Karen Abbott

At The Fencepost: May 23, 2012

Karen Abbott

by Karen Abbott

Early Monday morning I drove up to the front of a local thrift store, intending to drop off some items I didn’t need in my new apartment.

The whole sidewalk in front of the building was covered with litter: torn black garbage bags, boxes, furniture piled at odd angles. A large truck was backed up to the far right-hand side.

For a moment, I thought it was a garbage truck picking up the trash strewn across the storefront. Then I realized it was a donation truck, there to pick up the larger pieces of furniture for transport to another location.

The truck driver watched two workers bent over, gathering scattered sweatshirts and throw pillows from the wreckage.

It suddenly dawned on me that it was Monday morning. Those workers face that mess every Monday morning when they come to work.

I was appalled.

The place literally looked like a dump. I debated for a minute whether to approach or to get back in my car and drive off. I didn’t want to know and I didn’t want to get involved. And, I didn’t have to. I reasoned that I hadn’t been hired to do it.

But something compelled me.

Maybe it was maternal instinct that prompted me to stoop down and start picking things up. You know how it is — after years of picking up after your kids, it becomes a mindless habit. A worker walked past with a bulging garbage bag which tore open halfway between the parking lot and the store. Contents spilled everywhere. He kicked the bag and swore. He went inside for more boxes. I bent over to collect what I could.

Most of the books were sleazy “romance” novels. Dozens of them. Who would buy this junk, let alone donate it to a thrift store? Partway through the clean up attempt I realized that these aren’t donations. They’re just plain trash that someone didn’t want to deal with.

Dump the contents into a bag and haul it off to Goodwill. It has the ring of altruism, the feeling of benevolence. On a Monday morning, it had the smack of irresponsibility.

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