Under the Sun
A throwaway culture lives up to its name
In the faint light before daybreak, the office chair stood out in the mess of post-consumer debris.
It was jammed upside down atop a grimy television set, a busted armrest dangling loosely over the sidewalk. Translucent plastic spokes, missing a caster or two, rotated slowly in the slipstream of a truck's passage on the road.
When it was new, its owner was probably tickled with its Hello Kitty pinks, whimsical blushes for a piece of furniture ordinarily assigned utilitarian grays and browns. But now it was broken, and though its colors still glowed brightly, it was just another bit of discarded junk.
In the past few weeks, the neighborhood has come to resemble a dumping ground.
Termite-eaten bookcases, coffee tables, nightstands shedding veneers, mangled lamps, warped lawn chairs and cracked CD towers and plastic bins hunch in scattered piles on almost every block along my walking routes. A half-dozen outmoded fat-screen TVs dress the pavement like a cruddy electronics showroom.
The city schedules the area for bulky item pickups on the third Wednesday of every month -- last week, by my calendar -- which would explain why people have been setting out unwanted odds and ends, large and small. But as each day passes without collection, the heaps get bigger, the rows of castoffs grow wider and longer.
People seem to have a whole lot of stuff to throw away. Most were once-desirable goods that gave out and really needed replacement, while other things simply outlived their usefulness or had been surpassed by the new and improved. Still, I am amazed at the quantities of rubbish a single neighborhood can produce.
But we are nothing if not consumers. Buying is the national pastime, the lifeblood of the economy. It seems almost unpatriotic to not spend every dime of the rebates the federal government so generously handed out to taxpayers.
Many people had little choice. They needed groceries. They had to pay electricity bills and fill their gasoline tanks. Some are choosing to be cautious, putting the cash away for an even rainier day. Yet there are less circumspect consumers. Otherwise there would be no demand for the near-ubiquitous storage buildings that seem to pop up faster than Starbucks shops did before the caffeine-fueled enterprise lost latte steam.
They symbolize the peculiar and impractical track of consumerism, of accumulating a profusion of objects that evidently aren't necessary for daily living and paying for their keep in a climate-controlled repository.
What's really crazy is that in many instances, the cost of storing stuff gets to be too much, forcing renters to abandon their possessions. You see their names and catalogs of their belongings published in newspaper notices, warning that their once-valued effects will be auctioned to the highest bidder.
Better to have put them on the street for the city's bulky item pickup; less reliable but at least cheaper.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org