For years now, we’ve had a stack of sixteen-foot scaffolding planks and a massive beam against our garden wall. It’s where we stash things that look useful that we’ll never use. Every now and then one of us would make noises about getting rid of all that lumber but it always seemed like a big bother and besides it was just the right height to sit on while we were playing darts.
We don’t have a lawn. We do have this little leftover strip of grassy crap: it doesn’t get watered and it mostly doesn’t get mowed and by this time of year it’s just dried-up cowlicky yellow stuff. It looks like a satellite view of Boris Johnson. We position the chairs on the patio so we’re not looking at it, and call it good.
But now I have an idea for that spot and I really want that pile of lumber to go away. I went to the NextDoor site. That’s the neighborhood internet chat room where people whine all day long about icky homeless people and porch thieves and share security videos of shady characters, and generally if you spend much time there you conclude that Portland is going straight to hell and the police won’t come when you call because of all the libtards. Anyway I took a picture of our planks and said it was free for the hauling. “The topmost plank is sort of rotten, but most of it should be good,” I typed, because that is what I wanted to believe.
The first response was from a Clayton. “If no one takes your lumber, I can haul it away for a reasonable price,” he wrote.
But then the nicest young man came over, Jake he was, and texted me from his truck when he arrived, and put on a face mask as soon as he got out of his truck, and was generally sweet as pie like every Portland young’un I have had the pleasure to meet. I showed him the pile, he thanked me profusely, and I went inside, and then five minutes later he texted again. You know, from twenty feet away. And he was so sorry, but he wouldn’t be able to take my lumber. It was rotten clear to the ground. I went outside. “Not even good enough for landscape timbers, huh?” I asked, twisting my hands apologetically, and he said, “Um, I think—maybe?—you could use it for, I don’t know—mulch?”
It was bad.
I called Clayton.
You never know about these people. Was he some sketchy dude with a pickup, scoping my yard for metal to steal? Was he going to drop a muffler in my alley? Or a deuce? What was a “reasonable price” anyway? I asked him. He said, based on the photo, he could haul it to the dump for $40. $10 of that was for gas. That was damn unreasonable, and completely in my favor. “How soon can you get here?” I said. I mean, you can’t get a service person to pull his pants all the way up in the morning for $40. Clayton further noted that he can dump wood waste for free because he’s a veteran, so he wouldn’t charge me for that.
Because that would be wrong.
He texted when he was five minutes away. Ten minutes later, he texted “I think I’m here.” He wasn’t. Ten minutes after that he showed up. He’d been two blocks off. He had a map in his head; didn’t trust navigation apps. He was old-school.
He was old.
Maybe not as old as I am, but maybe. He was also morbidly obese. He was wearing voluminous satin shorts over heavy black leggings and knee pads. And a baseball cap. I pointed at the pile of lumber and offered to help, at least with the beam. He wouldn’t hear of it. Then he pulled everything off and tipped it crumbling into his trailer. “Do you want me to take this?” he said, pointing at more crap behind our shed. Oh golly, no, that would be too much. “I’m already here,” he said. I thought about it and tossed one more thing into the pile.
Then another. Then some random pokey stuff, then stuff I’d forgotten we had, then the stuff on top of the two pallets I’d stored stuff on. Then the pallets themselves. Boris Johnson, the mayor of greater Crapsville, was cleaning up nice. I visualized neat, new expanses of gravel and meadow. Tidy storage and frolicking woodland critters. After two hours Clayton was a sweating, soiled mess and had no room left in his trailer and truck. “How much?” I said.
“I think I told you forty dollars,” he said, sweeping up the last of the rotten-plank mulch. Old-school.
Oh, he got all of that. And I got his phone number.
Kudos to Clayton!
Next Door Portland sounds exactly like our Next Door, only besides the porch pirates and suspicious people ringing one’s doorbell, there are also complaints of catalytic converter thefts, and cars being stolen — get this — while people leave them running to run into Wawa. “Well, I shouldn’t HAVE to lock my car and take my keys! People shouldn’t steal!” they always say. Yeah, Sweetie, maybe in a perfect world, but not on THIS planet.
There ARE however some nice things being done for people on that site, such as your Clayton. I’ve been able to offload some old furniture that I wanted to get rid of when a woman was collecting old furniture for flood victims who lost most everything last year after a hurricane. People leave stuff on their curb and make a post that it’s free for the taking. A woman found a lost budgie and couldn’t find the owner after a couple weeks, so she kept it but needed a bigger cage for it. I had one in my attic that I didn’t need, so I steam cleaned it and brought it to her. We had a very nice visit. It’s too bad that most of the posts there devolve into bickering about politics.
It is an excellent place to give away stuff or find free stuff. I’m keeping a Free Box at my curb and whenever I clean out a cupboard I find lots of stuff to put in it. Somebody always wants it, whatever it is.
You never know where the kindness is going to come from, do you? I wonder if Clayton might be one of them libtards.
Towards the end of our “visit,” I gleaned the idea he was not, but we didn’t go there. He works hard and does not care for the idea that someone else should get something for free. It’s easy to understand and it’s a fair thing to figure out where to draw the line, but I fear he probably votes for the people who are devoted to making sure really wealthy people get even wealthier.
Yeah, the woman who manages the pet store where I buy parrot food and visit the resident macaw, Isaac (who I refer to as “my boyfriend,”) is definitely a Trumper. But she is a genuinely nice person, she takes REALLY good care of Isaac (better than the previous owners of the store did), and we have a lot in common outside of the politics. So when conversation veers in that area, I just change the subject. So when she says, “I wouldn’t have gotten the vaccine except that you couldn’t go to a bar or restaurant without showing your card,” I’ll try to say something that pivots on it, but doesn’t get hostile. Like maybe, talking about bars and restaurants instead of the vaccine. No one’s mind is changed by argument. And I want to be able to visit “my boyfriend” without getting hostile glares.
It’s always good to remind oneself that we can’t fix everybody. Or, anybody.
We’ve had similar experiences with some local service people lately…my husband is always paying someone more than they asked to do a nasty job. But be warned, Clayton, like most of our favorably unreasonably priced workers, is likely to be gone when you try that number again.
And I need him real soon. I mostly worry he’s going to drop dead before I get hold of him again.
Well, then, call him NOW! Get it done! He sounds like he’s on his last legs! I have a neighbor who always finds these people to help her on the cheap. But I’m afraid of taking advantage of them, so we generally do this stuff ourselves. There ARE some professionals who don’t overcharge us (our plumber, eye doctor, masonry guy, and auto repair guy.) They are the ones we are loyal to — not because of any fucking “loyalty card,” but because they are honest, do the job correctly, and don’t overcharge us. Our plumber actually came to do a job for when he was technically on his vacation. It only took an hour, but he didn’t charge much, and I was massively impressed.
I gave him twice what he asked.
Hooray for Clayton. I’m sorry though that your lumber had rotted, but probably you should have expected that after all those years out in the weather.
Will we see pictures of what you do with that area?
Well that’s another whole blog post. Anticipated completion: Spring 2023.
River, I second that. And I take heed and warning from your situation, Murr. We had a small fence replaced last month- rot, of course- and 28 too many 12′ boards came for the job. Those haven’t been picked up YET, so I may need a Clayton before long.
Last month? They’re fine. These planks have been on the ground for at least twelve years.
I always enjoy reading your posts! We are putting something on Nextdoor soon: Our daughter’s dog had to be put down yesterday, and her vet made her feel like a murderer! Then he charged her over $400 to put the dog down. It’s unconscionable and I will un-sing his praises to every animal lover I know.
Aw, Jeeze! I’m so sorry, I know what it’s like to lose a pet. And most vets are no help at all! A few years back, one of our parrots had a respiratory problem. Our vet gave him an injectable antibiotic, and he was fine. The next year, same thing. Only this time, in the car ride out of the parking lot, our parrot went into shock. Vet couldn’t save him. But I blame a lot of what happened on the stress from the vet visit. It was REALLY busy, and vet was complaining that he wouldn’t have time to eat lunch. Vet has a LOUD voice. Held Hobbes longer than he absolutely had to (stressful for a bird) because nail clipping came with the visit. I’m not sure that foregoing the nail trim would have saved Hobbes. We’ve since soured on vets in the same way we’ve soured on regular doctor visits. It’s all about the money, not about helping people or animals. We are all mortal, and it’s better to die at home, not in fear in some strange place.
That’s ridiculous, Kenju. I’ve only had one bad experience with a vet. Mostly they’re sweet as pie. (The one yelled at me for the condition of Boomer’s poop sample. *What are you feeding this dog?* Hell if I know. She doesn’t eat at home…)
I once wanted to be a vet. While volunteering at a local veterinary clinic I found that though I loved the pets, I despised their owners. But the vet was indeed sweet as pie. I have a cousin in England who is a vet and she is even sweeter than pie.
I went to NextDoorDOTcom when I wanted to find a plumber, a washing-machine-repair guy, somebody to fix the drainage of our back yard that we messed up, and a new dentist. It all went well.
We had an empty pallet in our back yard for maybe a year, and some large metal parts of a piece of equipment it would take me a couple of pages to explain, for a decade or so. The guys who rebuilt our fence & gate offered to take them with them when they took the old fence boards to the dump. Then the drainage guys took our pile of tree and shrub trimmings with them when they left. Both of those felt like one of those “Wait long enough to do something and you won’t have to do it anymore” things that I learned at work. But definitely a one-off.
Thought for sure, when Jake texted you from twenty feet away, there was going to be a snake story, or a rabid groundhog, or a huge, boiling nest of termites.
Naah. Just Jake!