Friday, June 10, 2011

Lighting a Lantern in the Daylight

I think it's interesting that there is sort of a curbside giveaway going on, at least in this area. I've talked to people who didn't want the bother of transporting a sofa or a washing machine so they put it on the curb and, with or without a sign, the item disappears in short order. It's a win-win: someone gets a free whatever and someone is rid of something they don't want.

I had a contractor grade wheelbarrow that a mason left when he redid our front porch about ten years ago.  I reminded him and called him a number of times about the 'barrow but he never came and picked it up.I eventually covered it and offered it to several people I know, but no one was interested. I didn't need it--I have spent more than my share of time behind a wheelbarrow. A week or so ago I decided to clean up the back yard where the wheelbarrow lay in a corner, covered by plastic. I put the wheelbarrow by the curb with a sign that read, "Free--please take."  I expected it would disappear quickly like the things left out by people I talked to.  It wasn't new--the pan was caked with concrete and rusted through here and there--but the wheel and frame were in good shape.

It might have been that my sign folded over in the wind, but no one picked it up the first day. Or the second. I began to feel like an anti-Diogenes, the cynic philosopher who went searching with a lit lantern in the daytime trying to find an honest person. (Who said a minor in philosophy would never be useful?)  My problem was the people passing by were too honest. No one would take a wheelbarrow sitting by the curb. Not that we haven't had things stolen. Someone took the bed liner out of my truck this past year.  The police said it could have been worse--thieves also were stealing catalytic converters. We have also had the fog lamp insert from Becky's Avalon stolen and the license plate year sticker off the car. But it looked like no one wanted a wheelbarrow.

On the third day, I made sure the sign was secure and visible and put the wheelbarrow out. By mid-morning, it was gone.  The curbside market had worked.

It's good to know that I can leave things out and they won't be taken, although I'm not about to leave power tools lying around outside or park my 1964 Gibson B-45-12 by the curb just to see what will happen. I believe most people are honest, but I also believe in not creating tempting situations.


  1. Enjoying your Blog. During the girls college years we had some older cars. We parked the 1986 Mercury Marquis on the street one summer night. The next morning the girls and I went out to head to work and Kaylan noticed the chrome frame that surrounded the tail lights was missing - oops! Still drivable - we had lights. No room in the driveway again the next night...the next morning all the "lights" had been removed. Call that stupid! Another time we had a "free" sign on 4 lawnmowers- we had "shoppers" that needed to know the quality of our free gifts- finally after about 4 days the right person came along and took all four mowers.

  2. In Alexandria, this takes the form of 'clean-up' day. Twice a year, we get to put out anything that normal trash collection won't take. On the assigned morning, special trucks come and take everything to the dump--or wherever. BUT...the night before, scavengers hit the streets and make off with anything they might find useful, fully-sanctioned by everyone.