Thrift stores are wrought with morality and mortality. Every item was once someone’s misguided best intentions, loss of interest, or change in life situation. It’s no one’s fault. Handling donations one winter years back, I once accepted a woman’s donations and the story of her daughter outgrowing them, only to see some of those innocent objects destroyed in the trash compactor hours later. At least I gave her a sense of restoring her intended honor.
I think of this story sometimes when I see Beanie Babies.
For some context, when I wasn’t tending to my usual duties, I’d sometimes handle door duties. Before you drive up to drop off your donations, someone is assigned to listen for the bell, run out, receive your donations, give you platitudes, offer you any coupons or stamps, and wish you well. They’ll take the donations, roughly estimate what sort of raw materials they are, and send them off to the clothing, miscellaneous, or furniture groups for more intensive sorting.
Usually, I’d handle destroying donations.
A good third of my shifts would involve operating the compactor.
Almost immediately, you have to figure out what’s trash and what’s good for the sorters. I got yelled at once for accepting rusty tie-downs from a drive-up donator, rather than sending them along to the dump, so there’s a whipping mentality to it that motivates you to do it their way without thinking too much of the details. You shut off your internal monologue, sense of morality, and just get it done. This is the one case where I really wish I would have said something.
She had driven up as part of a queue of maybe three vehicles. I was just bringing them in, production-style, and moving onto the next one. No real time to sit and think, just pure instinct. The woman just had the medium-sized box of Beanie Babies. I distinctly remember the cardboard house, something like a stylish townhouse to prominently display your favorite, sitting atop maybe a dozen of the small plush toys that had been briefly popular, but now are usually just trashed.
I just responded with an empathetic sound and a polite smile.
That’s dramatic irony at its worst. I knew fully, and ironically, well just what would happen. They would not go to a good home. I lingered on this thought for a borrowed second, a break certainly not approved by management, before placing the box in the correct pile to be sorted, and moving on. Sure enough, after dumping a rolling trash can into the trash compactor about one hour later, I saw that ghost of our mutual past’s intentions staring back at me.
That was an insignificant tragedy within our overabundant culture.
I think it’s that we’re conditioned now to destroy anything we don’t enjoy. How can we progress otherwise? I think we want to be forgiven and rewarded for our intentions.
Pick one: forgiveness or reward.
|Quotes:   Donator.|
|Sources: My professional experiences.|
|Inspirations: The title was unintentionally inspired by Ghosts of Midwinter Ballers. Otherwise, this was more inspired by cleaning, reorganizing, and rearranging.|
|Related: “Animosity Toward Entertainment” and other Thrifting Adventures essays.|
– 1. Not the exact box.
– 2. Couch presented out of order for dramatic effect.
– 3. Bins of plush toys that weren’t up to standard, but weren’t completely trashed, would be bagged up and sent off somewhere. This is where this story’s Beanie Babies ended up.
– 4. Ever wonder what happens to the old furniture inventory at thrift stores?
|Written On: May 31st|
|Last Edited: May 31st|