Early in March, I saw four wicker-ish chairs sitting rather forlornly at the end of a sloped driveway. The worn chairs weren’t in a seating arrangement, but rather lined up horizontally two by two, like airline seats all squished together front-to-back.
Of course, I knew what was happening: It was a curbside giveaway, the ultimate recycling system.
In my imagination, the owner was tired of the chairs, or didn’t have room for them anymore. He/she just couldn’t stomach the idea of holding yet another garage sale or putting the chairs up for sale in a want ad or on craigslist.com. That weary owner was hoping someone driving or walking past would see the chairs, know they were up for grabs, instantly think, “Oh, those would be perfect in my (wherever),” and promptly take them home, fix them up and love them forever.
It’s amazing how often it works that wayespecially when there’s a “FREE” sign pinned somewhere.
Now you see them, now you don’t.
The process is a cross between a hand-me-downs, a garage sale, a thrift shop and dumpster diving. It could be an Olympic sport, especially in Cambria. If an item is particularly attractive or desirable, it’s usually gone within an hour, and I’ve seen some nose-to-nose confrontations between eager (read pushy) takers.
“I got here first.” “Didn’t. I saw this (whatever) 10 minutes ago and had to go home and get my car.” “Didn’t.” “Did so.”
But donor beware. There’s another side to the giveaway coin. Cambria curb-shoppers can be fussy. An over-worn, wobbly chest of drawers could be out there all summer, an ugly prospect.
There are other versions of the game, of course. I remember when a friend was going to hold a garage sale to clear out her warehouse unit, but couldn’t face the prospect of figuring out all the prices. As her stress reached stratospheric levels, I told her, “You’re not doing this for the money; you’re doing it to get rid of all this stuff. Why not just give it away?”
The result was like a herd of locusts, snatching up items right and left in a literal free-for-all, including things that NOBODY could identify. What’s that software for? What does that obscure appliance do? Why does that only have one arm? Don’t have a clue. Didn’t matter. The “shoppers” took it all anyway.
Another time, when we were cleaning out our “barn” storage adjacent to our former house, we tossed the cast-offs into a huge pile out front. Friends, neighbors and strangers wandering by asked if we were giving the stuff away.
It was astonishing which people took what things.
But our ultimate curbside-recycling example was last year after our family and friends had taken what they wanted from a large group of things we were giving away. There were about 20 or 30 boxes of stuff left, so Kris Greek and I loaded up the van with about a third of them.
Kris offered to put the rest back into the Tin Village warehouse unit until we returned from the Morro Bay Goodwill trailer. “No,” I said. “The idea is to get rid of this stuff. Just leave the other boxes outside the unit with a sign on them that says, ‘Free,’ and we’ll see what’s left when we get back.”
We drove south and unloaded at the donation trailer. Heading back to the warehouse, we tried to figure out where to put the leftovers. Kris estimated that people might have taken a few boxes worth of stuff. I said I thought more would be gone, with maybe as many as half the containers being empty.
There were three boxes left, and they weren’t full. People took containers and all.
I’ve never seen Kris look so wide-eyed, jaw-dropped astonished. “Whatever are they going to do with that (whatever)?” he asked over and over again about different obscure items.
Each time, my answer was the same. “Don’t know. Don’t care. It’s gone and we don’t have to move it again.”
Maybe it’s not what the county’s Integrated Waste Management Authority thinks of as recycling, and I’m not sure it’s strictly legal, but by gosh, curbside giveaways work.