Dear Crabby, Is it bad to go picking through the trash?

Dear Crabby,

I am one of those people that loves to go rummaging through other people’s garbage to find little treasures that I can fix up. My friends and family all make fun of me, but it’s a hobby. Is there anything wrong with this?

Sincerely, Junkyard Dog

Dear Junkyard Dog,

Well, this has caused quite a stir in my life over the years. The idea of taking someone else’s trash and doing something with it has always been alluring to me as well. As a kid growing up in Detroit, it was one of my favorite pastimes to go up and down the street looking for “treasures” as I called them. My mother called me a “Sheeny Man,” which was apparently a street peddler that went through people’s trash in order to sell it for profit later. However, I never sold my trash; I only fixed it up and used it. I would find parts to use on my go-carts, new handle bars for my bicycle, and even some power tools that just needed to be repaired. I wasDearCrabby handy enough to get these things working again and use them myself. Nobody ever talked about whether this little habit was legal or not. I just assumed that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure! One day, however, this all caught up to me. Mr. Goldstein, who lived down the street from me, always had good junk for me to pick through. The day before trash pickup I went out looking as usual, but he had not brought his cans down to the road yet. So I walked up to the side of his garage and peeked in. There was a sealed plastic bag in one can. I pulled it out and found a new fur coat inside! I was thrilled! I quickly took my new treasure home and offered it to my mother. About an hour later, when my mother and I were walking back down to the Goldstein’s house to make sure this was really being thrown out, we saw a policeman standing out front with Mr. Goldstein. As we approached them, they were discussing how the Goldstein’s had been robbed. My mother and I were shocked; we always figured we lived in a pretty safe neighborhood. I spoke up and said I hated to interrupt, but asked him about the fur coat and if he really meant to throw it out. The policeman began to laugh as Mr. Goldstein turned fiery red. He snatched the coat out of my hands and begin ranting and raving about how I should be tossed in a juvenile home. The policeman asked him to calm down and requested an explanation as to why he had placed a valuable item like this in his trash can. Mr. Goldstein said that Mrs. Goldstein was always finding her gifts, so he was trying to think of a place she would never look. The policeman then carefully explained to me that as long as the trash cans are on someone’s property, no one else is allowed to enter the property to look in the can without permission. It is only considered trash when it is out on the street and off the homeowner’s lot. Well, I avoided juvenile home and Mrs. Goldstein apparently got over the trash can hiding spot, but I did learn a valuable lesson about trespassing. So good luck, and make sure you check into the rules where you live before “treasure hunting.”

Sincerely, Dear Crabby

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