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Scrapping For Metal And The Dead TV

Kill your TV

“Kill Your TV” by Crane-Station on flickr. Mason adds: “May the record reflect that the deceased resisted all reasonable efforts to determine the time of death from inserting a rectal thermometer.”

A while back, I received a very nice personal phone call from Firedoglake. I was in an alley at the time, collecting metal from a dumpster and accepting a nice aluminum pan donation from an area resident when the cell phone rang. Because nobody ever calls us, I answered with sort of a rude, “I’m on my way,” thinking it was my husband.

The call made the community, FDL, real to me. I was shocked and delighted that a person would take the time to contact readers. In the course of the conversation, the woman suggested that readers may be interested in the stories of other readers, including some of the struggles we may encounter in this problematic environment, where, I noticed today, another large, undetermined number of jobs will be lost through some Free Trade off-shoring madness or another. This move will no doubt add to the relentless penury that now passes for living in America today.

In February of just this year I wrote an article about collecting scrap metal to take to recycle, to make ends meet and keep the lights on, a practice known as “scrapping.” At that time, metal was readily available in any number of alleys and dumpsters. This is no longer the case. In just eight months, scrapping has become commonplace in our area, leaving the alleys and dumpsters pretty barren.

The power company has now banned scrappers. We spoke to a manager and received several reasons. The main problem is that there are too many people looking for discarded metal on their lot. We began looking for other sources. We started with the obvious: temporary long boxes and banks of dumpsters behind strip-mall type places. On any given day of the week, in the light of the middle of the day, I now observe personally, people diving dumpsters behind the strip mall. I have seen single people, couples, and groups, in cars, nice vans, trucks, and run-down vehicles. The people that I see are dressed in clean clothing.

Occasional conversation reveals that not all of these people are unemployed. In fact, many working poor folks have expressed an interest in trading places with us, thinking that metal recycle would bring more income than their current jobs. No one seems to have health insurance.

We honestly worry, given the news of even more job loss, what the streets will look like in another eight months. Unfortunately, I am predicting an increase in metal theft, as the sources of legally retrieved discarded metal disappear.

There are still a couple of dumpsters that deliver some scrap. However, these places are so heavily visited that you can really only spend about fifteen minutes collecting before someone else comes along. Otherwise people get mad.

That brings me to the TV set pictured above, the deceased Magnavox. Here is some more information. In front of me and behind the camera, Mason is unscrewing metal and electrical cords, with permission, from a recliner chair. The back of this TV has been stripped to the bone, as has all of the other discarded furniture in this particular pile: we just got lucky with the chair.

The bullet holes are in the front but they do not exit the thick glass in the back, which made Mason think the gun may have been a .22 calliber. I was thinking a .38, maybe, and I did not think at the time to turn the case over and shake the bullets out.

I asked Mason the obvious: “What do you suppose they were watching? They have had this television set for thirty years. Then, one day, for some reason, with no backward thought to changing the channel, the person says, That’s it. I am going to kill my TV with not one, but two, bullets. Who does that? What sort of a show would move a person to take a loaded weapon to such a box?”

Without looking up from his work at the chair, which would yield us less than a dollar on the recycle scale, he answered me with his theory. I answered back with mine.

On the way home we did the math that we always do: we figured out how much money we made scrapping, adjusted for the new gas price increase, and figured the number of days it will be until our power will be shut off. We netted two dollars. We need about forty more and we have through the weekend to get it. We can do this, but it will be a race and a sharing with many others in our exact same position.

Just an interesting side note on scrap metal recycle. The process begins at a scale. Our recycle center screens for radiation at the entrance to the scale. A man in a truck set off the radiation alarm. It was not his load that set off the alarm. It was him. He had had a radiology procedure the day before. They allowed him to take his load to the yard. Radiation from a medical procedure commonly sets off the alarm. I am glad to know that our recycle center does this screening, because it keeps tainted metal out of circulation. It also warns the driver, who might not otherwise know, that he is carrying radioactive material. Not all centers do this.

Also, in case you did not know, the trucks that leave the recycle center, fully loaded with metal and headed to mills in the South for further processing, weigh approximately 80,000 pounds, and the crane workers on the yard are amazing at loading the trucks to within 1000 pounds of this limit.

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