Sunday, May 15, 2011

Free T.V.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Brooklyn lately. Now even though Brooklyn and Queens both qualify as outer boroughs, they are very different places from each other. It’s kind of hard to explain the differences in mentality, but there are some specific behaviors that are a lot easier to pinpoint.

For example Queens tends to throw out its trash, while Brooklyn tends to, well… give it away.

Maybe this is because people in certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn are a lot more giving with their belongings. But when people in Brooklyn no longer need something they don’t put it on eBay or have a garage sale, they just… put it in front of their house… like a gift.

On any day of the week, on any block in Brooklyn, you can find random items that you can take with you as long as you want them. What is available runs the gamut: trinkets, tapes, fondue sets, and books. Oh lord can you find books. If you are in the market for a forgettable novel from 25 years ago, the streets of Brooklyn are your paradise.

It’s like a library, if a library didn’t require a membership card and was more like a scavenger hunt where you could play “book roulette” at every stop as opposed to an actual physical location.

Several weeks ago I even came across a pair of tiny pink wooden chairs just sitting outside someone’s house, as though there was a dwarves’ tea party that had just let out. I sat in them for a while before I decided they weren’t for me.

Because I’m not a dwarf.

And I don't have tea parties.

But after several blocks of the usual brick-a-brack, I came across this note card just sitting in the middle of a sidewalk:

I looked around but there was no T.V. in sight, which led me to believe that this sign had been on a T.V. and that T.V. had been taken.

Frankly the sign caught me a little bit off guard.

Imagine you have a T.V. you need to get rid of. You don’t want to put in the effort to sell it because you don’t think you’ll make much money. And you don’t want it to just go in the trash because you feel like that is a waste because the T.V. might be worth something to somebody.

So what do you do?

Well if you live in Brooklyn you put it out to the curb of course. But how can you ensure somebody takes it, how can you make sure that this is something that somebody will want?

Why not tell them “it works?”

Now I wonder what the conversation was like with the couple that took the T.V. I picture a nice husband and wife walking by on a spring evening when they come across the Television and the husband says:

Oh my gosh! Lucinda, look, a television set!
So Herb?
So? We were just saying how we want another television for our home.
Yes, but we want a television we can watch! Not some piece of junk off the street.
Lucinda you are not looking, look at the sign. This T.V. WORKS!
Ohhh it works! Every other T.V. we passed had a sign that said “piece of shit” or “friggin useless” but if this one works…

What surprised me was that Herb and Lucinda didn’t choose to bring that note card with them when they took the T.V. set. If that were me, I would have taken that with me as a voucher/receipt.

Because let us say that Herb and Lucinda bring that T.V. home and it doesn’t work. Then what? Well I imagine they'd want their… time back, don't you? I would want to march right up to the home I found that T.V. in front of and say to them:

Excuse me. I found this T.V. outside your home with a note on it that said “It works” but we brought it home and it doesn’t work. Can you please provide us with some sort of retribution? Like… an apology? Or maybe just a note that says "we lied... it doesn't work."

It’s like some sort of renaissance bartering agreement strategy. The sign is the promise. Once you put it in writing it must be true! It wasn’t the first time I had seen a note next to an item on the street. Usually the note just says “free books” or “washed baby clothes.”

Though I truly believe even if a sign says something has been washed, there is really no harm in washing it again. Just to be sure.

But the “it works” signage is brazen. Because if you leave a T.V. outside in the elements for an indeterminate amount of time, there is a very good chance that when a stranger picks that shit up and brings it home… it doesn’t works.

There is an earnestness to it, a sincereity, almost like… an unspoken code.

There is no mandate that you put a sign with your items, though it might make for more interesting perusing.

Tiny Pink Chairs – Will make you look ridiculous
Fondue Set – Completely unnecessary
Books – Unreadable for the last 25 years

But I myself like this strategy of putting your crap out in a box for anybody who wants to take it. I mean let’s be honest, there is very little difference between putting it out in a trash can and putting it out in a box with a sign.

The biggest difference is you save somebody the time of digging through your trash. I remember when my parents moved out of their house and they would put stuff out to the curb on trash night, nearly every single time somebody would come by and take the furniture we had put out.

But what if we could save people time and money by allowing them to have our old shit… I mean treasures. What if instead of just considering everything waste, we could allow others to judge for themselves? Wouldn’t that make everybody’s life a little bit better?

I think it would. So I encourage you to do the same. And if you doubt that it’s a good idea, well you shouldn’t…

It works.


Kari said...

"I sat in them for a while before I decided they weren’t for me.
Because I’m not a dwarf.
And I don't have tea parties. "

That simply made my day. Thank you!

Linda C said...

I found the video very moving. The backwards/forwards thing is effective. But, knowing you, I worried about that red wine on your couch..

Jen said...

We do this in Portland- exactly like you describe. LOL. I have gotten rid of an ubelieveable amount of of "crap" (crap being subjective, of course). Last summer we had a garage sale that was full of crap- and we made a LOT of money (like $1300!!) and at the end of the day we were tired and didn't feel like putting everything away so we just left it on the curb with a "FREE" sign and after a few days EVERY. SINGLE. PIECE OF WEIRD TRASH WAS GONE.

It was marvelous. :)

bdurant said...

I'm not trying to be a downer here, man, but if you want to be a good director, maybe don't also act in your videos. It screams of narcissism. You and your chubby older friend are clearly not actors, and if this were a school project, I would say OK fine. You seem very young, so hopefully over time your narratives will develop maturity and seem less cheesy. Perhaps don't try so hard so it doesn't seem forced/unnatural. Just my two cents. Sorry, dude.

Caro said...

This is so true. We just got some great books on the street!!!

cooper said...

When I was at NYU there were times when trash runs were how someone trying to furnish an apartment spent the day.

In high school I lived in Maryland in a large house on a hill, my father would leave stuff at the bottom of the hill before he took it to the dump, and rarely was whatever he placed down there not gone within 24 hours.

Caroline B said...

How well behaved people over there must be - if we did that on our street the item would be smashed to smithereens by kids and scattered in your garden within hours. I would love to live somewhere that left books out for the taking!

Flitterbee said...

This is so cool. However, there is no excuse not to have tea parties.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

People in Chicago often leave their old furniture out on the curb too; the only thing is that the furniture often goes unclaimed and sits there for months. Then it ends up looking really bad because it's been exposed to Chicago weather for a long time.
I do give away a lot of my stuff, though; I usually just give bags of stuff to the Salvation Army because they actually drive out to my building to pick it up.

Kurt Men said...

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