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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It was bound to happen eventually. I finally got a ticket for trash picking in Mount Royal after receiving three previous warnings (first, second, the third I don’t think I bothered to mention).

To clarify, some boroughs of Montreal have their own government and bylaws. While trash picking is legal (or, at the very least the laws are never enforced) in most of the city, some parts of town have laws against it. One of those boroughs is the Town of Mount Royal (TMR), a wealthy suburban community not too far away from my place in the Plateau.

I knew that it was probably just a matter of time before I got a ticket. It’s just that the trash there has been too good to give up on. TMR has lots of money and a rich history – a profitable combination for a trash picker like me. It’s also great that it’s not too far from home.

My strategy has just been to avoid the local security guys as much as possible. It’s worked pretty well, considering that I’m there nearly every week but have only had a few previous encounters.


That night felt a bit like a game of cat and mouse. I kept seeing this security guy driving around, but they can’t seem to do much as long as I’m in or just entering my car. I successfully dodged him on a few occasions, but he did eventually catch up with me.

I saw that white SUV for the umpteenth time that night and drove into the side roads to lose him. I stopped not long after because I wanted to check out the picture frame in the picture above. If I were being super cautious I wouldn’t have stopped so soon, but I figured I was probably just being paranoid. Before I got out of the car I checked my rear-view mirror; I thought I saw a SUV moving slowly in the distance (maybe 150m behind me), but decided it was an illusion because the headlights weren’t on.

I noticed the SUV bearing down – lights still off – on my position while checking out the frame. (Whether rent-a-cops should be allowed to drive down roads at midnight with no lights on is another question entirely). I figured I was screwed, as I wasn’t about to run to the car and drive off really quick, and accepted my fate. The cat (who’s definitely not like Thomasina the enchanted cat from my last post!) had pounced and caught their prey.

The specific bylaw is 1358 37(1): “No person shall… rummage through a container or bin of refuse, commercial refuse, construction refuse, hazardous household waste, bulky refuse, recoverable secondary materials or yard waste.” The fine is 220$, a fairly hefty sum for someone like me.

I haven’t decided what to do about it yet. I’m definitely angry, as I think the bylaw is dumb on many different counts. However, it’d be hard to fight since I clearly committed the “crime.” The only way I could possibly fight it, at least in my layman’s interpretation of the law, is to go big and try to argue that it’s my right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be able to rummage through materials that are clearly abandoned. I’d love to fight it, not just for myself but also on behalf of trash pickers across the country (some of whom are already marginalized) who are punished by these sorts of laws.

However, my (somewhat spite motivated) fantasy is probably pretty far-fetched and would involve a tonne of resources I don’t have. I’ll likely end up having to pay the ticket. Whether this effects my trash picking habits remains to be seen. I don’t really have anywhere else to go on Tuesday night so the temptation to return is strong. I may just have to be more cautious, though at a certain point that cautiousness morphs into a paranoia which I don’t at all enjoy.

Despite the fine I still managed to load the car with trash. Here are the things I saved that the Town of Mount Royal would apparently prefer to destroy. It’s worth noting that I could have saved way more, but I only have so much time, space, and energy to work with.

I saved the picture frame from the photo above; …


… a box full of books, including copies of The Plague by Camus and Walden by Thoreau;


… an interesting clay sculpture;


… an unexciting but functional shoe rack;


… a cool trunk;


… a Waterloo Shop Series tool chest (which goes new for around 150+ shipping);


… a nice framed print (perhaps an old engraving?);


… a lamp;


… a stack of records,


… including three unusual medical LPs which I presume are lectures on the various topics;


… a nice plant, which unfortunately broke a bit when it was placed into the bag;


… and three books full of 1980s baseball cards. None are super valuable, but they’re fun to look at.