One fine Saturday afternoon last May, I was on my way to the local trash dump site. Since I live just outside the city limits, I do not get trash service. There are companies who will allow me to pay them for this service, but I'm too cheap for that. There are several dump sites scattered throughout the county which are quite convenient. One of them is right on Josh's way to work. That makes it doubly convenient for me, though less so for Josh.
However, on that spring day, Josh was out on tour, which meant that I had to be an independent woman and take my own dang trash out. I was sitting at a stop light on the way, when a red pickup truck turned onto the road ahead of me. It had a trailer, which was hauling some cabinets, an old toboggan (the sled kind), and a windsurfer. Fresh from my successful yard sale day, I thought to myself that he had just come from a really great sale. Then I remembered that most people are not like me, and this guy might well be on his way to the dump, too. And if that was the case, maybe I could pick up someone else's trash while dumping off mine. I continued to sit at the intersection, watching the trailer full of goodies get smaller and smaller as it continued down Aviation Parkway. I cursed my red light luck.
But I guess my secondhand crap luck was with me, because I found myself directly behind him in line at the dump. As soon as we stopped, I jumped out of my car and asked if I could have the sled. He said sure, and he didn't even ask when I was due back at the asylum. He'd picked it up at a flea market for $25 several years ago and seemed happy that it would not be thrown away after all. He asked if I wanted a windsurfer, and I had to tell him no. I showed restraint in not telling him that the local Goodwill would be happy to take it (frankly, I'm not sure that they would, but you should always try).
Saturday afternoons are a busy time at the dump, and the line behind us was building up. I'm sure the person in the SUV behind me sighed with impatience at the crazy lady trying to fit an eight-foot sled into a hatchback. I like to think that his frustration turned into grudging admiration as I closed the door with my rescued item inside. Everywhere I go, it's like I'm filming a commercial for the Honda Fit.
Even after I got the toboggan in the car, I'm sure everyone there was wondering what I was planning to do with it. The previous owner had bought it as a Christmas gift. In fact, it still had a battered red bow on it, because after that jolly Christmas morning, it had sat neglected in his basement for years (next to the windsurfer, probably). I wondered if the recipient had been as enthusiastic as the giver. The sled was a little broken and therefore not useful for its original purpose. It was an eight-foot broken sled. As a Christmas gift. That then sat in the basement for years and years, a sad pathetic symbol of resentment and crappy gift-giving.
Of course, I can relate to the guy who saw the sled at the flea market and immediately knew that He Must Have It. I stalked a stranger to the dump and asked for his trash because I was overcome with the same feeling that I Must Have It. Sometimes you don't know why you like a thing, nor do you know what you will ever do with it, but you know that this right here is what they call an opportunity, and you should take it.
In addition to not knowing why I liked the sled or what I would do with it, I didn't know where I was going to put it. I've mentioned this twice already, but the sled is seriously eight feet tall. I put it on the porch, at first so I could take pictures of it, then because it was out of the way. And there it sat for seven months, barely protected from the weather by overflowing gutters. Every time I saw it, I felt both guilty and stupid. Guilty because it was beautiful and it was wasting away on my watch, stupid because it was ridiculous, and I had no idea what to do with it. Eventually, I would have to load it back into my hatchback and take it back to the dump site. Any sensible person would have left it there in the first place.
That is secondhand failure, folks. I have experienced much of that in my life. Sometimes, things just don't work out. I don't mind so much when it's a sweater or a bowl. But the sled was rare and so beautiful. It is old technology, a piece of very specialized craftsmanship. Someone figured out how to bend boards. Perhaps a Jedi made this sled. You know, one hiding out in Vermont. The sled even had a good story. I saved it from certain doom, a relic lost in a world that didn't know what to do with it. Except I didn't know what to do with it.
Last week, Josh got tired of seeing the sled on the porch, so it actually made it inside the house. We tried a couple of different spots, before finally deciding to rig it up from the railing that prevents people in the second floor hallway from falling into the living room (though they could easily land on the futon). And it sorta worked there. Still feeling productive, I mixed up a bowl of olive oil and lemon juice and I rubbed it on the wood to undo some of the damage done by years in a basement followed by months on a porch. The wood was dry and sad and gray. But trees must love olives and lemons, because the stuff revitalized the sled. It looked like wood again. It still looked old, but like someone actually cared about it. Once the sled was restored, we agreed that it totally worked there. It doesn't match the sarcophagus at all, but that could be the latter's fault. It fits in very well with our overall theme of "Stuff We Like."
And thus I felt redeemed. I had not been crazy to rescue this sled. I had vision.
It's a weird thing, I know. I fully understand that most people would not want it. It looks like something that might hang on the wall at a board shop in the mountains or maybe a ski chalet. Some woman was very, very glad to finally get it out of her basement, even as she enjoyed telling the story of the ridiculous thing her husband gave her one Christmas, isn't that just like him. And I hope that the man was comforted by the fact that he was not the only person in the world who thought an eight-foot wooden toboggan was a great thing to bring home one day. He wasn't crazy at all. He had vision.