Goodwill Bins, Milwaukie, Oregon

From my novel in progress…

Inside, bins on wheels are in long rows under horrid fluorescent lighting, with lots of people picking through heaps of smelly old clothing mixed with rugs, curtains, towels, pillows, old shoes without mates—you never know what you’ll find in there. I always get a headache in the bins warehouse; because of the lights, I think. Maddy gets to work. She knows right away whether she can use something. Paul and I work together picking out whatever we think Maddy might like as well as anything we want for ourselves. Clothes are cheap at the bins. You pay by the pound, not by how cool the thing is or what it might have cost when it was new. Paul finds a Levi’s long-sleeve denim work shirt with metal buttons. He holds it up like he can’t believe what he found. “Unbelievable! These cost about forty bucks!”

“Yeah, well, it’s going to cost you about one dollar here,” I say, “if that.”

Paul puts that shirt in our cart and starts digging through the bin like a dog that just scented a gopher. He’s totally hooked now, all because of that work shirt that was so cool back in the sixties.

The people here all look poor, maybe even homeless, but you can never tell—people aren’t going to wear their good stuff to come and root among dirty old clothes. The lady working the next bin over has a blanket over her cart so nobody can see what she has. She pulls something blue out of the bin and darts a look around before she crams it down into a hiding place underneath the blanket. She looks about sixty, gray hair hanging down like she didn’t comb it for days, wearing a dumpy old brown skirt and sweater, and her cart looks like a homeless person’s cart, except these carts belong to the Goodwill. I wonder where she stashed her own cart if she has one.

One of the Goodwill workers wheels in a fresh bin, and there’s a rush as all the people drop whatever they were looking at and stampede toward the new bin. Maddy’s so expert at weaving between people, she gets there first. Paul just stands there shaking his head. “This is really fun, but my God–talk about crazy!” We continue going through the bin we were rooting through. We’re the only ones in what is now the empty part of the warehouse.


6 responses to “Goodwill Bins, Milwaukie, Oregon

  1. Dear Kate,

    I hear there’s a place in hollywood just on sundays called “jetrag”–must be a takeoff on “jetlag.” girlbob said they throw the clothes out a bale at a time and everything’s $1–sounds like something to combine with a trip to the sunday hollywood farmer’s market–lots of leather. hear people get pretty territorial. i wonder if this is a parking lot.

    was thinking goodwill had become no longer worth visiting–a cashier there told me all the good stuff was going to e-bay or some other online outlet–no more kenyan or nigerian outfits or designer german frocks with strange cuts–and then i found a braun espresso-cappuccino machine in mint condition for $12 for el’s brewing pleasure. on that same foray, i also found a new-new pair of keens for $7 to wear with heavy hiking socks–have been looking for brand-new keens for several years now–sorta a “make a wish” project. shows you never can tell when “bright and shiny” will pop up! perseverence furthers…as the yellow book says.

  2. Hi, Hare! I got a great pair of cargo pants that I wore until the butt split wide open. I love Keens. Jetrag sounds wonderful! Haven’t consulted the yellow book in years–now that you remind me, I’m going to see what it says…

  3. Are there any dollar bins in the San Francisco Bay Area

  4. Sorry, Esther; I don’t know.

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