What the Hill?
Anyone who's been to a Nationals game and heard a rousing rendition of our National Anthem knows that America is the Land of the Free. If you narrow the search on the Google Map down to our own Capitol Hill, you'll find that we are a paragon of those stirring lyrics. We are the Land of the Free Crap. Walking the streets of the Hill, I'm reminded of a line by the late great Mitch Hedberg, “Whenever I walk, people try to hand me out flyers. And when someone tries to hand me out a flyer it's kinda like they're saying, ‘Here, you, throw this away.’” That's pretty much the sentiment of the denizens of the Hill. If you don't have use for something anymore, maybe some other poor schmuck will have room in his dumpster for it. Hill people like their crap to be locally sourced, so the neighborhood has turned into a giant white elephant gift exchange with fewer awkward interactions and a higher pollen count.
The stuff you find out on the sidewalks around town generally falls into three categories. The first is feats of strength. This includes couches, furniture, mattresses, and any other items likely to herniate. For example, I have an old tube TV that's so heavy it has its own gravitational pull (it really brings the room together). It's like Thor's hammer. If you can lift it, then you're worthy enough to keep it. When you come across one of these finds, it's important to weigh several factors. How long has it been sitting out? If it's more than a day, then have bed bugs been using it as an Air BnB? If so, did they give it a five-star rating?
The second category is dead technology. Listen, I get it that nostalgia is a cottage industry, and the 90s are making a comeback, but unless a family of squirrels has a nut delivery startup, no one wants your fax machine. You also need to accept that your copy of Tango & Cash on VHS is ready to be returned to the big Blockbuster in the Sky.
The last category is whatever ballistic miscellany is left over – clothing, toys, baubles. I saw one instance where someone had placed a stack of original artwork on the sidewalk with a sign that said, “Please, take just one.” This is how all the greats got started. Back in the 1800s, on a sidewalk in the Netherlands, there was once a sign that said, “Every Van Gogh must go!”
All this free market crapitalism does is devalue the local tchotchke supply. Yard sales have become pointless, since any unsold items will get thrown into a box with FREE scrawled on the side and placed on the curb for freegan vultures to feed on. It's gotten so rampant that I'm tempted by anything I see on the sidewalk in front of someone's house. I own like five trash cans now. When my grandmother left from a recent visit she was waiting on the sidewalk to catch a cab. We haven't seen her since. I hope she went to a good home.
If only there was a place that gladly took used furniture, clothes, and other items as a tax-deductible donation so that less fortunate people could benefit from them. I can't imagine an organization that would have the good will to do such a thing. I mean, it would take an entire army for that kind of operation. Until that day, when the Hill decides that its trash is not necessarily someone else's treasure, the free cycle will keep on turning.
Jared Stern is a local standup comedian who has been making strangers laugh at him for over a decade. Follow him on Twitter @FunnyJared.