The Dream of the Found Object

When I told my friend that I have a recurring dream in which I find stuff, she found it endlessly funny. In the dream, I am usually in a rush to go somewhere, and that rush has an extra push because someone is hurrying me along or depending on me to be there at a certain time. Unfortunately, even as I am hurrying, I see a place where someone has long since lost something, something I want, and I only have a few moments to pick it up.

The example I used at the time was a rush to the airport for an international trip and moving very slowly on the road because of the stop-and-go traffic. While looking idly out the window I see someone has lost a toolbox filled with sockets and wrenches from the back of their truck. To be clear, I don’t see them lose it, but rather rusty sockets and wrenches are lying in the grass near the ditch and the crumpled nature of the bent toolbox—which had obviously been run over a few times—tells the story clearly enough.

I clarify this to note that the urgency is the lack of time, not the fear that the rightful owner will return. The former owner is never an issue, and either had discarded the find, or has lost it and does not know where to recover it. I once was walking on a Montreal street with a friend near a gas station and she found twenty dollars. She didn’t miss a trick. She showed it to me, keeping her hands low and her excitement muffled, as she kept walking. The twenty might have blown over from the gas station and she knew it. If she were to ask, likely half a dozen people might claim it, but she was canny enough to not give them a chance.

In the dream, my friend pulls over on the verge, and then I leap for the bent toolbox. I grab handfuls of sockets, not even caring if I get grass and weeds with them, and then reach for more. My friend honks from the road, reminding me that she is sitting in traffic and that we are late. I grab more, some fall out of the crumbled box, and I start calculating how many I can get before we have to leave and they are lost forever.

Some of my ways of living seem overwhelmingly strange to some people, and they would be horrified to discover than I might take something from a dumpster, let alone jump at the chance. They would see my behaviour as a symptom of poverty, and little realize that it is motivated by a parsimonious wish not to waste, as I was taught by my foster parents, a result of my environmental sensibility, but it also a product of my class background.

For some people, only the gutter slime of the world looks through dumpsters, but for me, I have more in common with those people like the man collecting copper from a fridge behind my apartment than with the people in the mall looking through sweatshop clothing. The man in the alley noticed I was looking over the fridge, and he actually apologized that he’d already ruined it by tearing off the copper expansion tube on the back. I assured him that I wasn’t interested in the fridge, but rather was looking for the lightbulb that people very often threw away with fridges and stoves. He was delighted with the intelligence, and exclaimed that he’d never thought about that, and we shared a dumpster moment. I don’t have those moments with the upper-middle-classes, for they tell me about their new house, the flooring they need to hire a contractor to lay, and various travails in their lives, but I have little I can bring to that conversation. With the guy in the alley, however, I could talk about copper prices at the scrap yard, and ask him how much he can carry on his bicycle.

My way of living means that I continue to have few material goods, and those I have are twice-owned and worn, or fairly nice and given to me. Unfortunately, those nicer possessions have always attracted those for whom material possessions are two steps from the rubbish bin. They have always sought to borrow or steal them from me, but I can console myself with the knowledge that they will tire of them before too long, and they will either return it or I will find something just as suitable.

About Barry Pomeroy

I had an English teacher in high school many years ago who talked about writing as something that people do, rather than something that died with Shakespeare. I began writing soon after, maudlin poetry followed by short prose pieces, but finally, after years of academic training, I learned something about the magic of the manipulated word.
This entry was posted in Environmentalism, Self-reliance and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.