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The Observer June 9

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A friend of The Observer is moving soon. He rented a big dumpster — one of those things that looks like a railroad gondola car — to collect the throw-away stuff accumulated after 15 years in a rambling house. You know, odd bits of old lumber, bent curtain rods, fuzzy mounds of mold-enfleshing rusty skeletons of old lawn furniture, cracked dishes, rusty cookware, historic shower curtains and the like. He was afraid his neighbors would sneak over in the night to throw away their own junk. Was he ever wrong! Instead he has been swarmed by legions of dumpster divers. First it was the painters who were spiffing the house up for putting on the market, then the electrician fixing a flickering fluorescent. The other day his wife came home to find a strange pickup truck backed up to the massive container. As she got out of the car a head popped up from the dumpster: “Hope you don’t mind,” it said. A polite girl from a small town, she just smiled. Her husband was more alarmed when he found out about it, worrying about potential liability from rusty stabs and killer mold. He figures maybe the answer is to put up a huge sign reading “Dumpster Diving $1.99 an Hour.” His notion is that will take the dew off the rose: Clearly people will work much harder to get something for free than they will to earn the money it would cost to buy the same thing at Wal-Mart or the Goodwill.For now, though, no matter how much stuff he throws in the dumpster, the constant siphoning by the divers has kept it from ever getting more than about a quarter full. Riverfest 2005 is by now just a memory — unless you happen to park in the city lot northwest of the River Market. The Observer parks there, in an area where food and beer was vended. When we step out of our car, we have to be careful not to land in squashed crawfish, whose fragrance under the blazing sun is not to be described. Other food substances, no longer identifiable except by smell and texture underfoot, carpet the asphalt in places. But, one thing has improved. The first day we returned to work after the Memorial Day festival, we had just escaped the desecration and accompanying odor, fleeing to our office on the south side of Markham Street. And what greeted us at the front door? Sign of horse digestion, a pile of it, which we hear, but seldom walk through, at our place of work. Our own little workspace is nothing to brag about either — but that’s not the point. The Observer is not quite sure what the point is, but our own messy habits aren’t. On the elevator this week, a chatty lady just had to tell The Observer her news. It seems she’d just been at the gas station, and was greeted by a fellow who told her he’d pump her gas for a quarter. She gave him the quarter, and he did it. The Observer confesses that pumping gas is one of our least favorite things to do. It’s noxious, it makes our hands smelly, and now that we know we’re sure one day to set off an explosion because we didn’t discharge the static electricity from our body before exiting the car into the fumes, it makes us jittery, too. So The Observer does not frown on this new trend, if in fact that is what it is. If someone wants to make some money doing something we don’t want to do, and asks politely, and the price is reasonable, that’s fine with us. Those who thrust themselves across our hood to clean our windshields or stick their faces in our car to hawk carnations are a bother, because they know our windshields are clean enough and that we don’t want their tacky flowers. But pay someone two bits to pump our gas? Any day. The lady said the man told her he usually charged a dollar. A seniors discount? Speaking of seniors, the obsession with youth and svelteness in this country has long since gotten out of hand, but The Observer must make a comment. In the line of traffic to merge onto Interstate 30 one recent rush hour, we got behind a big, boxy, white late-model SUV. Its license plate: “74 VETT.” We know how it feels. Then we look in a mirror.

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