One Man’s Junk

If you read the title of this post and you immediately thought of something naughty, get your mind out of the gutter! This is a PG-13-ish blog, so obviously, when I write an entire treatise on a man’s junk, I’m talking about something totally different, something I love more than anything—wow, it’s REALLY hard to avoid the innuendo here—so let me clear this up: I’m talking about Big Junk Day, and all the wonderful things that people throw away, things that are trash to them but treasures to me. The official term for this glorious week of pile-diving is Large Item Pick-up, but to me it’s just Big Junk Day.

It was Tuesday. It had been a particularly hard afternoon, because around 3, I’d been in a video call with my Director when suddenly I heard a loud buzzing and something large flew past my face:

Director: What was that?
Me: There’s a really big fly in here.
Director: There it is again!
Me: Oh my god, IT’S A GIANT WASP!!

So I did what any normal person would do—I called for Ken to bring me a fly swatter and both my Director and I held our breath as I tried to dispatch it quickly and mercifully, a difficult task considering how uncoordinated I am with a fly swatter (just for the record, I hate killing things, and usually try to put insects outside, but I was being attacked and had little choice*). Did I ask my Director if I could call her back in a minute? Of course not, because what fun would that be? No, I made her watch as I flailed around in my chair, slamming the fly swatter against the window several times until finally I caught it in a corner and sent it into the next life. Under normal circumstances, I would have used a tissue to pick it up and put it in the garbage, but I WAS IN A MEETING, so I left it there on the windowsill until I was done. Then the meeting finished, I turned to the windowsill and THE WASP WAS GONE. I still had over an hour left before the end of the workday, and there I was, a sitting duck for a very angry and vengeful wasp. I couldn’t find it anywhere—it hadn’t, in its death throes, rolled onto the floor, and I hadn’t seen it resurrect itself and fly off. So for the next hour, I sat at my desk with my feet up on my chair just in case. I haven’t seen it since, and I have no idea where it went, but suffice it to say, I’m keeping an eye open for something large, yellow and black striped, and slightly smushed.

And after yet another flying insect fiasco (remember the fruit fly from last week?), I really needed a break. So I yelled, “Hey Ken—do you want to go for a drive up and down the back roads?”

Ken: Why?
Me: That’s where all the best junk is. The junk that the other junk pickers haven’t gotten to yet.
Ken: Well, the weather IS charming. But I should keep working on the gazebo…
Me: Keep working on the—I just woke you up from a nap!
Ken: Let’s go look at junk!

We set out, up one concession and down another, with me yelling out instructions like, “Slow down! There’s a lovely pile of junk up here!” and “Ooh, look at these treasures!” and “I’m not trying to be judgmental, but the junk these people have is rather low quality—I thought they’d do better after last year.”

Now, before you think I live in a glass house and shouldn’t throw stones at other people’s junk, I can tell you that Ken and I put out a beautiful solid oak sideboard that we had once used as a bathroom vanity. It was in perfect condition except for the holes cut in the top for a sink and taps. But the woman who pulled up in her truck to take it was thrilled. “I have a slab of marble that’s just the right size to replace the top,” she said, as we helped her load it. See—we not only have great junk but we provide complimentary curbside service as well.

Our personal haul included the following: an antique magazine holder, an antique wood and wicker fern stand, a stained glass lamp shade (no damage at all!), a little red wood toboggan (perfect for a Christmas display), a leather suitcase with a travel sticker, 2 pond forms, an antique wool winder, 2 wrought iron chairs (Ken replaced the broken seats) and an ornamental concrete garden pedestal. More than made up for that elusive wasp.

But I’ve always had tremendous luck with Big Junk Day. One year, I was driving home and I saw a china cabinet, so Ken agreed to take me down the road to get it. As we stopped, a van pulled in behind us, kicking up gravel. Ken grabbed the china cabinet and started loading it, as young guy ran up. “Aw, that was what I was here for,” he said sadly. You snooze, you lose in Big Junk land, my friend. But then, he started rummaging through a garbage bag and pulled out a huge stuffed, mounted fish. And it was AWESOME. I said, “You should take that—they’re very collectible.” The guy put it back in the bag, but then as we were leaving, I saw him drive away without it. Well, I thought about that fish all night, and the next day, on the way to pick up Kate from school, I saw its fin still sticking out of the bag. So I did what anyone would do—I pulled over and put it in the backseat. Then I was worried, because Kate had a habit of throwing open the back door and tossing her backpack in, and I didn’t want Frank to get hurt. This meant that as I stopped the car, I locked the door and yelled out the window, “Be careful! There’s a fish in the back!” Kate was with some of her friends, and they all looked kind of puzzled. Then she opened the car door, jumped back a bit and said, “Mom! What the hell!”

Me: What?
K: Why do you have a stuffed and mounted fish in the back of the car?!
Me: I found it. I’m going to sell it. His name is Frank.
K: NO ONE is going to buy a dead fish.
Me: Sure they will. Lots of people would LOVE to hang a stuffed fish over their fireplace mantle.
K: Mom. Let me explain something to you. There are two types of people in this world. People who fish and DON’T hang what they catch over their mantelpiece, and people who fish and hang the fish they PERSONALLY CAUGHT over their mantelpiece. But no man should EVER mount another man’s fish….
Me: *snicker*
K: OK, yes, that sounded weird. But no one will buy it, I’m telling you.

We did sell Frank eventually for ten dollars at a yard sale. A woman admired Frank, who we’d pulled out of the shed to put by the side of the road on the grounds that none of us REALLY wanted a dead fish in the house, so I told her she could have him for free because, as it turned out, one of his fins was kind of cracked and flappy. She loaded all of her purchases into her car, then suddenly she came back to the house. “Here,” she said, holding out a $10 bill. “That’s for the fish. I know he’s worth a lot more.” When we protested that no, she could just have him, she insisted, and tucked the bill into a glass on the table. “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” she laughed, and then drove away. A woman after my own heart.

 (*Update: I found the wasp upstairs in a window so I got a glass and a piece of cardboard, caught it and put it outside. Live long and prosper, little friend.)

55 thoughts on “One Man’s Junk

  1. Bear says:

    Oh good, a happy ending for the wasp.
    Oh, you’re right about innuendo.

    Mrs B pointed out to me that there was a new reclaim shop in the nearest town, which was a bit of a blow as I though we’d moved far enough away from the various nik-nacks and bic-a-brac, brocantes and boot sales that preciously supplied a large amount of the contents of our garage in our last home.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ll admit, I guffawed (really) when I saw the title.

    I once found a nearly-new couch just set out by a very-well-to-do family around the corner from me. My daughter and I carried it up the steep hill and down the block, where we spent 30 minutes trying to get it in the house because our doorways were just slightly too narrow. Let me tell you this: you find out what sort of child you’ve raised when you do something like try to get a too-big couch through a doorway. I learned that my “colorful language” sounds really cool in stereo.

    Last year, I found a like-new elliptical across the street from where I’d found the couch! All it needed was batteries in the control panel. I looked it up and it’s a $750 machine! It was like Christmas came in May! Let me tell you this: you find out what sort of man you married when you find a 200 lb exercise machine on the side of the road and he says, “Let me re-position the van.”

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ken’s just the same–I can always count on him. When we saw the concrete pedestal, I thought it was resin and tried to pick it up–what a shock. Ken just got out of the SUV, walked over, and hoisted it up like it was nothing. Gotta love that. And that lampshade–talk about Christmas coming early! And talking about swearing–when Kate was little, she would NOT swear at all, but now that she’s older, she’s certainly her mother’s daughter as well!

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  3. Stationary suitcases, broken clocks, bulbless lamps, buttless chairs, a true collector. When your wintertime gazebo turns into a storage shed for more junk, you might consider seeking help.
    To me, if it’s not functional, used at least a dozen time a year — out it goes. All through my 20’s all I owned was a motorcycle, a sleeping bag and a duffle full of wrinkled clothing. I haven’t expanded too much from that, even today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All my lamps have bulbs, I’ll thank you very much😉 I just like pretty things—I’m a bit of a magpie. But we just took a booth in an antique market so my junk will soon be someone else’s problem!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Well, that went innuendo and out the other. I’m glad you found the wasp, and you’re much more merciful than I would be. Wasps kill spiders so I while I don’t want them to suffer I do make sure they’re dead.
    And congratulations on the big score of that lamp. I would ask if Ken picked up anything special for himself but I don’t want to know about Ken’s junk.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I wish my life was half as interesting as yours!

    I have a catch-and-release policy for any living thing that finds its way into my house. However, like you, I make exceptions for things that are angry, can fly erratically, and have painful stings.

    That being said, I did actually release a yellow-jacket back into the wild yesterday. He seemed a bit “docile” and so I was able to scoop him up on the fly-swatter and safely release him (her) outside. However, if he (she) had suddenly started flying, it would have been every living creature for themselves.

    My other exception is cockroaches. I will burn my house down to the foundation to kill a single cockroach.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There are no junk days here, everyone around here, like me, donate to the Goodwill. But they have remote donation centers and sometimes they have some really nice donated furniture. Like a old china cabinet they once had out, and it needed some paint but it was for sure a good piece of furniture. But there’s rarely junk out to look through around here, sadly. But then if they did, I’d spend all weekend driving around looking for the great junk, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, great. Now when they look back at the zombie wasp apocalypse, they can say, “Well, thanks to the documentary evidence presented in this blog post about One Man’s Junk, we’ve determined where the zombie wasp invasion began.”

    We lived in Germany for several years. Junking day was a treat for us. “Let’s go see what junk has been put out.” “We’d better hurry, before all the good junk is gone!”

    And we did get some good junk. But we always wondered (with secret suspicions), why did they toss this perfectly good piece of junk? What is wrong with it? What is wrong with us, that we’ll take another person’s tossed junk?

    Conversely, we also thought, “Fools. This isn’t junk. This is treasure.”

    We didn’t do junking day in America, but many military bases would have a giant flea market. We did one in South Carolina to get rid of some crap so we could be some new crap. We had a little sports car, a Mazda RX-7 (the first of several). Not much could fit in it, so a plan was devised: I would take my wife and a first load of junk to the flea market and set up. Then I would make trips back and forth until we had everything there.

    Worked well, but, every time I returned, everything was gone. My wife said, “You’d unload it and walk away, and someone would immediately walk up and buy it.” For all the loads done, there was nothing there, and we’d sold everything in less than ninety minutes.

    What a treasured memory.Thanks for bringing it up. Cheers

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  8. Suzanne,
    How fun, fun, fun! What great finds! *excitedly rubbing hands together* I love the suitcase. I mean as long as it doesn’t smell. Those can fetch big bucks if you chose to do that; however, I wouldn’t be able to sell any of mine. When I die, my family can sell them or whatever. Ooh, do you think any of the items you got are haunted? If so, hopefully, it’s a spirit more in line with Casper than with…huh, I guess I don’t know any other ghosts. 🙂 Mona

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I must admit you were much kinder to the wasp than I would have been.

    Also: I love the story with the woman and the big fish, and her insisting you take $10 for it. Who knew a stuffed fish could inspire such enthusiasm?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. We don’t have a “junk day” around here, and usually if folks put something out with a “free” sign it’s overpriced. Probably a good thing, we have a small house and it’s full already.

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  11. Wasps are evil, and no sane person should ever have to worry about consequences from PETA for destroying those death bugs! They used to get in through my bedroom window when I was a kid and make their nest on the INSIDE! I literally had to sleep with one eye open…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I so miss sidewalk shopping…it’s pretty much nonexistent here. And THANK YOU so much for letting me (us!) know that the wasp was okay and is now happily buzzing around out in nature!

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  13. What a fun post! I wish we had access to junk these days. When I was a kid, “dump day” was a similar opportunity to treasure hunt. Everyone would fill their vehicles with junk, go to the dump, and come home with as much as they dropped off. My parents picked up an oak table with 8 matching chairs that they still have to this day. Us kids had to guard the junk while my parents made trips back and forth to get it all home! Lol. Thanks for the laughs and for stirring up a few fond memories. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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