Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Little House on the Scrapyard

I haven’t posted anything recently because it seems like all the lighthearted fun and hijinks have stopped since I returned to work. Leaving Annabelle each day has left me feeling humorless and uninspired. So I had to dig deep and find it within myself to share my latest adventures in rural living: Annabelle’s First Christmas Tree and Our trip to the Scrapyard.

We were very fortunate that the weather was good enough last Sunday for us to bundle Annabelle up and take her with us to select and cut down her very first Christmas tree. Bryan and I both were looking for a rustic tree- cutting experience. What I did not take into account was carrying a 12 and a half pound baby (who happens to weigh 25 pounds when she’s asleep) around with me. I strapped her to me Marsupial-style in the baby carrier. Bryan offered to carry her multiple times and I refused. I reminded him I carried at least 12 pounds of weight on the front of my body while I was pregnant.

What I did NOT do while I was pregnant was hike through the woods. Once we started walking I immediately regretted perching atop my high-horse and insisting on carrying Annabelle in the baby carrier. At this tree farm there were a number of “tree excavation holes” all over the footpaths. Please see an example of a tree excavation hole to the left. And the footpaths weren’t even really footpaths, it was what I would describe as land where there happened to be no trees. So not only was my balance off due to the extra dead weight strapped to my chest, but I couldn’t see the ground in front of me because there was a sleeping baby obstructing my vision. So essentially I tripped and twisted my ankle every 17 feet. Each time I tripped I gasped and said “Oh my God.” Which caused bryan to stop and turn abruptly thinking I was going to crush our baby. Each time I did this he rolled his eyes at me. So you can understand why he quickly tired of this. I still do not think he understands that I COULD NOT SEE WHERE I WAS GOING.

**I hope everyone took note of the amount of plaid displayed above

I’d like to say that my favorite part of our tree-getting adventure was finding our perfect Christmas tree, but my favorite part of the trip was when Bryan fell into a trench. After we had been walking for a while (and I have to admit it took me a really long time to pick out a tree) I wanted to get a closer look at a tree but didn’t feel like doing all the walking required to get a closer look. Bryan said “here just walk across here,” and I replied “Be careful, there’s a big trench or something there.” Karmic retribution was reached when he said “It’s fine,” and took one step and immediately fell onto his knees into the trench. My Christmas wish came early.

Several days after our tree-getting adventure I found myself in the position of returning to work, which is very un-christmasy. On Thursday I worked for a few hours in the morning and Annabelle was in daycare all day in order to become accustomed to my leaving her with strangers each day. So while driving home from work Bryan said he needed to run an errand and asked if I wanted him to wait so I could go with him. I said yes because we both agreed sitting in the house alone while Annabelle was at daycare would be really sad and would also result in my picking her up early.

When he told me his errand was going to the local scrapyard I was torn. It seemed like a pretty lame way to spend an afternoon. But at the same time, sitting in my empty house missing my baby seemed unthinkable, and well…I had never been to a scrapyard before. SIGN ME UP.

So we loaded up the trailer (i.e. Bryan loaded the trailer and I sat in the truck checking Facebook and updating my Google contacts) with our wares. On this particular trip we were taking a stainless steel sink, some ductwork, an old woodburning stove, some chimney pipe, a furnace and a stove to the scrapyard. And yes…that means for the past several months we have had stainless steel sink, some ductwork, an old woodburning stove,some chimney pipe, a furnace and a stove in our yard. When Bryan turned the truck onto the street the scrapyard was on I was amazed. It was all I hoped it would be.

Initially I was unable to focus on the actual scrapyard and how it functioned because I immediately noticed that positioned 2 feet to the north of this scrapyard was a house. A residential home. A family intentionally chose to live next to PILES AND PILES of garbage. I suppose the upshot of this is that there is no real garbage smell as it is mostly metal, copper, steel, etc. It isn’t like dirty diapers and lettuce everywhere. But it was, to say the least, unsightly. As I was finally starting to move beyond the fact that there was a house so close to this scrapyard, a passenger train came through. I mean it came RIGHT THROUGH the scrapyard. So not only do the residents of this home wake each morning to gaze upon the majestic beauty of a pile of old washing machines, they are also treated the auditory pleasure of an Amtrak train (and train whistle) multiple times a day. Who lives in this house???? I lived a mile and a half from the airport at one point and wanted to rip my ears off and throw them down the garbage disposal.

It seems I have lost my train of thought (pun coincidental).

If you have never been to a scrapyard let me explain how it works. You pull your truck and trailer onto a scale and use your CB radio to radio to the office to get your weight. Incidentally I also learned that C.B. stands for “citizen’s band” which I never knew. I am telling you, Bryan and I are getting closer and closer to homeschooling Annabelle each day. So the scrapyard attendant (I gave her that title, I’m not sure what her official position with the company is) gets your weight and records it and looks to see what type of scrap you have. To give you an example, our stove would be considered “white goods” and must be placed in the white goods pile. The stainless steel sink would be in a different pile, etc. Bryan had to get out of the truck and go in the office and speak to the Scrapyard Attendant personally. I’m not sure what exactly transpired in that trailer. The details were sketchy. Did I neglect to mention the Scrapyard office was in a trailer?

So then Bryan pulled the truck into the yard and unloaded our items. I was slack jawed and mesmerized by everything I saw. I can’t really describe it so I’m hoping my scrapyard photos (through a cracked farmtruck windshield that was covered in mud) will help explain my fascination with this experience.

There was also a large piece of equipment that was moving “scrap” into a building that housed what can only be described as the conveyor belt from Toy Story 3! That terrifying scene at the end of Toy Story 3 had to have been dreamed up here at this very scrapyard. I’m sure the men operating the equipment thought was I from some sort of federal agency that regulates scrapyards because I just sat in the truck snapping pictures and looking from right to left and left to right like a crazy person.

After bryan finished unloading our items we then drove back over to the scale to get weighed again.

With the truck resting on the scale, Bryan invited me into the trailer to see how the transaction actually went down, but then cautioned me it was technically not “right” for me to get out of the truck because the original weight had been taken with me in the truck, so if I got out the truck, I would be included in the scrap weight. This raised a number of questions. Could this woman then calculate my exact weight if I got out of the truck? Could she calculate my exact weight if I stayed IN the truck? Would my own personal body weight be displayed on a sign somewhere on the grounds of this scrapyard? Would my weight be published in Scrapyard Weekly? Bryan tried to reassure me that my personal weight could not be calculated nor would it be displayed or published. He explained that my body weight would be included in the scrap weight and we would technically be paid for my weight. I am not nearly comfortable enough with my self worth to find out what my actual net worth in scrap metal would be. So I opted to remain in the truck while he went in.

While I sat in the truck I saw that directly across from me was a do-it yourself station to turn in your aluminum (i.e. soda and beer) cans for money. I was very surprised at the number of people that drop off cans for money on a Thursday afternoon. It also got me to thinking about all of our cans. Why are we just GIVING them to someone to recycle??? Aluminum cans pay $.52 a pound. Think of all I could buy with our can money. The can money combined with our furnace money would surely pay for new window treatments for our house, our annual car insurance premiums, and nice steak dinner at a nearby supper club. Basically, I pictured myself rolling around in piles of cash like Scrooge McDuck.

It was at this point Bryan returned to the truck and handed me the cash. As Bryan pulled the truck out of the parking lot I unfolded the bills and licked the tip of my finger to promote faster counting. I skipped over the ones, and then paused at the two dollar bill…this was not a good sign. I looked at Bryan and said “A two dollar bill?” And he said “Sure, that’s the only place you can get a two dollar bill anymore.” As if this was something I had been asking him for. I continued to count the bills and stopped at fifty-three. Fifty-three dollars was probably not going to be enough to cover our insurance, the windows, and dinner. I couldn’t mask my disappointment. But in all fairness, if I had to get rid of all of that while I lived in the city we would have to pay the City of Milwaukee $50 to haul away each of those items, so we definitely came out ahead.

It was a new experience for me and I always enjoy new things. The only downfall is that now I find myself repeatedly taking inventory of each room and the contents of our shed to see if we have anything we can take to the scrapyard for money. I even offered to quit my job so I could go through other people’s garbage full time, but Bryan didn’t think it would generate enough income. He always has to ruin my fun.

So when my loved ones open up their Christmas gifts this year, I hope they appreciate that our old stove helped pay for them.

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