Thursday, December 30, 2010

Class Distinction

It’s a process that few would understand. Certainly not the realtor who sat under the chandelier and proclaimed that the house and property we rent could sell for over $300,000 as it is now (in need of much renovation and central air) if the empty side yard is big enough to build another house on.

Sitting with a more understanding friend under that same chandelier, I explained it thusly: We keep four of the bulbs in it loose enough to not shine, and the fifth tightened until it does shine. That is a bright enough light for that room, though being a point-source, it casts stagey horror-flick shadows. When that light burns out, we tighten another, making it glow until it burns out.

“How many housemates do you have here?” said my friend.

I told him five.

“So each housemate could be responsible for one,” he said.

Yes, I said. And when all five have burned out, then it’s time to change the filter in the Brita pitcher, I said.

It’s a beautiful process. And yet, like the realtor, whatever sucker buys this heap of bricks for $300,000 certainly would not understand.

Continue . . .

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why Did She Do It?

I had simply taken 6 months to complete my registration on Freecycle, a process drawn out partly by the numerous obstacles established by the group’s proprietor, who is quite the net-nanny when it comes to keeping scammers off her site. I swear, you could let your pre-schoolers on there talking about free toilet seats or hernia belts, and they really would be talking about just those exact things, with people not lying about their age or gender.

To register on Freecycle, you have to send an email saying you will follow the rules. And then, to post, you have to follow the rules. Which I didn’t on two attempts each to offer two items, a washer and a dryer, which have been out-of-service for years and probably don’t work. My last rejection was back in May, and I didn’t follow up on it for months. But this past Monday we got the bad news that our landlord was sending a realtor to check out or property with an eye toward deciding whether to sell it in the next year. This means we better be purging. So I took a deep breath and my ADD pills and set out to follow the rules exactly this time.

Within hours of posting, someone responded. She wanted the washer. We worked it out. She would rent a Home Despot pickup truck and come get it after work.

I worried. I had envisioned two guys in overalls from Habitat or something, with ownership of a truck and skills at repair presumed -- not some single woman having to rent a pickup.

I wrote back, “You understand these have not been used for years, right, and might not work?”

She didn’t respond to that, and I thought she might not show up.

I was heading out to clip my nails in the dark front yard around 6pm when a stranger came up the walkway toward me, her feet shushing through the leaves. She was the type who refused to raise her voice, and thus, didn’t respond to my calling out, “Hello?” as she approached. She was in handshaking distance when she said her name. Her truck was down the street -- she was walking house-to-house so she could read numbers.

I directed her to drive around back and I opened the cellar door. Her pickup had come with a handtruck but no straps or ramps. We dusted off the washer, and I said again, “Are you sure you want this,” reminding her that it had not been used for years.

She said she didn’t mind tinkering with it, and did I know what a new washer cost these days?

I reminded myself that these were free. But still, it seemed, since she had paid for truck rental, that she was paying too much.

Housemates came out and gathered ‘round, and we hoisted the washer on to the back of her pickup.

She had not asked about the dryer, but I pointed that out to her. “Sure, I’ll take it,” she said. So we wheeled that out and lifted it onto the truck.

Then we went about the basement gathering up old boxes and styrofoam packing material to put in the spaces in the truck bed to keep the washer and dryer from clanking against each other.

I offered her all the rest of the contents of the basement, but she declined. Indeed, taking the old unused washer and dryer was aid enough for us. We had been talking for years about cleaning out the basement. We had had a yard sale and barely sold anything (and had been unable to sell this washer and dryer); we had talked about taking them to the landfill where we would probably have to pay a fee for dumping them; we had cleaned out a few other things around them. Still, these appliances had remained unyielding in their spots, essentially natural rocky outcroppings, immovable in our basement, a burden persisting.

Now, just because I had managed to send a few emails correctly, someone else had rented a truck and taken them. It’s like a void opened where a bad feeling had been; like being absolved of guilt. Some of our persisting roots have been uprooted. I can see to a day when we might actually float free.

Continue . . .