On Tuesday I came across what was probably the biggest pile of trash I had ever seen, and I mean it. The garbage extended even further than this picture shows. I spent a few hours looking through boxes and boxes of… things. Some other people, including a couple of older women, were there even longer than I was. It was incredible, and what happened later was quite interesting as well.
I think an older woman must have passed away. There were lots of beautiful old photos and mementos that no one throws out unless they’re not around to see it.
However, there was a problem: she also had bedbugs.
I discovered this close to the end of my stay. I heard the superintendent talking to some people about “punaises.” I went and checked out the old mattress and saw a bug. I usually check for them earlier but the sheer immensity of the mound of trash distracted me.
I had planned on being careful regardless, but when you actually see a bug you have to really be careful. I dumped some stuff I had planned on taking, including some old pictures and sewing patterns. I could have baked them and it would have been safe, but I didn’t think it was worth the stress to do so.
I ended up leaving with jewelry and dishes, or things I could easily clean. When I say jewelry though I mean a whole plastic shopping bag full of jewelry. I didn’t see immediate signs of gold or silver, but I did see some rocks that had a bit more glisten to them than the usual jewelry I find. I wondered if they were diamonds.
I walked my bike back home with these things (and some previous finds) in tow. The jewelry was in small bags inside a larger bag. I decided the best way to stay safe was to sort through the jewels on the sidewalk, putting them in a new plastic bag so that I brought as little inside as possible. Once inside I’d bake the jewels at a high enough temperature to kill bedbugs, which isn’t particularly high.
I probably looked a bit sketchy rummaging through jewels on the sidewalk. I had finished sorting and was about to go inside when I saw a police car come the wrong way down my street with their lights on. They walked into the laundromat nearby.
I was planning on washing everything I was wearing and I casually followed them into the laundromat, intending to put my jacket in the washer right away. When I heard them asking about someone with jewelry I was completely honest and told them the entire story.
They asked to see my bag of jewels and I showed it to them. I told them where I found it, why I was being such a weirdo, my information and so on. At some point they looked at each other and shrugged, not knowing what to do. They left – and they just walked away with my bag of jewelry. No explanation.
It definitely sounds (and feels) a bit silly in retrospect. I should have been more critical and at least asked as to what they had planned to do with the jewelry. I think I normally would have. However it’s hard to communicate the sort of mood I was in. Going through boxes and boxes of interesting trash for two hours (and having biked around for an hour and done some spring cleaning before that) was an exhausting process. As well, poking through the numerous possessions of someone’s life is humbling; it reminds you just how important it is to live life to it’s fullest. It forces you to acknowledge that we’re not around forever and to cherish what we do have.
When they left with the jewelry I can honestly say I didn’t really care at all. Maybe they sensed that. I had faith it’d all work out in the end, and was happy enough not to have to worry about cooking jewelry (even though I was confident it was fine either way). However, I am curious as to what exactly happened. From my understanding garbage picking in Montreal is not illegal. I’ve never had problems before and the police had hours to stop me, a few old ladies and other people from searching through that massive pile of trash earlier in the day. No one showed up.
I plan on calling the police department / 311 tomorrow to get more information. Maybe I can get the jewelry back, or at least find out exactly what went down. I’ll let you know how it goes.
On the plus side, the dishes that the police didn’t take are beautiful! It’s all “Tenderness” by Royal Albert (a part of Royal Doulton). It’s all in great shape – not a single crack or chip. I made sure to clean it all at a temperature sure to kill any bugs, even though they don’t tend to take refuge on plates. It definitely has some value and I think I’ll try to sell them on Ebay.