Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fun With Pizza (Part 9: Dumpster Diving)

I had a secondary money-making scheme which also involved UCB students.  In my normal pattern, I vacuumed money out of the students by delivering them pizza, for which they would pay me plus a tip.  We were paid by the tag:  at the time, $2 per tag, or order carried.  Thirty orders in a night, sixty dollars, plus the tips, which fluctuated wildly.  Anywhere from a dollar (cheap-ass fuck-hole!) to thirty or forty, if you picked up a big party order to an event.  The sort of order where the pizzas don't get bagged, but simply loaded in the trunk and back seat: they'll keep each other warm when there's that many.
Obviously, we were highly reliant on tips for income.  At the same time, I held no illusions about how much money students had.  There may be students that came from rich families, but the students themselves rarely had huge amounts of cash to throw around.  I was happy with ten percent from students; if I wanted to do college pizza deliveries with a higher percentage, I'd have commuted to Stanford.  That's the sort of place you expect to find a fucking coin slot on the drinking fountains.  There may be a few Stanford students attending on grants, scholarships, and loans who don't come from money, but few of them graduate.  Not due to poor grades, but because they die of scurvy due to their unending diet of ramen.  If you tell me you went to Stanford and your family is working class, I'll assume you're either lying or you're such a good hustler, you should have skipped school and moved straight to Reno.

No, my scheme happened at the end of the school year, as it was time for the dorms, frats, and co-ops emptied out.  I learned that UC Berkeley students may not be as collectively rich as Stanford students, but they were absolute champs at being wasteful.  At the end of the year, everyone threw away everything, period.  Certainly seemed that way, anyway: hell, here's a partial list of stuff I routinely found in and around dumpsters where students lived:

  • Refrigerators, mostly those tiny cubes, but also bar fridges and the occasional full size.
  • Computers
  • Computer peripherals (speakers, mice, etc.)
  • Microwave ovens
  • Clothes, still in the packaging
  • Unopened food
  • Office furniture
  • Bedding
  • Lamps
  • Christmas and Hanukkah decorations, still in the packaging
  • Televisions
  • Stereo equipment
  • Pornography
  • Just plain random.... Stuff.
My first year or two, I only went after stuff that I thought would be personally useful.  Then I got smart: "Damn, all this crap would make for a great garage sale," I thought, staring at the dumpster behind Boalt Hall.
By my fifth year I was industrious and prepared.  My bride-to-be and I had bought a full-size Dodge Ram 1500, so I was not limited in size as to what I could carry.... Although you'd be surprised what will fit in a Honda Civic with no front seat.  And I'd planned ahead at that point, too.
One of the worst annoyances was anything electrical that turned out to truly be trash, since it was up to me to dispose of it at that point.  I got a 1000 watt inverter that hooked up to the truck battery; I then clamped it to the side-wall under the hood.  I could pull up, pop the hood, and plug in anything that looked like it was worth money, like fridges and microwaves.
I always had a ton of those for sale, to the point where I wouldn't pick up microwaves once I had six or so.  Think about it: when was the last time you bought a new microwave because the old one stopped working?  Yeah, exactly: the little nuke-boxes went for ten bucks at the most.  Most every one I sold was because somebody wanted "one for the office."  Same for the mini-fridges; the larger the fridge, the more likely it was going in someone's home.  With the truck, I could test and load a full-size refrigerator, and families bought 'em.
So what was wrong with the refrigerators and microwave ovens that they were being thrown away?  Was it that they didn't work well, or had pieces broken off?

They were dirty.

That's it.

I won't lie: some of the microwaves especially were really nasty.  I earned my money cleaning those: burnt-on chili required chiseling with a plastic scraper, then soaking with a good degreaser in the hopes of getting the stain out  And people forget that mold grows in all sorts of temperatures, so I had to sterilize more than a few fridges to get rid of black funk on the doors inside.
But that is just goddamn pathetic!  You!  The little S.O.B. from Laguna Niguel!  You just schlepped both a nuke-box and a mini-fridge out here to the dumpster, and there's nothing wrong with them.  New and at retail, the stuff probably cost $150.... To a lot of people, that is a measurable amount of money: phone bill for three months, four  tanks of gas, groceries for a week for a family of four (if  done wisely), even a nice night out with one's spouse.  Most people can't afford to just toss out $150, which is what you're doing

And why are you throwing away that money?  Because you're a lazy slob, quite literally.

You spilled crap in both appliances and couldn't be sussed to wipe them up.  (You spilled a lot of crap in that microwave.)  The microwave actually developed layers of filth, so it just got worse and worse.  And how many times did you put a soda in that tiny freezer compartment to get it cold, forget about it, and have the can burst?  How many slices of leftover pizza slid down the wall inside the fridge?  So you're a slob for having created such a mess, and you're lazy for never having cleaned up after yourself.  Now it's time to leave for the summer, and the bacterial experiments you created have to be taken care of....
..... Or not.  Just tell Mom and Dad that gosh, both appliances broke over the course of the year, or were at least acting funny.  (Of course they were acting funny: they were gaining sentience.)
Yeah, instead of spending a half-hour, tops, cleaning both appliances, you're happy to see them landfill-bound.  Mom and Dad will buy you new appliances at the end of August, so no problem there.  Maybe you can get a fridge with can-rack, to hold your smuggled-in Coors Light.

In the meantime, I thank you, since with a bit of labor on my part --- look the word up --- you just make me $30 to $55 richer, depending on the size and quality of the appliances.  All I have to do is grab my scraper, sponge, paper towels, and degreaser and spend five to  fifteen minutes on each appliance, depending on their filth level.
And there's plenty of other brats just like you, who are just as lazy and wasteful.  See, I get off work delivering pizza and go hit all the spots I eyeballed, and test and load up all those abandoned appliances.  In a good year, I'd get eight microwaves (and then stop: you're not seeing more than ten bucks for the microwaves, and they all need hard cleaning) and in my best year, sixteen refrigerators: two full size, nine small cubes, and five bar fridges.  That worked out to....

   $45 each for the full size refrigerators = $90
   $20 each for the cubes = $180
   $30 each for the bar fridges = $150
   $10 for each nuke box = $80

Thanks to you lazy bastards, I'm up $500.... and that's just from appliances.  I've also saved  more room in the landfills, and provided affordable stuff to my fellow Scum Pablo residents, who will engage in a practice foreign to you: keeping a piece of equipment until it no longer works.  Those wacky poor people, huh?

Apropos of nothing, we have two sets of items which confused me as to why they were being thrown away: electronics, and pornography.  See, the electronic Items were small, and (thanks to my inverter) all worked.  The pornography was, well, smut, and why get rid of something that had brought you so much joy all semester.
Actually, for the second, the answer is obvious: parents.  Mom and Dad didn't need to know about your copies of "Honcho" and "Inches", especially after two semesters in Boalt Hall.  Or your DVDs of "Bodacious Beauties," or any other title you had.
I rarely kept magazines, unless they were hardcore, not just the usual stuff like Hustler and Fox and Barely Legal and Leg Show  They were too abused, with the pages stuck together and dog-eared.  Same with gay-themed porn: I knew it wouldn't sell to my macho, latino customers.  I was after the videos.
I'd run across mostly VHS cassettes, but even back then there were DVD discs.  No matter how cheesy the box art, if there were naked women on the cover, it'd move, just like any porn shop or liquor store.  Not much, if any, gay video would be found, not even in the Boalt dumpsters.  Then came the fun part: checking the tapes and discs worked while living with a woman who was vehemently opposed to to pornography.    Didn't matter that I hadn't gotten a jolly out of porn since I was nineteen, my wife was greatly upset by the fact that I was watching it at all, with all the passion of watching a CONELRAD pattern (ask your grandparents).  Not prudery, either, but 'm not going to discuss it.  She just had her valid reasons.  I just needed to make sure the tape wouldn't wrap itself around the heads, and the discs weren't ski-ski-ski-ski-ski-ski-ski-skipping.
All adult materials were kept in boxes in the cab of my truck, where I could keep half an eye on them .  I had a sign up,,,,



Those wishing to browse the boxes o' smut could do so in my presence:  this was the most easily-stolen crap, and also the most-likely stolen, too.  I didn't look over shoulders, just let my presence be known.  I'd usually have anywhere from twelve to twenty titles, and most everyone that bothered to browse at all would buy at least one.  One year some dude bought all fifteen for $100.... Hell, it wasn't my fault he couldn't do math, so I let the sale go through, and beside, that way I was free of a chunk of my stock.

The electronics were a bonanza of wastefulness on the part of students.  Shit, I've got last year's model of Nintendo Gameboy?  Like hell if I'm taking it home, Mumsy and Da will get me the new one.  Besides, the truck's looking pretty full...
So I got Gameboys, the Sega equivalent to same, Walkmen (tapes were still valid media), and Discmen (which at the time didn't play CD-Rs, which meant no compilations: you were stuck with store-bought discs.).  It was a mystery why any of this would be considered trash, as it all worked fine.  Some of it I kept, the rest got sold: I'd price check at Circuit City in Emeryville, then charge 25% of their cost.  Seemed fair, and everything worked just fine.  (I'd also carry batteries to check electronics.
I once scored a full stereo out of Clark Kerr campus' dumpster/trash pile.  It smelled very lightly of beer, but everything worked: sounded great sitting on my tailgate with The Criminals playing on CD, then Big Black on cassette.  My guess was either some student didn't want his parents smelling the beer, or when they spilled the beer, it started to pop and hiss, so they wrote it off as a lost cause and pitched it.  All they needed to do was wait for the damn thing to dry out.

Quite a bit of  stuff I pulled went to charity: clothing, bedding, unopened food, and working microwaves went to Glide Memorial in San Francisco.  Every year, I'd be asked, "So, uh, where did you get the filthy-buf-functioning microwaves and and the (admittedly pricey) women's clothing?"  I'd tell 'em I acquired them from college students, my tone hinting I had strong-armed my way into their possession.  I'd wait a while before explaining they had come from UC Berkeley, abandoned by spendthrift students.
The clothing was a source of frustration: they were ecstatic for new clothes but needed them in larger sizes than "Irvine mall-rat."  Of women's clothing I found and donated, the largest I saw was a seven.

Ultimately, I hope later in life the students felt a sense of shame for how wasteful they were.  Every year, they would throw away probably $100K in.... stuff .... because they couldn't be bothered to clean it up and take it home again.  They couldn't even call Goodwill and have them haul it off.

That's just sad.  Pathetic and sad.

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