Because garbage collection is slated for the very early morning in our neighbourhood, we’re allowed to put it at the curb the night before. This means that every other Tuesday night, you can find an amazing assortment of discarded items – everything from small appliances to small furniture. This always results in visits from “the pickers”. They’re always the same ones, and they appear to have certain rules, habits, or protocol (I haven’t decided which). For example, they never arrive at the same time and they always come by in the same order. I watch them from time to time, and because we live on a circle, I get a bird’s eye view of their behaviour. There must be a latent anthropologist inside me somewhere, or maybe it’s just the writer – grist for the mill and all that.
First, there’s the burly, surly guy in the black pickup truck. He always takes all the metal items that he can see and most of the small appliances. He shows no interest in wooden furniture, even good furniture, or anything else for that matter. To put it mildly, he is not an endearing chap. He always looks as if he’s spoiling for a fight and he doesn’t always put the things he doesn’t want back in the boxes, but woe betide the foolish homeowner who might want to discuss this. Perhaps that’s why the other pickers always wait until after he’s made his rounds. Suffice to say, “I will never love him”.
The visit from Mr. Bellicose is followed by that of the man in the shabby old car. He takes whatever metal Mr. B has considered beneath him, and some of the glass. This second individual is always fast and furtive. He acts as if someone might come out of a house, or show up in a vehicle, to challenge him. He should know that we’re all happy to get rid of the stuff on the curb; that’s why it’s out there. Maybe he’s just shy or embarrassed. He shouldn’t be; he’s doing us all a service by helping to recycle things. Then again, he may have had a previous run-in with Mr. B, and not want a repeat performance.
The third picker is a woman on a bicycle with a large box attached to its rear fender. Because she resembles some of my favourite characters, I have a soft spot for her. She has unapologetically grey hair, scruffy clothes, and a jaunty air about her. From the way she rides her bike, I would say that she’s probably fairly fit, but you can’t really know anything about a stranger, can you? She’s the one I wonder about the most; she doesn’t look destitute, mildly eccentric perhaps, but not destitute. Why does she do it? Is her bicycle her only means of transportation? I don’t even know what she takes out of the bins; they’re always small items and she puts them directly into her box. She’s never taken anything from our bins, so I have no idea what it is that she collects. Is she a very dedicated recycler, someone with a collecting mania (bottle caps?), or a person in need of what she takes? She’s the most mysterious and compelling visitor of the three. Since I don’t think that she’d appreciate being questioned, I mull over the various possibilities from time to time. Who knows? Maybe she’ll end up in a story. Maybe they all will.