A Pirate Took my Bicycle, and other Scavenging Stories from The Move

I am moving to Maryland. Yup, all the way across the country! I got a new job. I am very excited about this: it’s in my original field of study (astrophysics and applied math) and it’s a chance to contribute to the sum of human knowledge. But it’s 3,000 miles away. So I am moving – me, my car, my stuff and my grandparents’ stuff. Uh oh. That’s a lot of stuff. I’ve got to get rid of some of this stuff!

I heard that the CraigsList “free” section was pretty good, and I’ve also noticed a lot of “free” signs at my neighbors’ curbs that seem effective. I called the city for a dumpster and found out that their cheapest, smallest one was $675. After I caught my breath, I decided to take my three free “cleanup” days instead and improvise the rest. A cleanup day means you, the resident, have an 8x4x4 foot space (about three twin-sized mattresses) to fill up with your junk. It cannot include any toxic chemicals, cans of paint, or anything that is more than 4 feet long, though mattresses are okay. After a few remodeling projects, I had more than enough to fill that up, a few times over. And I had lumber that had to be cut down or otherwise removed. My ex-husband and my stepson came by and we got to work on the garage clean up that was still on the “to do” list from our marriage – it’s been that long since the place was clean.

As the end of our busy day rolled around, we put a bunch of stuff out to the curb. Before you know it, a gnarled man in a rusting white Chevy truck came by to ask if the bicycle still worked. As I came closer to answer him, I noticed he had a grey frizzy beard, one eye that was going in another direction, and he had a large Amazon macaw parrot on his shoulder. Yeah, that’s right, a live parrot. I told the man yes and that the bike only needed new tires, so he asked if one of us would put it in the back of the truck. It has me wondering if the reason he asked was because his wooden peg leg was bothering him and he didn’t want to put weight on it. The evening got even weirder from there. I put out a “curb alert” posting with a couple of photos and my address on CraigsList. I went out to lock up the garage a little while later and interrupted a few people hauling off my stuff in the dark. By the following evening, most of the pile had gone away. Wow. I had to take the ad down because there were too many scavengers picking through what trash was left. The junk pile attracted other neighbors’ junk, including someone’s rusty cans of paint (oh thank you for leaving me to dispose of your illegal old paint). The pile grew and then contracted as trash day neared, but by the time the garbage men came, it was within the allotted size. I took nearly 20 gallons of old paint to the paint shop for recycling, including the rusty ones, gave the woodpile to the carpenter who fixed my mantel, CraigsListed a bunch of stuff for free and sold several pieces of furniture over the following weeks. Finally, after packing, painting and a lot of home repair, it was moving day.

If you have ever wondered what it might be like to work in a beehive, I think working in the house with the movers and the packers is a near facsimile. So much going on and lots of people busy in a small space. I was worried if I sat still, they’d put me in a box and put me on the truck! When the movers had loaded my stuff partly on board, one of the men invited me to have a look. I couldn’t identify a thing! It was all wrapped in blankets and the truck had no unpacked areas – these guys must rock at Tetris.

At the end of the day, after two hours spent taking apart and moving my rather large refrigerator, it was time to say goodbye to my little house. I spent 14 years there, trying to make a life for myself and my family, only to start all over again. But then, I suppose the universe opens a window when it closes a door. I was sad to leave, but it is all part of the greater adventure. And, after all, there is a cross-country drive ahead and fresh crab cakes at the end. So, away we go!

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1 Response to A Pirate Took my Bicycle, and other Scavenging Stories from The Move

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