August 17th, 2012:
For day’s I’ve been targeting huge piles of donated electrical devices in dilapidated boxes. Sorting and restacking the items constitutes stage one of this process, cutting the volume in half and allowing for the easy removal of what doesn’t belong. The removed things include garbage, items that are obviously damaged, items that have no resale value and stuff that belongs elsewhere in the thrift shop(non-electrical).
This is a very dirty job and the weather has been quite hot and humid lately, but as strange as it may sound, organizing spaces is something that has never bothered me. This is especially the case when working for a good cause. My coworker Sammi does his own thing testing newly arrived items while I organize the spaces. We are making a good team so far.
For the most part I’ve learned where things go on the property. Most unwanted electrical items go into bins for recycling, with separate bins for any monitors or TV’s containing tubes(CRT’s). Lamp are dealt with differently. Lamp cords are first removed for recycling. Lamps containing plastic are then put into a massive dumpster with the rest of the normal trash. Wooden lamps are thrown into the burning mountain.
The burning mountain is where all types of unwanted non-plastic items go, not just lamps. Cardboard is not included as this has recycling value, unless it’s wet. The pile often burns during working hours, with more unwanted items constantly arriving among the donations. The leftover steel frames of mattresses and couches make up the bulk of the mountain.
The main point of the burning mountain is steel recycling, and the secondary point is to remove useless bulk from the property. Any useless metal is eligible to be thrown onto the mountain whether or not anything burnable is attached. Once per year a recycling company sends machines to scoop the mountain into trucks.
One of my targeted piles is in a shed taking up absolutely all the floor space, a seven-hour job baking under a rusty tin roof. This is a priority considering that all four walls are lined with much-needed storage shelves. Unfortunately the shelves are also full, much of the items useless. This room will require many stages of progress.
The farther I work my way back into the room, the longer those items appear to have been there, some obviously for years. In the very back corner is a big oily metal tank of diesel fuel mounted on the stone wall and a second tank on the floor underneath. The shelves behind the tank contain many 5-gallon plastic jugs partially full of fuel.
A majority of the room’s space is taken up by dozens of chandeliers, nearly impossible to stack in any sensible way and mostly in too good of conditions to throw away. For the meantime I heap them haphazardly on the top shelves- out of sight out of mind. The glass has been removed from the chandeliers, taking up a majority of the shelf space in the room. All the other items offer somewhat better solutions. Even the 100 different sizes of lamp shades end up stacking somewhat decently.
Underneath everything is a tattered blue tarp, covered with a layer of dust and covering a layer of slippery mud. There’s a cement floor underneath and the heat quickly dries the mud. By the end of the day I’m able to free up enough shelf space to bring everything useful back into the room. There is another day of work to do just organizing the shelves, but the priority is accomplished- a room of dry floor space. Any important new arrivals can now come in out of the rain.
August 18th, 2012:
The store is open this afternoon so I join Sammi in stocking the shelves with tested new arrivals after our 10:30 coffee break.
“Where’s that old typewriter”, I ask him, referring to one of the items that I had tested.
“It not electrical so it not go here.”
“Where does it go?”
He points to the burning mountain. Never tell a writer to burn a like-new manual typewriter because to do so is a great sin. The particular typewriter is question, roughly 40 years old, still contains the paper guard that keeps the key heads from flopping around during shipment.
I hide the typewriter behind a dumpster full of lamps, planning on giving to one off my other coworkers to sell elsewhere in the store. I’ve recently done the same thing with a couple old bio-feedback machines in briefcases. This place seriously needs an Ebay person, which will be one of my goals to talk them into if I end up sticking around for a while.
But as much as I like it here, the 20-to-1 male to female ratio means that it’s not the best place for me to learn about intentional communities. Any community I help create in the future will be a reflection of normal family structure including men women and children.
Right now I’m learning about thrift shop operations, which is the vital financial backbone I hope to recreate elsewhere. I’m also learning how the everyday tasks of living are shared, but eventually I’m going to want to observe the interactions of men, women and families in an intentional community.
This organization operates many such communities in France and I’ll likely try and get transferred to one in the next month or so. Each of their individual communities is very different and I have just so happened to currently find myself in one that seems to prefer only men.
August 19th, 2012:
My coworker Sammi in electronics left last night for a one-week vacation and handed over the workshop key to me. All thrift shop workers have Sundays and Mondays off but I’ve decided that working this weekend is too good of an opportunity to pass up. I’ve got access to the electronics workshop and there’s absolutely nobody around to distract me. It’s too hot for anyone to walk around, even out of boredom. All my comrades will either be hiding out in their rooms or running about the countryside in automobiles. I can get a ton of organizing done, literally a ton.
There’s one thing bothering me in particular- the remaining huge pile. It’s right by the door to the workshop, all the newly arrived small appliances that I’m supposed to sort and test next week. Thunderstorms are almost guaranteed in the near future, and I really would not look forward to testing a pile of wet electrical devices.
I suspend a tarp from the exterior workshop wall and stretch it high over the pile. There’s plenty of random hardware in the electronics yard and storage sheds to build a large steel shelf. I tie all the random pieces together with electrical cords. I’ve give the shelf several redundant structural supports considering its large size and semi-haphazard nature. Four hours of work results in roughly 50 square feet of new dry storage space.
I begin the task of sorting the pile and moving potentially useful items to the shelves. The heat and humidity is unbearable by 4PM so I quickly throw the rest of the pile onto the shelf and retreat indoors. There’s no air conditioning and half my comrade are shirtless, panting like dogs. A big dark cloud drops rain just an hour later.
In other news, my new Hungarian roommate has become quite pleasant now. Seems to have just taken him a couple days to adjust for sharing a room. Life here remains almost entirely positive. It is impressive that after two week I’ve yet to witness even a simple quarrel.