Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Walking down the street today on my way to yoga, I noticed a plastic bag containing thirty or more cardboard tubes, about the diameter of a paper towel tube, but several feet long. Is there any way I could take those? I thought. There wasn't; I was already carrying a bunch of stuff, the plastic was wet from the rain, and I wasn't really up for hauling them on the subway or storing them in my apartment.

One of these days, I am going to wish I'd taken them.

I've always saved this and that for the classroom, although until this year, I kept it to a minimum. This year, I have really come into my own as collector of trash treasures. It started when the art teacher asked if I had any cardboard (she has the kids building cardboard & papier mache sculptures of their heroes). I did have cardboard, as I'd been saving boxes and other random pieces for use in collages and other personal art projects. Over the next few days, I brought her stacks and stacks of cardboard, as much as I could squeeze into my bag along with my books, papers, yoga clothes, and lunch.

Next, it was wire hangers. Bringing all the cardboard to school had made room in my stuff box for more stuff, so instead of throwing out a pile of hangers or returning them to the drycleaners, I had a vision of mobiles and tossed them into the box. Sure enough, a few weeks later, the art teacher needed hangers!

I'd already been saving clear plastic egg cartons, as I can imagine doing serial titrations or other chemistry experiments in the little compartments. I had scraps of ribbon, a few clementines crates, some film canisters, and a handful of other random things. At school, I have a shelf where I put my empty water bottles after I finish drinking the water. It somewhat assuages my guilt that I don't carry a Nalgene or something environmentally responsible.

But once the art teacher took the hangers, I went crazy. Now, I collect glass bottles, plastic bottles, yoghurt containers, paper towel and toilet paper rolls, coffee cans, rubber bands, cardboard, egg cartons, crates, and pretty much anything else that speaks to me.

I'm right on the verge of putting a box in the teacher's bathroom and a sign asking teachers to collect the empty toilet paper rolls for me.

It's not just piles of tubes that call my name as I walk the sidewalks. Last week, I pondered taking a bunch of foam that was out in the trash, but it had been sitting there for a few days and didn't look too clean. When I pass bundled up boxes - especially refrigerator cartons - I secretly wish I had a station wagon and could come back and take them.

But no one seems to be disposing of PVC tubing - I need over 70 feet - or the small metal balls from ball bearings. I spent the better part of a period today trying to figure out where to buy that stuff. Neither was listed on Home Depot's website. I called two hardware stores; at the second one, when I asked where I could get it, he suggested Home Depot. They don't have it, I said. You won't find that stuff anywhere, he said, good luck!

In the end, I ordered it from a supply company in Florida.

I did learn something about little metal balls, though: they aren't ball bearings. Ball bearings are the encasements that, um, bear balls. Duh. To find the little metal balls, I suggest googling little metal balls.


Blogger posthipchick said...

if you lived here, you would LOVE our clothing swaps.
talk about treasures.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Hg said...

That post scares me!
I am bad enough with hording in my personal life and to know now that it will most likely carry into my teaching career... (defeated sigh)

5:38 AM  
Blogger Amerloc said...

I've always been able to buy PVC pipe or tubing either one at Home Depot. Your news surprises me.

11:22 AM  
Blogger pseudostoops said...

mcmastercarr.com sells pretty much everything. and shipping is fast. but they try sell only to factories and plants and companies, not individuals, so don't tell them i told you.

1:08 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

my sister's engagement ring was a ball bearing on a chain! that's how i learned that a ball bearing is not an actual ball...

4:16 PM  
Blogger graycie said...

Teachers are natural scrounges. Notice what happens when a teacher leaves and his/her room will go to someone else. People descend to 'trade up' for better desks or chairs or whatever.

For several years my teaching assignment in middle school was "enrichment classes" that I wrote myself. The 8th grade class and one of the 7th grade classes were learn it-build it- make it classes, and my budget was $1 per kid. I became an insane scrounge. I asked the custodians to save me cardboard tubes. Cool plastic packaging was scooped up from anywhere it came to rest as well as thin easily-worked cardboard. My faculty knew to save this stuff for me as well as anything they were going to toss when they cleaned out jewelry boxes and belt racks. The manager of the nearest Kroger supermarket sold me little foam meat trays. (They come in bags of 500 and cost a penny apiece. They can be cut easily with scissors, attached with most kinds of glue or tape or teensy toothpick spikes, colored with pretty much any medium, and scored or engraved with a simple pencil. Awesome craft supply -- worth way more than the $5 I paid.)

That was nine years ago, and I still can't pass interesting "stuff" without thinking about scrounging it, even though I have no use for it now at all.

4:59 PM  
Blogger julie said...

i used to be the queen dumpster diver, until i started hearing about bedbugs...

12:58 PM  
Blogger CaliforniaTeacherGuy said...

I'm so glad to see that I'm not the only packrat in the world! Collecting stuff because "I can use that someday in some way" is a noble profession!

11:50 PM  
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