Like many places, in my neighborhood people put old household stuff at the curb when they don’t want it anymore. Then people walking past pick it up, free for the taking if they have a need.
All summer there has been even more of this due to the covid effect. People spend more time at home, and they have more opportunity to clean out their basement, garage or attic.
I’m working from home and walking the dogs more, so every day I witness curbs filled with old furniture, yard tools, or all kinds of cast-offs. Sometimes I snag something good for myself, like the new-to-me desk for my 5th-grade daughter’s virtual schooling or even a high-end paper shredder.
For me, the most valuable items to scavenge would be athletics gear to keep our 6- and 10-year-old kids occupied. I know I’m not alone in this. Ever since the pandemic started, people have been searching for at-home gym equipment, bikes and outdoor sports gear.
You can see the same things play out on Craigslist or neighborhood Facebook groups. Neighbors helping neighbors get through quarantining together — clearing things out for space or adding equipment to stay occupied.
Then I found a perfectly good basketball hoop on someone’s curb while walking the dog. Why would someone throw that away? I decided to come back and haul it home.
That’s when the homeowner came rushing out and told me it wasn’t available. It was just set up there so her son could play in the street. I’m not sure if she understood how I might find this confusing according to neighborhood cultural norms. She found my explanation… unconvincing.
Short story shorter I’m probably avoiding that block in my neighborhood for a while.
Admittedly, it was an ambiguous situation. In retrospect, I should have knocked to clarify if the set up was a give-away or simply a streetball situation.
I took a Twitter poll asking how others would interpret this situation. The result? A slight majority agreed that this basketball hoop was… not free for the taking.
Still. I couldn’t resist keeping an eye out for another cast-off basketball hoop, just in case. It’s been a long summer for our kids, and any diversion — like a free basketball hoop — is a welcome diversion.
Fast forward a few weeks. I see another hoop on the curb three blocks from our house — this time laying on its side on the curb.
I play it safe. I knock on the door. The homeowner comes out to greet me.
“This is a dumb question,” I say. “But are you done with this basketball hoop?”
He assures me that he is in fact trying to get rid of it. His kids are in high school and college, and they’ve had their fill of the basketball hoop. The frayed net proves that they got their money’s worth out of it with countless games of pick-up or H-O-R-S-E in the backyard.
I feel vindicated.
He says it’s all ours. Couldn’t have been nicer.
I introduce myself to my neighbor and tell him my name is Tim.
“I’ll remember that,” he said. “My name is also Tim.”
Tim and I immediately hit it off.
I drive back to his house and get the hoop to fit (sort of) in the back of our vehicle. I drive it 3 blocks back to our house. It needed a new net and a little love and, boom, good as new.
Maybe this will help keep the kids occupied for the rest of quarantine, when all else has failed. I told the other Tim to come say hi anytime he’s in the neighborhood, three blocks away. We are now friends on Facebook and see and talk to each other when we’re out for walks.
The moral of the story? It pays to introduce yourself to your neighbors. It takes a village to find cast-off athletics equipment to keep your kids occupied during a pandemic that is keeping everyone home.
And never give up on your hoop dreams.