Treasure Hunting the Streets

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Lorelle VanFossen, based upon Prompt: Dumpster Diving.

“I need a foot stool,” I said, balancing on a chair to reach the cupboard over the fridge.

“Have you checked the streets? You don’t look safe on that chair.”

“Not yet. Just realized I needed one.”

“Here,” my husband said. “I’ll get this. Check the streets. You’ll find one.”

And I did.

The streets of Tel Aviv and much of the big cities in Israel are famous for three things.

Constant and never-ending reconstruction of the sidewalks. They tear up the brick and sand to lay down new pipes to supply water, electricity, and gas to the buildings. Then they tear them up to add cable and telephone lines, then rip those up to fix the pipes that were damaged by the cable, tear that back up to add improvements, then start all over again as one or more of these processes messed up the previous processes, and up goes the sidewalk. It’s a constant battle as you move through the city to walk in and around sidewalk construction and reconstruction as well as half-cobbled sidewalks.

Dog shit. Numerous attempts at poop-and-scoop laws brought little foot placement security to pedestrians as the laws are rarely obeyed by a society that decided a long time ago that many of these laws were for other people, not them. Certainly not them, the dog-walking owners.

Lastly, the streets are a treasure hunt for household items. Shops filled with second hand, used goods are rare in Israel. At the time we lived there, I believe there were four in the entire country. Decades of sanctions, import restrictions, over-priced and taxed goods, and poverty made every article of clothing, every dish or pot, every plant, every stick of furniture precious. Clothing worn out became rags at the worse, cut down and remade into something else to wear or cover a bed or warm toes watching television in the winter, a technique known today as “upcycling.” They mastered the technique ages ago. Rarely does anything go to waste. It was a necessity of life as it is around much of the world. Use what you have and make do with what you can find.

When you are finally done with something, you set it on the street corner. Someone would walk by and check it out. If it met their need, it would find a home. If not, it would wait for someone else, but not long. Rarely did anything last more than a few minutes on the streets.

Within two days a step stool appeared on the corner a block away. Two steps up, finely crafted stained maple, it folded up to a scant width for easy storage. Perfect. Home it went.

That night, my husband found me atop my new stool reaching into the cupboard over the fridge, now within my reach.

“I see I’m obsolete now.”

“Not completely.”

“Where did you find this. It’s beautiful,” he asked, examining the beautiful workmanship. A few nicks and scrapes here and there, but still a lovely piece.

“It was a street sale.”

“Of course it was. I wonder how many feet have been lifted up on this over the years, moving from home to home.” I stepped off and he picked it up and held it up to the light for closer examination.

We laughed and the stood became a part of our lives for the next four years, always there to lift our spirits and bodies to a higher level. When it was time for us to leave the county, it went out on the street corner to find another home, and continue its journey.

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