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.)