Baltimore Free Store: Part 3

I signed back into the Free Store at 1:17pm and reluctantly went back into the receiving yard. When suddenly, I heard a commotion inside, apparently a woman was caught shoplifting … I’ll let Kathleen explain it:

“Just because we’re a ‘Free Store’ doesn’t mean we don’t have RULES to follow or RENT to pay. The sale of larger items that helps keep us open and able to give away stuff…”

At this point, I’m pulled away from my eavesdropping to help a donor unload his car, and just as it was starting to get good too. By the time I finished unloading his car (and that of the woman behind him), the fireworks had ended, and Kathleen came out to announce that she was canceling the afternoon restock due to “lack of (customer) interest.”

This meant lunch, and more importantly smoke, break for the women working in the back room, as well as the young men who supposedly spent the day restocking. Shon took the opportunity to try and start another one of her “lets get everything sorted” drives.

It didn’t take long for a battered white pick truck to stop in the middle of the alleyway. He obviously wasn’t here to donate (his truck was empty); he just sat there for a few moments staring at us as if we were a 10 car pile-up on the freeway.

Shon tells him about the Free Store, but he cuts her off.

“Ah, hail,” he said. “I DID hear about this place. My friends be telling me about it. Given out ‘free stuff’ on Sat’days, but I never did come here – ‘til just now.”

She then casually mentions that they need someone to come by “every other week” to collect metal (helpfully pointing to the rusted filing cabinet, a broken tailgate “umbrella” and a mound of wire hangers along the fence).

He agrees to take it, claiming that he “knows a guy” he could take it to and when asked if he’d REALLY come back in two weeks (as several haulers have not) he replied:

“If I said I’d be back in ‘two weeks,’ then I WILL be back in two weeks.”

Kathleen appears at the door, and comes down to meet the man who is solving her metal problems. He introduces himself as Charles, and she led him back into her office.

While they’re gone another two cars show up for donations, though they really couldn’t go anywhere until Charles truck was out of their way…and he couldn’t go anywhere until the donor parked in the opposite direction got out of everyone’s way.

But before I could play traffic cop, I was called to the front of the store to retrieve a baby walker from a woman’s car. She was small and thin with a two-year-old on her right shoulder, a three-year-old clinging desperately to her left pant leg, and the object in question was in the trunk. This exchange wasn’t eventful in itself, but it was the first time since I’d gotten there that the back room was actually navigable.

Meanwhile, another mess of boxes had been added to the already massive pile. Yet despite the store’s emphasis on recycling and helping your fellow man, I remained the only one actually breaking those boxes down. Yes, the staff’s second meta-smoke break took priority over crushing some annoying boxes.

“It gets like that every week,” Shon said. “Thankfully, we have you here to take care of this; otherwise it would never get done… and another thing, sometimes we get a line of cars at exactly 3 o-clock, in which case you’ll have to stay and unload them all.”

Nice to see her setting my schedule without notifying me first; fortunately, I was already signed out before any of that could happen. Servus.

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Categories: adventures, Baltimore, retail | Leave a comment

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