When we first moved to northern New Jersey, it was really my first introduction to suburbia. I was amazed at what seemed to me treasures piled up on curbs on garbage days. We didn't have much money at the time, so we became scavengers to help furnish our first apartment. Scavenging can have somewhat of a bad connotation, conjuring images of raccoons pilfering garbage cans. But in my view, we weren't really scavenging, more like recycling, extending the life of an item, saving it from death at the dump.
The pickings were pretty good. Of course, we concentrated on the more affluent towns and boroughs. One time we were driving, myself, the wife, the infant and my mother-in-law. We spotted what looked like a pretty handsome armoire on the curb. While the ladies protested "we don't have enough room," I went about loading it into our station wagon. We put the baby seat in the front, my wife drove with my mother-in-law riding shotgun. The only place I could fit was inside the armoire, which my mother-in-law thought was hysterical. Have you ever ridden inside a cupboard in a car? I felt like Houdini except there was no lock. Definitely a closet case.
One time, however, I did overstep the bounds of street trash protocol. While out walking one morning near our house I passed a downed basketball hoop. Hmm, they must be throwing it out was the immediate conclusion to which I jumped. Our kids could use that, I thought. I wheeled it down the hill to our house and positioned it outside. Gradually during the day, a nagging suspicion that maybe this hoop wasn't really meant for recycling began gnawing at my brain. By afternoon I had to assuage my doubts, so I walked back up the hill and knocked on the door of the now hoop-less house. A couple of after-school boys answered the door. "Um, I was wondering if you meant to throw out your basketball hoop?" They shook their heads. "Ah, I made a mistake, I'll be right back." It was hard work wheeling that hoop back up the hill.