When I was a teen in the ’80s and recycling was starting to become an everyday thing, I threw myself into it with an absolute fervor. I was the one in my family who made sure recyclables weren’t mixed in with the regular trash, and were sorted into their appropriate bins for garbage day. My interest in it has never waned. Recycling appeals to both my sense of social responsibility and my love of organization. Little makes me happier than, as a friend once put it, making order from chaos, and if doing so makes the world even a tiny bit of a better place, so much the better.
When I started seeing Ron, my recycling graduated from amateur levels, like bottles and cans, to just anything metal. The first time I visited his place after we started dating, I noticed piles of junk around his yard. Eventually I asked him about them, and he explained they were recyclable metals, separated by type, that he was collecting to turn in for cash. I scoffed at the idea at the time – it seemed like a lot of mess and a lot of work. But then one day he showed up at my apartment after turning it all in, asked what I’d like to do and, spreading out a wad of hundred dollar bills in front of me, said it was his treat.
Junk, I’d called it.
I accompanied him on his next trip to the metal recyclers, and fell in love with the place. I’ve never missed a trip since. I generally stay out of the way when his truck is being unloaded and the metal sorted and weighed, as with him and two staff members working on it, it’s too crowded for me to join in. Besides, while they’re working, I stand at the front of the truck, at the very edge of the space where customers are allowed, watching the action going on in the yard, where all the big machinery is at work.
The only thing we don’t generally collect is steel, as the price per kilo is quite low and we don’t have the space to store enough to make it worthwhile. But on the rare occasion we do, it’s my turn to participate. When it comes to steel, you just add it to a huge pile in the middle of the yard, without any staff present. I’ve claimed this job as my own. I remember the first time I ever did it, standing in the bed of Ron’s truck, grimy to the eyeballs, flinging pieces of steel into a mound 20 feet high, and I told him without a trace of irony, “You sure know how to show a girl a good time!” It was like what I’d been doing since I was a teenager, only on a gigantic scale, and it was glorious.
Once while at the recyclers, I watched them crush a car, and regaled Ron with the story of it, complete with sound effects, on the way home. That brought to mind a challenge my family faced when my father died. He enjoyed working on cars, and had a few junkers about the yard that he used for parts. It took months for us to find anybody who would take them, and when we finally did, we had to pay them a hefty amount to haul them away.
Such is not the case anymore. I’d heard of places that will pay for vehicles, regardless of condition. I even knew there was one nearby, where you can scrounge parts, so long as you’re willing and able to tear them off the car yourself. But it was only recently that I went there. Called Kenny U-Pull, Ron was going to try to find a set of wheels for his track car, and invited me along.
He didn’t get much help on his search. The second I stepped into the yard, I knew what a good idea it had been to bring the cameras, got them out of the bag, and started to explore. There’s something fascinating in seeing the varying degrees of decline in the vehicles, as parts are removed and rust takes over, as well as in studying close-up the effects of accident and fire.
Part of me felt like I was misbehaving because, as captivating as I found them, I wasn’t allowed in my father’s parts cars when I was a kid. He was afraid I’d get hurt. But now here I was, clambering around dozens of wrecks, broken glass and jagged metal be damned.
There’s also something delightfully incongruous about a Smart car – or, as Ron has affectionately dubbed the model, a Fart car – up on blocks that seem more substantial than it is.
The best bit was finding a VW Beetle. Ron and I are avid players of the Punchbuggy road game, and texting him my discovery while still in the junkyard is one of the best points I’ve ever gotten.
Of course, when he immediately replied with this and negated my points lead, I wasn’t surprised.
Nor was I disappointed. Seems like even after twenty years together, he still knows how to show me a good time.