Take Me, I'm Yours

In the hallway of my apartment building, where roughly thirty or forty people live, there is a large marble table.

(I do not mean, incidentally, that thirty or forty people live in the hallway of my apartment building, rather in the building itself, though I assume you're smart enough to figure that out for yourselves, and also, come on, think about it, how would thirty or forty people live in a hallway? I mean, that would be kind of awkward when someone needed to get undressed. Even for San Francisco.)

(And yet still I cannot bring myself to rewrite that first sentence so it's more clear because, bizarrely, I am rather delighted by the mental image of thirty or forty people living in a single hallway and fighting over, like, who needs to turn the damn ringer off his cell phone and put it on silent so the others can sleep.)

(But anyway, the table, the table.)

It is impossible not to pass this table---it's in your direct line of vision when you come in the front door; also, it is opposite the mailboxes---and every time I pass this table, I scan its surface. This is because, since I moved into my apartment more than two months ago, this table has functioned as a sort of used goods exchange. I have no idea whether this is the doing of just one person in the apartment building, who leaves his old odds and ends there in the spirit of community and general goodnaturedness, or whether this anonymous swap meet is something of which all the other residents in the building partake and towards which I am supposed to contribute from time to time, lest my more generous neighbors start thinking of me as That Stingy Broad In 102 Who Never Throws Anything Out, Or At Least Never Offers Anything To Us.

(That would be awful, wouldn't it? To be thought of like that? I might have to leave my entire CD collection or my pink Kitchenaid mixer out if someone thought of me like that. Or at least a plate of freshly-baked cookies, accompanied by a sincere and earnest note reading NOT POISONED, I SWEAR. ALSO, MADE WITH THE EXPENSIVE KIND OF CHOCOLATE CHIPS, AND THEY WEREN'T EVEN ON SPECIAL.)

Regardless, in the last nine weeks since we moved in, this large marble table in the lobby of my building has hosted the following items, all of them apparently seeking a new home, and one of them, embarrassingly, snatched up immediately by me:

Three Marie Claires, an In Style, and a Vogue, all from early-to-mid 2006, all in perfect condition, though with the perfume tester pages heavily sampled

A small travel-sized tube of toothpaste

A can of Campbell's cream of chicken soup

A recent People magazine, the one that came out right before Britney shaved her head and had BRITNEY'S NIGHTMARE: JUSTIN AND KEVIN ARE FRIENDS on the front, like it wasn't about to get two hundred times worse than that

A half-used bottle of organic lavender shampoo, the opening sealed with duct tape

An orange IKEA fondue set, inside of which was taped a note that said NEVER USED and which I contemplated taking for three seconds and then thought better of, and then re-thought better of an hour later, by which time it was gone

Two packages of sugar-free, fat-free chocolate pudding, one slightly larger than the other, though for no discernible reason, since they were both the same brand and identical otherwise

A Crate & Barrel catalog


A few Crest White Strips

The interesting part of this lobby table is that I never see the benevolent donator place the unwanted items atop it, I just walk past it in the mornings or the afternoons and find a new treat waiting for a new home, which gives it something of an endearing, magical quality.The things are always taken in the end; I've never seen anything tipped into the trash can beneath the table, the one overflowing with PennySaver circulars and rejected credit card offers.

And so the Table Of Potential New Stuff has become a curious stop on my way in and out of the building; I find myself jiggling the front door keys in the lock with extra anticipation when I can see a shadowy outline of something new in the foyer. One day, I hope, I will catch the donor in the act of setting out the new loot, and I will find that I have first dibs on a large unopened bag of gummy bears or a paperback copy of some new book I've been meaning to buy. Also, maybe the donator will be cute, which would certainly be a huge bonus. For now, though, the lobby table remains a mystery, an aspect of living in this particular building that delights me as much as the birdcage elevator or the crown molding.

By the way, it was the People magazine I took. What, you thought it was the pudding?

Mar 13, 2007

Ooooh, how fun. You should have made us guess.
(I was guessing the soup, by the way, up until you said the magazine)

Mar 13, 2007

Well, I was positive it was NOT the toothpaste, and I know you're a great cook so I didn't think it was any of the edibles...which narrowed it down to the fondue set or one of the magazines.

PS How are the grilled cheese sandwiches coming along? Hope you've been experimenting!

Mar 13, 2007

Ha! I KNEW it was the People magazine!

Mar 13, 2007

I wish we had a community like that in my building - my downstairs neighbors (on BOTH sides) won't even talk to us - they glare evilly. I mean, I know four year olds are loud, but there's not much I can do beyond hissing "Sshhhh, we have NEIGHBORS" every 5 seconds. It's not like he has an off switch. You should start setting out paperbacks, maybe you could encourage a book swap thing-y.

Mar 13, 2007

I knew you took the People - that is why I read you so regularly. But leaving Crest White Strips - blech!

My old building used to have this system but ours was in the laundry room and I never say anyone drop anything off either. It must be some sort of secret society or something.

Mar 13, 2007

I can't believe you even hesitated on the fondue pot!

Mar 13, 2007

Do homeless people who would be living in a hallway HAVE cell phones?

Mar 13, 2007

I would have been all over that fondue set like white on rice.

Mar 13, 2007

The only similar experience I've had was when I was a flight attendant. There was a large cardboard box in every crew room, in every airport across the country. Anytime one of us finished reading a paperback book, we would chuck it in the big box in whatever crew room we happened to be in, and pick another out of the box. I'd bet there are something like hundreds of thousands of paperbacks being circulated, free of charge, between flight attendants in this country.

I always thought that was cool - very communal.

- M

Mar 13, 2007

The only thing that was ever left on on the table in my building in NY were Jehovah's Witness Watchtower pamphlets, not at all as much fun as a new People magazine!

Mar 13, 2007

I totally thought you were going for the table itself! Now THAT would have been embarrassing. (Especially when you would have had to haul it past all those people out there who were just trying to get some sleep or find a dark corner to change in.) People magazine, embarrassing? Not so much.

Mar 13, 2007

We had something similar to this we called the "yard sale table" at my previous job. I never throw anything away and sometimes you just want it out of your house. I do bring my old magazines to my gym (the one with Aveda products in the shower).

Mar 13, 2007

I had 4. FOUR! Fondue sets to garbage sale after I cleaned out the kitchen in my mom's (now my) house.

F O U R fondue sets. Honestly!

Mar 13, 2007

Awesome! Now you never have to make any trips to Goodwill...you can just put your crap out on the table for the taking!

Mar 13, 2007

We've got several neighbors who do this, but they put things outside on the parkway with a 'free' sign (or not) - I've gotten some cool stuff that way, plus I got rid of my husbands' big ugly chair...The thing was *gone* in minutes. It's a great system until it gets rainy.

Mar 13, 2007

It's like the tree with the hole in it in "To Kill a Mockingbird" and you're Scout, and someone's leaving you an old watch, or a pocket-knife, or a figurine of you made out of soap.

Although, People magazine is considerably less creepy than that. If that happened, I'd hide in my apartment and never come out.

But still! It's just like that! Sort of!

Nothing But Bonfires
Mar 13, 2007

It someone left me a figurine of myself made out of soap, that might be the best day ever. Well, second best. The best would be if it was a figurine made out of chocolate.

Mar 14, 2007

i get about 8 different magazines (ok, i'm lying, it's more like 12) that i bring in to work and leave at the front desk after i have cut out the recipes i want to try and other important things. :)

Mar 14, 2007

That is so cool! 1. Please take a photo to share!

2. What is going to be YOUR first offering to 'the table' of plenty?

Mar 14, 2007

Did the People magazine have a mailing label on it? If so just maybe you'll be getting a free subscription! :-)

Mar 15, 2007

Okay, so I just typed this, but then your page refreshed, so now I'm typing it AGAIN!
Anyways, this is so cool! It kinda reminds me of the crossword and wordsearch puzzles we'd stick up all over the freshman dorm!
You must tell us what you're going to contribute!!

Sarah Marie
Mar 15, 2007

The free table sounds so nice. But I'm glad I don't have one. The boyfriend has a habit of acquiring things as it is--he doesn't need a daily smorgasbord of temptation to walk past. Just today he returned from a friend's house with a tool box and a gangly lamp. He would take everything on your table, "just in case" we ever needed it...except for the Crest white strips, that is.

sarcastic journalist
Mar 21, 2007

I kind of want to make some cookies, leave them out and write "totally poisoned, take one!" on it.