There's a fine line between being reuse-minded and a cheap bastard. I think I may have just crossed it.
I'm at the junkyard, about to crawl under my wreck of choice with my automotive graverobbing sidekick, Spanner. We've been trolling the yard for hours in search of the heap that'd be most easily relieved of its exhaust system.
Yes! Here's a relatively pristine section of discarded car carpet in a corner. The ground is strewn with all manner of refuse, agitated by a wind that whips through the place like a horror-flickish warning to get out.
But one moment of hesitation and the matting is scooped by another junkyard dawg before I can figure out which one of my several reclamation projects to use it on.
There's an odd cross-section of society here: womenfolk, dudes packing tool kits, Mr. Fix-its in jumpsuits and hard hats pulling what look like pirate chests on wheels - an international community united in the cause of wringing another generation of use from end-of-the-line material.
People give each other that "What the hell is this guy up to?" head nod behind each other's back. A sort of pecking order develops for first dibs on the reusables that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Is this scrap-salvaging orgy all for the love of Mother Earth, or is it motivated by the scarcity of the mighty dollar? Maybe a little of both.
My own cutthroat jockeying for discarded treasure, aided by some serendipitous intervention from the gods of the three Rs, has inspired many a home reno project.
Odds and ends harvested from the dumpster of a flooring manufacturer grace my backroom bunker. Trashed shards of slate and marble make up the psychedelic mosaic in my foyer and washroom. The wood for the deck came gratis, too, but with a catch - the fifth-storey rooftop deck the planks came from had to be demoed first.
Tossed kitchen cabinets, electronics, bathroom sinks, windows you name it, I've saved it from the dump. I proudly brake for anything worthwhile left by the curbside.
Back at the scrapyard, dozens of bodily appendages dangle from above, below and out the sides of retired jalopies as people contort themselves to free the cherished part that's so close yet so far away.
Spanner hacks away. Mission finally accomplished, I'm fixing to hightail it home. But then Spanner reminds me that I'm supposed to grab a sound system for my ride, too.
So now we're at the far end of the yard, waging a man-versus-machine battle of the ages to pull a stereo while doing as little damage as possible, given we may be back for something else.
No one else is in sight. It's past closing time. Deed done, Spanner gets $300-worth of parts for 60 bucks. I get my $130-worth for 13 loonies. Not bad.
Not long afterwards, I'm crying to a friend about raccoons tearing a hole in my ruptured roof. He let's loose that he's sitting on 17 bundles of shingles and I can avail myself of them if I'm willing to pick them up, of course.