The attack of the big babies

(FYI, I wrote the first half of this post in early February)

The last month of picking has been challenging. It seems like for every two intriguing piles of trash, there’s one person shooing me away from it. This one guy was particularly deranged. He came out to the street to greet me, and kept going on about how I was “stealing” garbage, how he felt like fighting me and trashing my car, how if we were in the States he’d have a shotgun (to do what, exactly I’m not sure), etc etc.

I spent about 15 minutes talking to this dude. Thankfully it never came to blows or shotguns, though he continually felt the need to close talk at me during a pandemic, and went on and on about the “stealing” and how, when I defended the act and legality of picking, I was only “rationalizing” bad behavior. He also spent a fair bit of time trying to convince me how great a guy he was for purportedly giving stuff away on Facebook Marketplace, went on a few diatribes about he wasn’t so well-to-do (despite appearances, and having a lot of expensive & apparently disposable toys), and at one point lied about getting a nice official Habs hoodie (which he was wearing) at Winners for 5$ (I don’t think Winners carries official Habs stuff, and if they did it wouldn’t be 5$). Anyways, I left after spending too long talking to this guy, but not before telling him to seek out a therapist.

I had found some quality stuff here in the weeks prior. One day I found two iPods, one of which I quickly sold for 100$, and another day I found two relatively new Amazon Fire tablets (still have those, need to buy some chargers). I also picked up several packs of unopened printer paper, a bunch of decent books (some of which went to my new Instagram selling account, @garbagefindssells), unopened packages of soap, tea, and toothpaste, as well as barely used cleaning products.

The best stuff though got tossed on the day of our lovely interaction. Fortunately I had 10-15 minutes to pick before he emerged from his castle to yell at me. I probably salvaged most of the good stuff by then, but who knows what I missed. I didn’t go back in later weeks –  I guess I could have gone at like 5am but I didn’t feel like dealing with him anymore. Besides, I wouldn’t be surprised if this guy bashed all his future garbage with a baseball bat out of spite.

Buddy seemed to like buying tools & gadgets and not using them. Here we have a (maybe never used) chisel set, some kind of tack device, a whole bunch of new watch batteries that weren’t close to expiry (I used one for a watch already, which saved me about 5$), and a mini computer that looks to be worth a couple hundred if it works.

That long cardboard box in the intro picture contained mostly long items, including about 10 umbrellas. All were in nice condition, and three were pretty fancy. Two were made by Burberry, and another by Aquascutum. The brand-name umbrellas are worth north of 100$ each given their near pristine condition.

Here’s the last bit of stuff, including the most valuable item – a thermal imaging camera that looked to be brand new in its original case.

I was able to sell the Hti Xintai HT-18 quickly for 300$. This is how it saw my space heater.

Title: “A man and his beloved garbage”

He took a picture of me, so I took a picture of him. Or so I remember… it’s also possible I took it as proof that his trash was on the curb, so it wasn’t “trespassing.” Either way, the photo turned out great so I can’t help but share it here. Made some edits to buddy’s face to ensure his privacy.

A few weeks later I met another pleasant chap (above) on the curb. Unfortunately, I had only a couple minutes alone with the trash before buddy emerged from his garage. He was on his phone, giving neighbourhood security a description of me and my car. We talked briefly, I don’t remember much about his spiel, other than he was more sarcastic & pretentious than aggressive. In those two minutes I pulled out a little box with a few pieces of jewelry inside, including one silver chain.

I went back maybe an hour later because I really wanted to take that one bag with the jewelry for later sorting. My timing wasn’t great though, I passed by neighbourhood security just as I was nearing my destination. The security person pulled me over and gave me a talking to. I tried to debate legalities (I’m not a lawyer, but I often cite this Canadian Supreme Court decision that allows police to look through trash without a warrant, saying the owner essentially abandons their property once they put it out on the curb for collection, and can therefore have no reasonable expectation of privacy given that their trash is accessible to any passing member of the public) but he just gave me the usual talking points. Anyways, there’s not much they can do except tell you to buzz off, but they’ll call in the big guns if you cause any issues, and being a marginal member of society with no money set aside for lawyerly things all I could really do is follow my marching orders. I’d bet that I missed out on some nice stuff by not getting that bag.

I could have tried going back at 5am, but I was feeling discouraged and just wanted to be done with it.

Just a few days later I met a lady while picking outside an apartment building. She was relatively pleasant, noting that I was on her property (ie: 5′ from the sidewalk hanging out with the trash bags) and therefore I had to go. She said this very matter-of-factly, and all I could do is sigh and move on. I think I made close to 100$ from stuff I found there before she came, including a box with several model train cars inside, a red telephone (people seem to like red telephones at the auction house), and some other quality junk.

Anyways, the first two experiences in particular gave me some thoughts about why people are like this. According to popular lore (and confirmed by my mom), a baby will sometimes cry when you take away a toy, even if they weren’t playing with it. They don’t want it, but they don’t want you to have it either. It’s a selfish behavior that has to be worked through. Similarly, adults put their “old toys” in the trash, and then they’ll throw a fit if someone takes interest in it. The adult knows they’re taking the lazy way out of dealing with their possessions, and often know that they’re missing out on money (ie: the 300$ from their nearly new thermal imaging camera) by not dealing with it more effectively, but they’re more mad about my taking & potentially profiting from their old toys and laziness than they are about their own wasteful and selfish behavior. So basically, I’m dealing with a bunch of big babies. The rationalizations might be a little more complex, but in the end the root of the behavior is mostly the same.

Anyways, let me know your thoughts on all this. Pickings have been slim, but I’m excited to see that spring is finally here. At the very least, the warm weather makes picking a lot more fun and feel a lot more casual.


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21 thoughts on “The attack of the big babies”

  1. Anyone who tosses so many useful items to the landfill, then gets mad at someone trying to rescue it, is just a jerk. Keep doing what you are doing, please, Martin!! I do like the baby analogy and the sad clown face you made in that photo. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry you had to deal with that kind of behavior. It’s uncalled for. Lately, I’ve been purging a lot of stuff. I usually put it in a box next to the trash cans with a sign that says “please help yourself”. I live in the middle of nowhere and more often than not, our waste removal crew are the only people I see! Keep doing what you’re doing and don’t worry about those big spoiled babies!!!

  3. A psychology professor once told us during our Abnormal Psych class that sometimes people are just assholes. Looks like you encountered a few.

    I (in the US) set quite a bit of stuff on the curb, hoping someone WILL take it and it won’t end up in a landfill. Yes, many times I realize it has worth and could be resold, but I either don’t have the time, or don’t feel like messing with it. Either way, I’m glad when someone picks it up.

  4. It really is the height of selfishness to put something out for garbage and then keep anyone but the garbage collectors from touching it. Maybe those people all have deep dark secrets they’re trying to send to the landfill. lol

    I live on a court, so basically a dead end street, and the only traffic is my neighbours, none of whom would want my stuff because they have better stuff. But if I lived in a travelled area I’d put anything salvageable out with a sign to take it. I take a lot of things to Value Village, but I would rather an individual entrepreneur benefit from what I would give away. I don’t think we have anyone here who does what you do but I wish we did.

    Try not to let the territorial people get you down. Too bad you couldn’t get a local newspaper to run an article on picking and the benefits to the environment. It might help change some people’s minds. Not all, of course, because people get set in their ways, but some.

  5. I think you’re doing wonderful work and part of that is dealing with very difficult people. A truly human experience and I hope you find a way to survive it all and just carry on with your job.

  6. I am astounded by what people put on the curb as garbage. A friend told me she threw out a nearly-new bread machine. Some do not know anything about charity shops who receive donations to resell and that requires little work for the donator.

  7. I echo others sentiments of empathy — I am sorry that you, while doing this extremely useful and important service to all of us, are sometimes harassed. I like your possible explanation and agree that your finding valuable stuff in their trash is a stark reminder of their greed AND laziness. I also agree with one of the other comments and wonder if some of these folks might be doing something illegal (throwing out stuff they or someone else stole?) or personally disrespectful (throwing out stuff that belongs to a child or spouse or a sibling who may not know that it’s being tossed) which they do not want anyone else to know about. However, even writing a few sentences about them and their possible reasons for throwing out valuable things and then berating you is a waste of time. What you do is terrific and inspires/uplifts all of us who eagerly read your blog. THANK YOU for all you do!!!

  8. Very interesting (and well-written) post. I look forward to seeing how you work it up into a chapter in the book about your adventures that I keep nagging you to write.

    Maybe the restrictions of COVID have reduced more people to their Human 1 alter egos? Just thought I’d throw in a mention of Jim’s Human 1, 2 and 3 work. 🙂

    Anyhoo, you’re so much braver in the face of that kind of thing than I would ever be. I’d be running for the hills.

    Keep up the great work. Hopefully it’ll get better with the coming trio of trash-friendlier seasons, when … who knows, the idiots might get happy and lighten up a bit?

  9. A disposable society is full of selfish entitled people…seems you ran into a few of them…the only thing I could say on the other end is all the hype about Identity theft as it relates to people getting important info from garbage bags…I don’t have curbside pick up I have to take it to a central drop place in the county. They don’t allow pickers even there they say it’s a legal issue of liability. I burn my important paper trash in the fireplace every winter using it to get my fire going and I always donate, give away, or sale anything of value. MY huge concern is all the plastics going into the environment.

  10. Unfortunately, it seems more and more people are angry and willing to confront others for no really good reason, other than to show how “tough” they are. I think that when I put items out in the trash and the bins on the curb, that if someone saw something they could use out of it, they are welcome to it, as long as they don’t leave a mess. We live on an ally, and often will set an item out with a free sign on it and it’s picked up very quickly and I’m very happy to have it gone and know someone else can give it a new home. I’m also glad that I don’t have to pay to dispose of it. We do donate to various charities as well, such as the Epileptic Foundation. We rarely just throw usable items into the trash.
    I know it must be difficult when being confronted by these people, but what you are doing helps save our environment by not letting it all go to a landfill. I admire what you do and am glad there are people like you who are willing to do the work it takes to save these items. Good luck to you that the next folk to encounter, are more willing to accept what you do and give you the go ahead without any argument. Ranee (MN) USA

  11. My deepest sympathies as per dealing with these A*holes,sadly,though such people are larger in number in “middle-class” & higher up enclaves though also exist even in super-poor neighbourhoods,i myself was upset seeing a guy Demolish a super nice 50 yr old (at least) wooden kitchen chair (possibly hand made by the person who needed it) it seemed like the kind that one of my grandma’s had when she was still around (she was born in the 1890’s 😉 & this in east-end french-working-class really poor montreal !! this being said, once covid hit, people became OBSSESSED with their real-estate & just suddenly seemed to spend all day, ever day,”improving” said real estate, there’s also the idea that if someone threw it out it’s somehow contaminated & taboo (you’d think it was ebola ! 😉 But market reasoning (only money counts, not the actual resource) & fear of disapproval,have penetrated many, even those you’d be sure would think otherwise, i knew a super-nice family, mom,dad,brother in law,3 kids total, plus feeding 3 extra kids semi regularly (their kids friends) & they had this blindingly new fridge,(there were tons of really good used*rebuilt appliance stores around) i inquired,(they were getting by, but just barely) they said yeah, it’s really a squeeze on the budget but man, we’re not gonna look like we’re on welfare !! & this in a neighbourhood Famed for it’s poverty 😉

  12. Maslow was a bit of an optimist. Once people have their basic needs met and have a lot of free time to indulge themselves – in the way our capitalist consumer societies essentially direct them to – they often become more neurotic and mentally ill. The Maslow comment was slightly tongue in cheek, because he was essentially correct, but capitalism has altered and distorted how humans relate to each other. It has alienated people from themselves and others. The psychological consequences are incalculable. Your interaction with people and their stuff is potentially highly charged because it is at a kind of nexus everything I mentioned: consumer capitalism, alienation, neurosis, etc… to say nothing of the elevation of private property to almost sacredness, which is of course the cause of so much death and destruction. It’s not a coincidence that he started blathering about shotguns. I won’t go into the history of primitive accumulation, but it’s all tied together. It doesn’t practically help, but Marx and Freud pretty much explain it all.

  13. Friendliness level dropped quite a bit in some places due to Covid – no practice being around people makes people less good at it. My theory anyways.

  14. There is a saying in Spanish that goes “es como el perro del hortelano; ni come, ni dejar comer al amo”, (He is like the farmer’s dog, which doesn’t eat, and doesn’t let its owner eat either) which refers to those who decide not to enjoy something, and who do not let others enjoy it either.
    I have studied law, and I can tell you that garbage is what we would call “res derelictae”, that is, abandoned things. Such things can be freely acquired by anybody. In other words: garbage does not belong to anybody, because its previous owner has voluntarily abandoned it, and therefore, anybody can claim his property over it.
    Unfortunately, in most cases, you can’t convince an idiot that he is wrong, even with the most reasonable of arguments.

  15. Hello! I rarely write a comment even though I always ready your blog which is awesome! I mainly think alike the others who already wrote. I just want to add that, maybe the first one was so agressive and has so much stuff because it was stolen and he was trying to get rid of the evidence??!! Anyway, keep going: I think it’s worth the effort.

  16. I call this kind of behavior “dog in the manger”. The dog can’t eat the hay the manger holds but he will bite the cow who tries to eat.

  17. So this guy would rather stuff go to the landfill to rot than someone to take it. Wow. Guess being wealthy doesn’t mean one is intelligent.
    Sorry you have to deal with people like him. Kudos for keeping your head and not punching him out :).

  18. Late to the party in commenting, so I echo all of the thoughts above. I am also trying to donate but not through PayPal (can’t stand them) but I can send an interac. Tried to confirm your email address via email but didn’t get a response. Stay well, and I hope you have great pickings that you will soon post.

  19. I enjoy leaving stuff for people to take. I wish I could do it more, but where I live in the US there is only one time a month where we have “bulk pickup”, meaning larger items go at the curb. No one around here goes through the regular trash bins that are placed at the curb. I’d feel really weird doing it, but I’d honestly like to in some of the nicer areas.

    One thing I do is leave items that I can’t sell, or don’t feel like listing, out near the sidewalk at my place of work. It’s a low-income neighborhood. People take almost everything. One woman that runs the food pantry next door made a comment about our little giveaway section once or twice. She said it wasn’t a good fit for the neighborhood, or something along those lines. This is am older middle-class black woman that finds it kind of icky that poor, mostly black residents are taking free stuff from the curb. It’s king of unsettling. Seeing that most things disappear pretty quickly, and I’m sometimes putting stuff out there like name brand clothing and brand new items, I kind of don’t give a shit. I love giving people free shit.

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