I was The Gar-repairman!

 By Jeff Bowman

For the past 10 years or so, at dusk on a Tuesday evening I would assume a different identity and travel the streets of my neighborhood in search of repairable items that people had discarded at the end of their driveways, to be hauled away by garbage trucks the next day. Several people knew my secret identity, and have kept it very quiet over the years, however, I will now reveal myself as “The Gar-repairman”

I didn’t do it for profit, quite the opposite; I did it for community service. I am somewhat handy, and electrically inclined.  I enjoy taking things apart to see how they work. Several years ago it occurred to me that those who aren’t good with their hands, or had no knowledge of the inner workings of gears and motors, would simply discard an item and purchase new rather than attempting what was often an easy fix.  The “throw-away” consumer. Those who fully believe in the theory of manufacturing’s planned obsolescence policy. If it breaks it is cheaper and easier to repurchase than to fix. For many years I fought that notion.

I would travel the streets in my unmarked vehicle (so as not to give away my identity), and peruse the piles on the curb. If I saw an item that I thought I could fix, I would casually stop, jump out of the car, grab it and stuff it back in the car and make a quick getaway. Sometimes my son would join me to make it quicker.  We called them “the drive bys”.  Lamps, fans and shop vacs were my specialties, but occasionally I would snag whipper snippers or leaf blowers and other small appliances. A tangled nylon string in the base of the cutter, a cut or worn electrical cord, a fan blade that simply needed cleaning and a drop of oil, a faulty switch or a cracked cover, were common problems and easily fixed at little or no cost using parts from items I couldn’t safely fix.

Now what do I need with all this repaired stuff you might be asking yourself?  I didn’t have a need for it, so every few weeks I would load the car up again with fixed items and drop them off at local charitable organizations, who could sell them and use the money for their very worthy community programs. It was like an in kind donation. (I often received odd looks when I would drop off   3 of the same item)

Times have changed. I don’t have as much time now as I used to, I am purging stuff in my house (donating) and stepping back from my Gar-repairman persona. Today, I believe some products are being made to expire a week after the warranty runs out, cheap plastic has replaced harder, sturdier materials in housings and gears and items that used to be an easy fix are truly not worth repairing now. I will continue to support local charities in other ways because they need the support in this economy, however my days of lurking in the dark for items of interest are over. To those who kept my identity a secret thanks!  To those who yelled at me from their windows on “garbage eve”, your discards went to a worthy cause.


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Filed under Environmental, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, No-for-Profit, Sustainability

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