gilmore Girls. By the time I moved the TV to straight in front of me, the damage was done. I couldn’t find another series I liked well enough to induce me to that amount of exercise.
An entertainment center was next. Gwen, my neighbor who knows something about just about everything, gave this to me along with her giant TV when she bought her first flat screen. Gwen has so much more class than I do: she gives things to her friends.
“Sorry, Gwen,” I said (I wasn’t) when she noticed it on the street.
“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s traveling.”
I put out three boxes of stuff including a jar missing its lid, 5 new blank cassette tapes, a bath pillow, a plastic desk blotter, a large yellow plastic designer flower, 4 plastic iced tea glasses, one of them dis-colored; an empty Avon “Here’s my Heart” cream sachet jar, a packet of bamboo torch wicks, 2 eye droppers, 2 car jacks, a mouse pad, piles of T-shirts and towels, a cotton bathroom rug, a plastic faux-old wall sconce.
I had plans to take some electronics to a recycling event but these items made a pit stop at the Free Pile outside my house: an old computer monitor, keyboard, printer and speakers; also a portable oven that called itself convection because it had a fan. It had belonged to my parents; I used it in the summer when I didn’t want to heat up the house. I’d run it outside with an extension cord and cook fish. But since we are never again having summer in Seattle, I thought it was time to dispose of this relic.
Besides, Gwen who is both classy and generous has left with me –on permanent loan—a Coleman grill. She and I have started not a few fires in it when we’ve attempted to barbeque. It’s also where we roasted the Peeps one April Fool’s Day. (http://www.elenalouiserichmond.com/2011/05/peeps-in-performance/).
Matt, my yard guy, posed a 4-foot high stuffed Santa Claus on the elliptical. During this operation, his cell phone slipped out of his pocket. He was hunting for it when a bicyclist stopped to inspect the loot. He called Matt’s number and they located his phone. The bicyclist rode off with a towel. I heard all this from where I sat at my computer. It gave me the idea for this blog.
A young man knocked on the door to ask me if there was a power cord to the elliptical because if there was, he would take them both. I searched through the stuff, now strewn all over the side yard. Someone had taken the power cord to the elliptical! It was still usable but you couldn’t vary the speed or keep track of your progress. The only speed I was interested in was how fast I got through the Gilmore Girls episodes, but I understand that everyone isn’t like me.
I found the lid to the glass jar so I retrieved the jar. Then I took back the Avon “Here’s My Heart” cream sachet jar.
Some kids stopped to pose with the Santa Claus, taking pictures of each other on their phones. They left the Santa working out on the elliptical.
A man with a lovely conscience was hesitant to take the T-shirts because he was going to use them for rags and someone else might need them for clothes.
“Take anything you want for any reason at all,” I noblesse obliged him.
Someone took the dis-colored iced tea glass. The blank cassettes went one by one. A walker took the plastic flower. All the electrical and computer bits except the monitor disappeared. Someone took the elliptical!
I began coming home from a different direction so I could observe the progress. I usually come via 87th street so my car is pointed north on the parking strip. Otherwise when it rains, I have a lake to negotiate to get into the driver’s seat. I started driving home via 88th because it slowly unveiled what was left of the Free Pile. It was like Christmas in reverse: instead of amassing a pile of junk, I watched it recede.
Further drama was introduced by the threat of rain which was forecasted for Tuesday, then pushed to Wednesday. Then it doubled-back. I covered what was left of the pile in plastic just before the first drops came. At this writing, there is still the computer monitor, the entertainment center and three iced-tea glasses. I have great faith in the American public that before long my only souvenir of the Free Pile will be the fact that I still have that tendonitis.