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Abandoned couch deserves better

"Nice to see you again," she said, settling in beside me on the couch. "And you," I replied, sipping my morning coffee.

"Nice to see you again," she said, settling in beside me on the couch.

"And you," I replied, sipping my morning coffee. "Did you get to work on time?"

That was the question when we left her in this column the other day, stuck in commuter traffic that had stopped dead on the Trans-Canada heading into town.

Which must have been what inspired some thoughtful person to place an old chesterfield right there in the highway median. Perfect for stranded motorists to wander away from their traffic-jammed cars and stretch out for a nice little nap.

Dunno who left the couch there. It just appeared one morning last week, beckoning invitingly to passing motorists, as comfy as the Friendly Giant's old living room set.

So I sat myself down, was just about to pull out the newspaper when a guy from the highway maintenance company, came by to take it away. They scoop up maybe 40 roadside couches every month, he said. That's in addition to the 30 bags worth of garbage that another contractor collects along that stretch of the Trans-Canada every week.

Garbage? Gosh, it would be awful to think of my friend the couch as garbage, booted out of the back of a van and abandoned on the shoulder like a UVic bunny. I prefer to believe its owner was setting it free to find a new home, perhaps on a farm where it could frolic with the other furniture.

They say sailors would rather scuttle a ship at sea than see it suffer the indignity of being broken apart in the scrapyard. Same goes for a good sofa.

I once had a couch that I loved less than a dog but more than most blood relatives. Watched some of the happiest moments in history - the fall of the Berlin Wall, the end of apartheid, Conrad Black going to prison - unfold on television while snuggled in its warm embrace. Broke my heart to heave it in the landfill like a busted lawnmower or an in-law rolled up in an old rug.

Alas, the truth is that many weasels really do abandon their sofas (not to mention their morals) rather than haul them to the dump and pay the tipping fee. We're not talking about the odd chesterfield left at the foot of the driveway with a "Free" sign pinned to the cushions, just waiting for a couple of college students to pick it up and portage it home like a canoe.

We're talking about the couches, chairs, clapped-out microwaves and sodden box springs that mysteriously appear on the sidewalk like the whodunnit bodies in the opening of Law and Order.

Recent years have seen whole gardens of oversized household items blossom, junked washing machines and soiled mattresses multiplying like zucchini wherever a single couch takes root. Don't let anyone leave a loveseat outside your house, because once one person decides it's a good place to build an orphanage, the rest of the neighbours join in, piling up obsolete appliances like the cargo cults of Vanuatu erecting shrines to the gods.

Junk begets junk.

OK, it's not always easy to borrow/steal a truck to go to the dump, and the dump costs money. And some people really do delude themselves into thinking they're "recycling" this stuff when they abandon it - but even the most unreasonably hopeful people, the ones who still think they'll find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, must realize no one wants a couch that has been rained on six times and set afire twice.

And jeezly weezly, there's something essentially arrogant and inconsiderate about leaving your unwanted stuff, whether it be a couch, dog dung (and can anyone explain why anyone would bag their dog crap, then leave the bag?) or indolent teenager for someone else to pick up. It's the equivalent of not replacing the toilet roll (sorry, dear) the second-leading cause of divorce.

This is apparently a global, or at least pan-Canadian, problem, with municipalities across the country wasting an increasing amount of time and taxes dealing with roadside dumps when they could be wasting time and taxes on more pleasant initiatives instead.

Never mind the expense. However you couch it, dumping furniture for others to deal with is just plain rude.

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