5/15/2018

On being … open


By Ingrid Sapona

A nearby theatre company does “Secret Theatre” events. The other day they sent out an email announcing the tickets for the first Secret Theatre of the year. To get tickets you phone the box office. I’ve tried in the past, but by the time I got through, the tickets were gone.

The other day I was successful and I nabbed a pair. A day or so later, I got an email from the box office with a bit more information. Basically, they told us where we’d meet, that it was rain or shine, and that it would last about 45 minutes. That was it – no other details.

After ordering the tickets, I phoned a friend to see if she’d like to join me. I told her the little I knew about it, but that it sounded fun. She agreed and so we had a date. Since it was my idea, I offered to drive and said I’d figure out where we might have dinner before the play.

In choosing the restaurant, I wanted to find a place I thought my friend might like. I did my homework – checking out their menus on-line to see both what they offered and the price range.  Because the place I chose didn’t take reservations, just in case we couldn’t get in to my top choice, I had a fallback picked out too,

Driving to the event, we talked about what to expect. Since I knew nothing more than what I had told her earlier, my only comment was that I figured it’d be like a Fringe Festival play, but with higher quality acting.

After dinner, we headed to the Surprise Theatre designated meeting place. At the appointed time, they led us (a crowd of about 60) on a brief walk to where the performance would be. The gentleman who welcomed us told us that during the production we’d have four short walks that the cast would lead us on. He also casually mentioned that he was especially pleased that they managed to stage this particular play on this particular weekend. From that, I think we all guessed the play was going to have a Mother’s Day theme.

Then, without further ado, the play began, right where we were standing. Out marched five actresses all dressed in black, with one of them sporting a distinct baby bump. The first “scene”, if I can call it that, was a monologue by the pregnant-looking one about what the baby feels like inside her. As she went on, I was overcome with contrasting emotions. On the one hand, the speech was very powerful and interesting; on the other hand, I worried about how my friend might take it. Neither of us has kids, so it’s not like we could personally relate to what the actress was saying.

I was very concerned with whether it was making my friend uncomfortable. I kept thinking, “Oh please, don’t let this end in a screaming birth scene”. It didn’t. The monologue gently described a few contractions and then crescendoed with the actress fondling an imaginary baby.

They asked us not to tell people too much about the play itself, as they might replay it at a future Secret Theatre. So, I won’t describe it more than to say it focused on the trials and tribulations of being a mother.

Since seeing it, I’ve been unable to get the play out of my head. It was a rare combination of sweet, yet poignant. It was well written and cleverly staged. I’ve also been thinking about how long it’s been since I saw or read something that surprised and delighted me. For sure, part of the reason I enjoyed it so much had to do with the quality of the writing and acting. But it wasn’t just that. It also had to do with the fact that I went in with virtually no expectations and I was open to the experience.

If you think about it, it’s pretty rare that we go into a show or even a restaurant without knowing something about it. With movies, we see trailers and read reviews. With restaurants, we can look at their menus on-line and read diners’ comments. With plays, we usually at least know who the playwright is, if not something about the play itself. Heck, even in Fringe Festival productions there’s a line or two description (often quite misleading, mind you) meant to entice people to attend. What I think we fail to think about is the down side of having all this information: that it often builds expectations – some reasonable, some unrealistic.

The Secret Theatre outing has reminded me of the unexpected joy that can come by experiencing something with an open mind, free of expectation and pre-conceived ideas. What about you? Do you find yourself truly open to things? I hope so. If not, maybe you should give it a try… 

©2018 Ingrid Sapona


4/30/2018

On being … unrushed


By Ingrid Sapona

One day last week, as I was driving home I had on an AM news station to get the traffic report. After hearing it, I continued listening, curious for an update about Kate Middleton’s delivery. Instead of hearing about the royals, the news was about a rental van that had jumped the curb and struck pedestrians in a neighborhood at the north end of Toronto.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was hearing some of the first news reports. The details were sketchy. For example, they didn’t mention any casualties. But, a few things made it clear that it wasn’t a normal accident. For starters, though they continued to provide frequent traffic and weather reports, they didn’t talk about other news at all. The fact that the subway up at that end of town was not running, nor were buses, also seemed odd to me.

Later, as I made dinner, I turned on an FM station. During their brief news update I heard there were 9 dead (at that time) and about 15 injured. I think they also mentioned the van driver was in custody, but they gave no details about him. They played a few interviews of witnesses and from those accounts, it was clear it wasn’t an accident.

That evening, a few friends and relatives from the States contacted me to see if I was ok. After I reassured them I was fine, they asked what the police were saying about who did it and why. I told them the details were still sketchy and that the police aren’t as quick to release details as they are in the US.

Indeed, I was surprised to see the story on the US network news that evening. The US news noted that the police hadn’t released the driver’s name, but they said the driver “was known to police”. None of the Canadian reports I heard mentioned that tidbit, and I wondered why not. Nor was there any speculation about terrorism or motive. Instead, the mainstream Canadian media simply reported the facts as they became known. As it turns out, the reason the “known to police” comment was never mentioned by the Canadian press is because it was simply not true.

By the next morning, some information about the driver (his name and age, for example) had been released by police. From that, reporters began uncovering additional details about him – where he went to school, where he had worked, and so on. Also by the next day, speculation about motive was emerging.

But, details about the non-violent arrest of the driver by Toronto police constable Ken Lam also got a lot of coverage. Const. Lam’s behaviour in the course of the arrest was remarkable. Apparently, Lam was on traffic duty when the call came in. He headed to the scene alone in an unmarked police car, siren whaling. He got out of the car and approached the driver, who was out of the van and who looked to be holding a gun.

Lam walked toward the driver, yelling at him to get down. When Lam realized the cruiser’s siren was still going, he went back to the car and turned it off. As soon as it was off, Lam headed back toward the driver, yelling for him to get down. The driver said he had a gun in his pocket, but Lam yelled back, “I don’t care!” Lam continued to yell for the driver to get down. As Lam got closer, the driver yelled “shoot me in the head”. Lam continued calmly toward him, ultimately wrestling him to the ground and handcuffing him.

Like all Torontonians, I was impressed by Const. Lam’s unparalleled bravery and skill. As one commentator noted, every action Lam took – from taking time to turn off the siren to engaging the driver in conversation – was deliberately intended to try to calm the situation. The whole confrontation between Lam and the driver took only about 37 seconds, which in the scheme of an hour, let alone a lifetime, seems like nothing at all. And yet, Lam’s 37 seconds of level-headedness meant he had time to implement the specific steps Toronto police are trained in to diffuse dangerous confrontations.

At the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, I’m very proud of the Toronto police, media, and general citizenry’s reaction in the face of this unspeakable tragedy. As everyone was struggling to make sense of something so senseless, there was no fearmongering or rushing to conclusions. Instead, there’s been lots of talk about how the multicultural nature of our society has helps unite – rather than divide – us, especially at a time like this.

In the aftermath of such events, there’s always talk about lessons learned and consideration of how the impact of such acts might be physically prevented or reduced. (Things like erecting barriers along the sidewalk, or making rental car companies do background checks have been mentioned, for example.) At times like this, I think it’s also useful to focus on the benefits gained by the police, media, and citizens’ willingness to not rush to action or judgement.  

©2018 Ingrid Sapona

4/15/2018

On being ... appreciated

By Ingrid Sapona

The last of my father’s siblings died a couple weeks ago. Though the service for my uncle Orestis was in South Carolina, assuming I could get there in time for it, there was no question in my mind that I’d attend.

All my life, whenever I told anyone about him, I always referred to him as my favourite uncle. When anyone asked why he was my favourite, the only thing I could tell them was a story from the first time we met. To be honest, I don’t have a personal recollection of this happening, but given what I’ve always felt about him, it certainly feels true.

So, the story goes like this: when I was two or so my father’s army reserve unit was called up to active duty. While my father was away, my uncle came for a visit. Apparently, when I saw Orestis – who looked a lot like my dad and had the same lovely Greek accent – I thought he was my father. Seems I crawled onto his lap and wouldn’t leave. I’ve always attributed the start of our special relationship to that alleged incident.

While we were waiting for the memorial service to begin, I heard my cousin say that he and Jacob, his oldest son, would be speaking. Though I’d met Jacob on a few occasions, I didn’t know him too well. As he walked to the lectern with his cell phone and nothing else, I thought he’d probably been “volunteered” to speak. And, given no paper or other sign of prepared remarks, I thought he’d probably just share a few stories and memories before stepping aside for his father (my cousin) to speak. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Jacob, a first year university student, delivered a superbly crafted eulogy – one that would make any speechwriter – hell, any writer – envious. Beyond his artful use of rhetorical devices, Jacob did what I had never been able to do: he described the qualities that made my uncle so special to me and to his own children and grandchildren.

Jacob spoke of the adversity my uncle faced on the road to achieving the American dream. Using stories and anecdotes, he told of Orestis’ strength, courage, selflessness, humour, kindness, and the unconditional love he had for his family. 

He reflected on various lessons he took from my uncle’s approach to life. For example, that no matter the obstacle, there’s always a way around it through hard work and determination. And, no matter how hard the struggle, or how daunting the task, you don’t make a big deal about it. As Jacob noted, Orestis probably wouldn’t have even cared about the memorial service, he would simply want everyone to “carry on with fortitude and resilience”. 

Jacob also learned valuable lessons about relationships from Orestis. As Jacob explained it, he learned to love few, but to love intensely and unconditionally. And, he learned that family is all we have in this big scary world.   

It was heartwarming to hear Jacob say that he knows that all the opportunities he has enjoyed are the direct result of Orestis’ hard work and self-sacrifice. I was especially moved by the fact that he didn’t take my uncle’s generosity for granted. 

And somehow, in one sentence, Jacob managed to sum up the way I’ve always felt about my uncle. Jacob said that if Orestis “was running the show, you just knew you were going to be ok”.  Indeed, from the time I crawled into his lap at age two until the day he took his last breath, that’s what uncle Orestis meant to me.

I’m certain my uncle knew how I felt about him and that I loved him – and that’s really what matters. But, I’m grateful to Jacob for putting into words what Orestis instilled in my heart.  Thank you Jacob, and thank you uncle Orestis for being all that you were.  

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona

3/30/2018

On being ... dramatic

By Ingrid Sapona

There were lots of things I thought commendable about Barak Obama’s time in the White House. But, what I found most exemplary was the “No-drama Obama” approach. Indeed, throughout my adult life, that’s a way of being that I’ve striven toward and that’s something I look for in friends. The way I see it, dialing back the drama frees up energy you can apply to something productive.

Given Trump’s preference for high dudgeon, you probably think this topic’s been on my mind because of some tweet or comment he’s put out. But, Trump’s behavior isn’t what’s inspired today’s column. Instead, the behaviour of a woman I’m working with (I’ll call her Stephanie) is what’s caused me to reflect on self-induced drama.

By many standards, Stephanie has a charmed life. But, I sometimes wonder how she makes it through the daily drama. A simple example will give you a sense of what I’m talking about. She’s a mere 25 and, with her parents’ help, she just bought a condo. Before moving in, she decided she needed shelving for the bedroom closet. She found what she wanted at IKEA. As you might guess, some assembly was required. Not being the do-it-yourself type, she paid extra to have someone install it.

Having just moved in, her condo building’s directory hadn’t been updated to include her name and number. So, when the installers arrived but couldn’t find her name, they left. The morning after, we all heard about the “unbelievable” jerks IKEA sent who didn’t think to phone her cell. As expected, the appointment had to be rescheduled.

The day after the eventual installation, we heard all about how unbelievably rude the workers were. After showing them to the room where the closet was, she left them alone to start. When she returned, she was SHOCKED to see their tool bag on her bed. “If they needed space they could have moved stuff out of their way instead of putting their filthy bags on the bed. Who does that?” she asked incredulously. (I’m guessing workers who are in a hurry…)

She ranted about having to wash all the bed linens as soon as they left. My reaction was: really? All the linens? Surely she must have only needed to clean the bed cover. Oh no, she assured me – she had to wash the sheets too. Not being able to picture how the sheets might have gotten dirty, I asked if they were somehow exposed. She said they weren’t, but the whole idea of anyone putting anything on the bed was just “to disgusting for words”. Something tells me she’s gonna be doing a lot of laundry if that’s how she feels!

Not wanting to prolong the drama, I excused myself and got back to what I was doing. Later, a colleague who heard Stephanie’s rant about the tool-bag-on-the-bed incident confided in me that her mom would have felt the need to wash all the bed linens afterward too. Seems her mom doesn’t like it when stuff that was outside is brought indoors. In fact, she said, her mom’s rule was that they had to change into “indoor clothes” as soon as they got home. I said I could see that because if you’re outside playing you could track dirt and grime in. She calmly explained that the rule applied no matter where they came in from.

Though I find the idea of always changing into indoor clothes as extreme as Stephanie feeling the need to wash everything on the bed if someone puts something on it, I found myself more open to the indoor clothes rule because it was explained in such a matter-of-fact manner. The desire to keep one’s home clean is at the heart of both, I realize. But, Stephanie’s rant was also  about the trauma and effort she had to put into maintaining things as she likes them. My other colleague’s mom, on the other hand, made keeping the inside of their house pristine a straightforward exercise.

I basically don’t like drama because it seems a waste of energy. Just do what you need to do and  don’t make a big deal about it, I say. After all, I think there’s enough drama in life that’s out of our control — why create more?

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona

3/15/2018

On being … revolutionary


By Ingrid Sapona

Regardless of how old you are, I’m sure you’d agree that many products that were revolutionary in our great grandparents’ day are almost unrecognizable in their current iteration. Take phones, for instance. We all grew up with our own dedicated phone line at home while our great grandparents might not have had a phone, or they might have shared a party line. (My friend Sandy’s parents’ cottage had a party line well into the 1990s, so we’re not talking ancient history here.)

Twenty years ago – in other words, just one generation ago – the idea of a mobile phone seemed like something invented by comedy writers (remember Maxwell Smart’s shoe phone?) or sci-fi enthusiasts. Then all of a sudden, cell phones came on the scene and a mere decade later they morphed into smart phones that are computers more powerful than those used by NASA to send astronauts to the moon.

But it’s not just technology products that have changed dramatically in our lifetime — the revolution is happening in so many areas. Take autos, for example. Automatic transmission and power steering were pretty much the norm by the time I learned to drive, but I clearly remember when cars went from rear-wheel to front-wheel drive, for example. And, of course, the revolution to fully electrical vehicles has already hit and it seems clear that driverless cars are just around the corner. Does that mean that George Jetson’s mode of transportation is on the horizon too? Who knows …

Some changes in the way products are designed are so revolutionary, they amount to almost a definitional change. Take car keys, for example. Nowadays, you don’t need them to enter OR start the car. Instead of a key, you carry an electronic device that sends a signal to a computer in the car that’s programmed to allow the person to get in and to start the car.

This notion about needing to update the definition of something came to mind this past week because of some work that’s being done in my condo building. Last year we found out that Kitec piping was used when the building was built (15 or so years ago). It was a popular piping product in its day, and up to code. But, since then it’s been found to be faulty in that it just bursts — with no warning. Our condo association has decided that having Kitec in the building poses a risk, and so we’re replacing it throughout the building.

So, when I say the word piping, what do you picture? More specifically, does the image in your mind’s eye change if I say “plumbing pipes in a home”? The image that comes to mind for me is rigid copper or some sort of plastic tubing that water flows through. I have this image from the plumbing in the home I grew up in. It was a ranch house and from the basement you could see all the pipes running through the joists. Looking up at the rafters it was clear that, in contrast to wiring that you can bend or twist, with pipes you needed “elbow joints” or other specially made curved bits if you wanted the water to go in a direction other than straight ahead.

Well, it turns out, while those of us not in the plumbing or building trades were busy trying to keep up with the digital revolution, there’s been a revolution in the pipe world too. I found this out this week, as our massive piping replacement project got underway. When the contractor started unloading the supplies, I expected to see long lengths of pipe laying in the hallway, awaiting their installation. Instead, they brought in coiled bundles of stuff that I’d describe as hose.

So, in the 60+ years since the house I grew up in was built, water pipes have been transformed into flexible hoses. In thinking about it, I realized I shouldn’t have been quite so astonished because a few years back I replaced the “line” from the water tank in my boat to my little galley sink and that line was a hose. But still, wouldn’t you think plumbing supplies for a 200+-unit condo building would be different from what you’d use in a 25-foot sailboat?

I know change is all around us (even hidden in our walls!). But sometimes, it’s just so surprising. And, as a person who works with words, I find it particularly frustrating when our vocabulary just doesn’t fit with reality any longer. Keys are not keys, icons are not icons, pipes are not pipes any more.

What about you? What revolutionary change has caught you by surprise recently?

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona

2/28/2018

On being … vilified


By Ingrid Sapona

News stories related to the Winter Olympics and to the Florida school shooting have left me deeply troubled this week. My concern centers on the propensity to vilify people who behave in a way that others judge – almost immediately – as improper or unacceptable.

The Olympic-related story was about Jocelyn Larocque – she’s the Canadian ice hockey player who removed the silver medal that had just been placed around her neck. After removing it, she kept it clasped in her left hand as she shook hands with the women on the winning U.S. team. While that report describes the physical action Larocque took during the medal presentation, it doesn’t talk about the look of sorrow or anguish on her face. It also doesn’t explain what might be behind her look of utter disappointment. Nope, it doesn’t say anything about Larocque’s team losing the gold as a result of a shootout. But apparently Larocque’s action was enough for many to condemn her as a bad sport, a poor loser, a bad role model, and a “disgusting athlete”.[1]

Yet when I saw the video of the medal being placed around Larocque’s neck, my heart broke for her. Truly. Though I’m no athlete and I can’t possibly imagine what it’s like to compete at that level, I can definitely understand the feeling of utter disappointment. Who can’t, I thought? Well, it didn’t take long to learn that many folks can’t. Not only that, they were quick to condemn her.

The vilification of Larocque ranged from the nasty remarks I mentioned earlier, to headlines in major newspapers that claimed she “refused” to wear her silver medal. That’s not how she behaved. She stood there solemnly as it was placed around her neck and then when the medal presenter moved to the next athlete, she quietly slipped it off. I think anyone with any compassion would see what I saw: a drained, tired competitor who had given her all and who was grieving the fact that, in the end, the effort wasn’t enough.

And then there was the horrific – yet sadly not unusual – shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead. Again, an event that I cannot personally relate to at all. Indeed, for people who live outside the U.S., the tragedy of 17 dead as a result of actions of someone who was legally able to by a gun (whether one labelled an “assault” weapon or not) is simply beyond our comprehension.

Of course, even though most Americans seem to willing overlook the obvious cause of such tragedies (guns), that doesn’t mean they don’t struggle to try to make sense of such an event. And so, in the aftermath, we’ve all come to expect talk of things like the signals law enforcement and parents missed or ignored. And these days, finger pointing is especially popular because it’s the favoured diversionary tactic of Trump, the blamer-in-chief. But people vilifying Florida sheriff deputy Scot Peterson for not taking action – in effect making him the scapegoat – is both unfair and cruel.

I can understand it when an angry, scared teenage survivor of the massacre says “shame on him” because she believes Peterson could have saved so many if he’d have gone into the school. That’s a survivor’s emotion talking – perhaps even a survivor’s guilt talking. But Trump calling Peterson a coward for not having the courage to “get in there and do something” was nothing short of disgusting to me. (On the other hand, Trump’s ridiculous statement that he would have gone in there even if he was unarmed is easy to ignore as self-aggrandizing fantasy.)

Why is it that no one seems to care about Peterson’s emotions in the aftermath? He too is a survivor of the terrible incident, yet few people seem willing to try to imagine what he might be going through. Maybe in the wake of such a tragedy, there’s only so much compassion to go around. Well, I feel for Peterson and his family – what an awful thing to have been involved in.  

I realize these stories are very different in scope and gravity. And yet, to me they both reflect an unhealthy a hardening of people’s hearts and an erosion of compassion and empathy. I hope I’m wrong… What do you think?

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona


2/15/2018

On being ... port-able?


By Ingrid Sapona

In this era of passwords and PIN numbers, it’s a real challenge to remember them all. One number I bet you remember is the phone number at your house growing up. In my case, that phone number has been around for over 50 years and until today, it’s been the one that rang at my Mom’s house.

Phone numbers have been a topic of discussion around here of late. Last year one of my sisters gave me her old cell phone and she added me to her U.S. cell plan. I don’t use that phone a lot – just when I’m in the States. In fact, I use it so seldom, I can never remember the number. That can be embarrassing when I ask someone to call me back, but then I can’t tell them what number to call. Ugh.

When my sister and I initially talked about her adding me to her plan, I assumed I’d get a number with a Texas area code, as that’s where she lives. To my surprise, she ended up getting me a number with a Buffalo area code. She figured that made sense because I’d use the phone mainly when I’m visiting Mom in Buffalo. So, I always think of that phone as my “Buffalo cell”.

I was actually pretty amazed that she could just pick the area code she wanted for the cell. I had never heard of that. I always assumed a phone number has some connection to the billing location. But I guess – at least with cell phones – that’s not necessarily the case any more.

I wasn’t around when phone numbers started with an actual location, but from the song “Pennsylvania 6-5000” I know that they used to. (Apparently Pennsylvania 6-5000 was a phone exchange for the area around Penn Station in New York.) I AM old enough to remember a variation of that name/number convention because people in our neighborhood used to say their phone numbers with letters in the first two places, rather than numbers. So, for example, our phone number started with “NX4”, followed by the last four digits.

At some point I noticed everyone in our neighborhood had a phone number that started with “NX”. After that, I started paying attention to telephone prefixes (that’s what I call the first three numbers after the area code) because I realized they gave you a general idea of where a person or business might be located. In the days before GPS, knowing that was pretty helpful. And, on the flip side, if you knew the prefix for a certain area, it was easier to remember the number of someone you knew who lived in that area.

When I bought my condo in 2007 I was hoping to keep my phone number because it was also my business number. But, I knew I was moving outside the area I always associated with the phone prefix I had. Sadly, when I inquired, I learned I’d be assigned a new number.

Facing loss of the number that had been my business number for over 10 years, I got a little creative. I asked whether my business number, which was a land line, could become my cell phone number. That was doable because, by then, you could “port” an existing number to a cell phone. I was tickled. Sure, it meant the added expense of a cell phone (remember, in 2007 cell phones weren’t as ubiquitous as they are today), but it was worth it to me to keep my business number.

Now, back to the Buffalo cell… There are times when it’s come in handy, but with two cells it’s very easy to miss texts and messages because one cell is usually turned off to avoid roaming charges. Believe me, I completely understand Hillary Clinton’s (some would say questionable) decision to use just one cell! Anyway, about a month ago my sister told me she’s planning on switching cell providers. Her new plan will cover North America for calling, text, and data and she’s offered to add the Buffalo cell to the new plan, if I want it. I thanked her for the generous offer, but I asked for some time to consider it.

In thinking about it, I realized much of my ambivalence comes from not liking the Buffalo cell number and having no sense of connection to it. I wondered if I’d use that phone more if it was a number I liked. That’s when I had the idea of porting our long-time family phone number to the Buffalo cell, given that we’d otherwise lose the number when the phone is disconnected prior to the house closing. I mentioned this to my sisters and they both loved the idea of one of us keeping that number “in the family”. Technology being what it is, as of this afternoon, the family phone number is now the number of the Buffalo cell.

I don’t know about you, but I find stuff like “porting” phone numbers and area codes that don’t necessarily relate to a specific area strange, albeit kinda cool. Of course, to make the most of what’s possible you have to think outside the conventions and norms you grew up with AND you have to be willing to ask.

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona

1/30/2018

On being … of use

By Ingrid Sapona

The late comedian George Carlin had a great routine about “stuff”. If you aren’t familiar with it – or if you haven’t seen it for awhile (it goes back more than 30 years!) – check it out on YouTube. (I bet it’s the funniest five minutes you’ll have today!) 

The most memorable point Carlin made in that bit was the idea that each of us see our “stuff” as things of value, but we see other peoples’ stuff as junk. That thought echoes in my head whenever I begin going through my things with an eye toward donating stuff I no longer need.

Of course, a little self-censorship when deciding what to pass along and what to put in the garbage bin is a good thing. After all, no charity wants that oven mitt with the hole in the thumb, or the half-full tubes of acrylic paint from that art class you took a couple years ago – that stuff is junk. But what about the half-used rolls of Christmas wrap, or the dozens of Altoids tins you’ve got floating around in a desk drawer? Many would see those things as junk, but a crafter may have some use for them.

Over the past year I wrote about clearing out my Mom’s house in preparation for selling it. If all goes well, the closing will happen in February. So, I’ve been reflecting on the work that’s led up to this happy/sad point. Most of the work related to dealing with the 50+ years worth of “stuff” in the house and my efforts to minimize what went to landfill. Or, as I preferred to think of it – finding the right place for all our stuff.

Some of it was easy. For example, two dozen boxes of books went to a charity book sale. A refugee resettlement group got lots of the home furnishing. We also did kind of an estate sale (basically an up-scale garage sale that someone else runs for you). Boxes of crafting odds and ends went to an elementary school art teacher we knew, and so on. But, in the end, there was stuff that ended up going into the recycle bin or the trash.

There was one outlet for getting rid of stuff a friend told me about that I didn’t get a chance to use, but that I have been fascinated about since – it’s called freecycling. Trash Nothing is a freecycle network that has groups all over the place. Members of the group post messages describing items they’re giving away (offers) or stuff they’re looking for (wants). No selling or trading is allowed – all items must be offered free. Members contact each other directly and the person who wants what someone is offering arranges to pick it up.  

You have to be a member of the group to post, and membership is usually limited to folks who live in the same area. I joined a Trash Nothing group where Mom’s house is. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up using it because it would have been hard to arrange for folks to pick up stuff I might offer, since I live out-of-town. But, I love the idea behind Trash Nothing so much, I’ve continued getting emails about “wants” and “offers”.

I’m intrigued by the things people offer, and humbled by the things people are seeking. This week, for example, someone posted this offer: “Hundreds of used (cassette) tapes – metaphysics and self improvement tapes which can be taped over”. Most of the offers include quite down-to-earth comments, like that suggestion about being able to tape over the cassettes. Here’s another one: “Parting with this Coffee pot because we switched over to Keurig and it's been sitting around taking up precious counter space. It's in Great working condition, clean, could probably use a new water filter...” Sounds like she’s gonna miss that coffeemaker, doesn’t it? I’m sometimes struck by the seemingly trifling things people offer – things that others might unceremoniously toss into the garbage. Here’s an example of what I mean: “I have many (well over 30) recipe cards from various meal delivery services. Some from my own deliveries and most from someone else who gave them to me. I’ve scanned those I'm using, the originals can go to a new home.”

As for “want” posts, they’re often quite moving, like this recent one: “Looking for beds, futon, or air mattress for my children. We are all sleeping on the floor and aren't sleeping too well. We still need dressers, shelving, table and chairs. Beds are most important. Thanks”. Here’s another: “Mom of 4 starting over from scratch. In need of everything. 3 year old girl, 11 year old boy, teen girls in need of toys, storage, kitchenware, pots and pans. Beds, dressers, we literally need everything again. Very grateful for help. …”

And then there are some very practical, straightforward requests, like this: “I am looking for a medium sized dog crate for a mini-border collie/Australian shepherd puppy I will be getting soon. I can pick up anywhere (in the area of the network). Thanks!” I’d never think to ask strangers for this kind of thing, but I’m sure there are folks whose dogs have outgrown their crate, so why not let them know you need one.

The Trash Nothing posts are a great reminder that just because something – some stuff – is no longer of use to you, it doesn’t mean it’s junk. I don’t think folks who participate in Trash Nothing networks are necessarily out to prove George Carlin wrong, but …

So, if you’ve ever doubted that anyone else might have a use for junk – er, stuff – you no longer want, there’s an easy way to find out: just offer it on a freecycle network. I bet there’s someone out there who’d find a use for the stuff.

© 2018 Ingrid Sapona