A Community Exchange

In the basement of my apartment building, there is a square yellow folding table. It stands next to the door exiting to the parking lot. On this table are random objects:

  • a porcelain doll in a blue velvet dress
  • a small white ceramic teapot with a wicker handle
  • a miniature birdhouse
  • a black ceramic lamp shaped into a dancer

Since moving here a year ago, my eyes have been constantly drawn to the offerings on the table. Could it really be that these items were free for the taking?

There’s no sign with instructions. Nothing says free on it. The basement otherwise serves as a repository for resident storage–usually bicycles, grills, extra furniture.

But the table is different. The items are loose, random, and clearly unwanted. Occasionally there’d be something I was interested in, but didn’t take.

  • a small wicker basket
  • a wooden candlestick lamp
  • a round white laundry basket

Nothing spectacular. Until I saw a pair of charming wooden snack bowls. They were small and I could discreetly carry them upstairs. I decided to take them.

It was a little strange taking something for free without explicit permission, and I almost felt as though I’d be caught stealing. I ended up being very happy with the bowls. Later I took the remaining large wooden bowl. Then I took a white oblong lampshade. Then a blue teapot.

By now I have taken so many items that hardly any remain. I realized then that I need to replenish the table.

In completing the circle of exchange, by donating items in addition to accepting them, I have officially joined the silent exchange table that is the yellow table in my basement.

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