The Karmic Dumpster

November 23, 2016

Chicago, Illinois

With the exception of a short stint in the ritzier River North neighborhood of Chicago, I’ve lived in the same apartment building on the south side for the last three years. The first two years, I rented a 400 square-foot studio on the 18th floor. I moved in without much. When I separated from my now-ex-wife, I pretty much took what would fit in my car. I had no furniture, no kitchenware, no electronic entertainment. I had planned to go back and get a few items, because there were plenty more than necessary for her. She, however, told me to give her a list of what I wanted, and she would decide what she would let me have. Fuck that. Not in the mood to kowtow to her over material items, I decided that I’d just start over and buy all new things. And thanks to IKEA, I was able to get the basics fairly inexpensively.

Of course, there are always items that you discover you need later on. When I began hosting couchsurfers, I found that many of them preferred to drink tea instead of the free coffee that is available in the lobby downstairs. So I purchased a tea kettle. And a toaster, because when my girlfriend visited, she told me that she enjoyed toast for breakfast. I rarely get to eat breakfast at home because of my work schedule, and when I did, I simply toasted my bread on a skillet. I didn’t mind having to purchase these items at the store, as they helped me be a more accommodating and confident host.

While I no longer confess a belief in an omniscient and omnipotent God, I have reached the conclusion that karma, or something like it, may, in fact, be real. I have always tried to treat others well, and many times gone out of my way to be helpful. And it seems that the universe has perhaps been paying attention and rewarding me for my good deeds. I have opened my home countless times for travelers, over 150 individuals, and never have I had a bad experience. Rather, it seems that I am blessed instead. And one of the ways that I seem to find blessings is by simply walking out the door and passing the trash dumpster on the path to my car.

I had purchased an iron, because that seemed to be something that a grown-up would own. When I was married, we had an iron, and I am fairly adept at using it, even though I prefer to let the dry cleaner press my shirts and pants. But a traveler may not have the time to wait on a dry cleaner. So the iron was mainly for my guests. I did not, however, have the funds for an ironing board at the time. I figured that in a pinch, they could iron on the floor with a blanket or something underneath their clothes to be pressed. But not two days after I purchased the iron, I passed by the dumpster corral behind my building, and there stood an ironing board. Not new, but in good condition. And it went right up to my apartment where it fit neatly in my walk-in closet.

Later, after hosting a party of five young ladies for a weekend, it became apparent that the bathroom mirror above the sink was insufficient. They were all trying to crowd in the tiny space to take turns making sure that their make-up looked right, and then having to ask their friends how they looked in their clothes. This was important, because we (they invited me) were going out to a swanky club. One of the girls mentioned to me that what I really needed was a full-length mirror. I had not really thought of that as a need before, but I completely understood her point. Again, within the week, the dumpster provided for my “needs”.  Someone had put out a 12″ x 48″ (30cm x 122cm) framed mirror that simply needed to be attached to the back of my bathroom door. Perfect!

Since that time, I have found folding chairs when I needed them, a set of four nice wooden dining chairs in excellent condition that went to a friend who was needing them, a beautiful lacquered wooden table with legs that folded neatly underneath. This was perfect for when I needed a coffee table for after dinner drinks or a game of cards with friends. And perfect for when I didn’t need it, as it stored very neatly tucked in the gap beside the refrigerator. It’s been uncanny how the dumpster knows what I need.

As I have been preparing for my move to Thailand, one of the items that I have kept in the back of my mind that I need is a large piece of luggage, I used my last suitcase to ship the rest of my girlfriend’s belongings to her in California after she moved back for school. So I had been planning to see if there was a sale on luggage before I have to vacate my apartment next month. Last week I walked downstairs and out to my car with a friend so that I could donate the frozen turkey that my employer graciously gives me every year before Thanksgiving. And sitting right in front of the dumpster was a large, black suitcase. It was in excellent condition. The wheels worked. The handle worked. The zippers worked. It was clean, and had stickers on the outside indicating that it had recently been through Hong Kong International Airport. The inside was filled with empty shoe boxes, women’s size 6. It perfectly fits my needs for my move. And the shoeboxes served to remind me of another good deed that I had promised myself that I would do. I filled two of them with gifts to be distributed by the Samaritan’s Purse charity for their Operation Christmas Child drive. One box for a girl, and one for a boy. I hope to keep paying it forward, as I continue to be blessed.

I hope there’s a dumpster like this in Thailand.

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