One of the most endearing little things about Brooklyn is its informal sidewalk economy. Immediately after we moved here from Manhattan, I started noticing people just... leaving things outside their rowhouses and apartment buildings. Usually the items are left resting gently against the fence that separates the property from the sidewalk; occasionally wedged in between the bars of the fence, raised off the ground to entice passers-by to claim them. People leave all kinds of things that they think others are going to want: books, clothes, appliances of questionable functionality ("maybe somebody else can get it to work!"); I've even seen, more than once, pairs of worn-out, misshapen shoes optimistically waiting next to somebody's front gate. Toys, as my dear friend loves to document, are a very common offering--which makes sense. Kids tend to accrete massive amounts of them, so they're a natural candidate for semiannual purging. The whole thing is oddly sweet... this shared unwillingness to throw an unwanted but perfectly usable object into the garbage. If you don't have a big enough load to take to the thrift store, well, then, just put it out on the street. Sending the item to sidewalk limbo gets it out of the house while simultaneously absolving the donor of guilt, because hey, somebody else can use it now!
Aside from toys, housewares are one of the most popular sidewalk items. My fiance Allen and I were walking home from brunch today when we passed a group of small vases clustered in a shoe box, with the encouraging note "free vases--please take!" A lady was squatting next to them, investigating. I glanced at them and kept moving, but a few steps later it occurred to me that they were useful: plain, clear, glass, of a good size for, say, a few flower stems. On a table. At our wedding reception.
I swooped, gathering up the whole box and
Clink. Clink. "They're for the wedding."
"OK. For what at the wedding?"
Clink. "The tables."
"But... there's only five of them. That's not enough for all the tables."
"Not for the dining tables," I said, my voice taking on the faint edge of insanity that creeps into it whenever I have to talk about any of the decor details with Allen. "But there will be a welcome table, and a table for the photobooth props, and the bar, and the buffet tables..."
He gave me the side-eye, unconvinced. "But..."
"STOP TRYING TO CONSTRAIN MY CREATIVITY WITH LOGIC," I yelled. And he gave in, until we were back at the house and I had loaded my new treasures into the dishwasher for a good rinse.
"So, what's going to happen with these things?" he said, gesturing at the small stack of oddly-sized dishes and dull old knives that have been gathering dust at the edge of our counter for a couple of months now. "Why don't you put these in the empty box and put them out on our sidewalk?"
"That would be very logical," I said.
"But that's not going to happen?" he asked, already knowing the answer.
"I was saving them for our Woodstock house..."
"The Woodstock house we are hoping to buy within three to five years?"
"Yes," I confirmed. "We're going to need to furnish it, and what's the point of throwing something out and then just having to buy it again?"
He shook his head, but the plates were granted a stay of execution for now. The knives, we agreed, are terrible; and we wouldn't want to use shitty knives at the hypothetical Woodstock house any more than we do here. So they are going out on the sidewalk, in the same red shoe box the vases came in.
I'm sure someone will want them.