May 19, 2007

The faces of refuse

For the past two Tuesdays, I've witnessed the human condition in its barest form. Some say the human condition is evident in politics, religion or in relationships with the opposite sex, but I have a very different point of view: It is in our trash.

Trash, also known as treasure--as I've been told at least four times--is a window into people's lives. I'm not surprised that the paparazzi sort through it to get an intimate look into their subjects' activities.

With a reporters' eye, I sorted through every type of container one can imagine; and in the process, I have formed a very different, and perhaps distorted, view of my church's rummage sale contributors.

There's always a bag with kinky lingerie. This bag usually incites some gasps from the ladies, but this year was something incredibly different. Some woman (or man, perhaps) liked body suits to the extreme. I think we found one in every color. In addition, the bag contained a montage of Victoria's Secret commercials from the past fifteen to twenty years, complete with beaded bodices and even a corset or two. No one ever admits to contributing anything, but I have a feeling that someone in the room that day did donate those unmentionables...Someone turned just the slightest shade of pink when the bag was opened, and then promptly returned to their work. I like to think that the owner of this bag got over their need to please their partner and threw it all out in a moment of self-affirmation.

And then there's the dusty, gaudy ceramic angels, their backs stuffed with 62 discordant artificial flowers. I think that that person had to do crafts in prison, rather than make license plates. They didn't have the funding for matching flowers, so they used every single one to try to please the warden for her birthday. However, the warden was not pleased and decided to shut down the angel ceramic program because it decayed society, rather than contributed to it. The remains of the program were immediately sent to our church's sale. The contributor is ready to make cell phone covers with Paris Hilton.

I tried to be discreet with my critiques as I sorted, but sometimes it was just too much. I felt pretty low when I did make some statement like, "Whoa, that's an amazing pile of something," and someone piped up and said that it was their mother's favorite ornamental Christmas wreath/sock holder. I did get a dose of my own medicine, too. I donated a few pairs of shoes and another lady said she couldn't believe what some people donated as she filtered through my bag. So, okay, they were pretty bad, and I should have tossed them, but I was trying to be a giver. I imagine that she thought the owner of the shoes was an almost impoverished student, who tried to sell the shoes at a yard sale and then donated them afterward when they didn't go. Some people are so dead-on it's scary.

However, what always supercedes these images is the buyers on the morning of the sale. A crowd gathers at least an hour before the sale building opens, and they rush in or pound on the door at 8:59 a.m. to get in. The sight is one to behold. People from all backgrounds, race, sex, age, whatever, come pouring through the door, like speghetti through a loose sieve. The images I have are dashed. I see the new owners in the flesh, carrying off their spoils. Trash is treasure and the leopard body suit just might fit...

(No--I didn't buy a leopard body suit, you sick people. :-) I did get an iron, a leather jacket, a big box for moving to New York, and ironically, a trash can; however, minus the sweet stainless-steel coffee pot that an elderly man scooped up before me.)

Posted by Amanda Cochran at May 19, 2007 10:30 AM | TrackBack
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