Emptying out a van after a job I began pulling out two metal pipes. They didn’t seem to end. They kept going and going for about fifteen feet. I tried my hardest to get the pipes up the elevator, but they could not fit and I was damned if I was going to climb the pipes up forty five flights of stairs, so I asked my employers what I should do about them.
“Just throw them out.”
I explained the situation to a co-worker. He said, “They’re crazy. You could sell those pipes for two hundred fifty dollars.”
“Yeah, that’s copper. Don’t you see these crackheads always stealing copper wire?”
I had not, but it sounded feasible. Crackheads and I have one thing in common, we like easy money. When I left work for the day I crammed the pipes as best I could into my Ford Explorer. A few feet of metal protruded from the rear window, but I’m an excellent driver. It was a Saturday night. I figured first thing Monday morning I would sell them to a scrap metal yard.
I went home and I had to sell my love interest on sharing the apartment with some copper for a couple nights. “I brought something home.” I told her. “But first thing I want you to know is I’m not on drugs.” I carried in the twin pipes. They looked even bigger in the studio apartment and the only place they fit was smack dab in the middle of the living room. Meaning if you wanted to go to the bathroom or the kitchen you had to watch your step. I promised they would be out by Monday.
The third time she stubbed her toe I knew they could not be in the apartment another night.
And so Sunday morning before work I made some calls. The first place I called said they would take the pipes for two seventy five a pound. I jumped out of bed and relished every pound of these heavy pipes. I fit them back into my car with an extra bounce to my step. I would take us to Europe with that money. I would treat everyone to a Heat playoff game.
I drove down to the industrial part of town by the Miami River and the airport. A silent man wearing oven mitts pulled the pipes out of my car and placed them on a scale. A small man who looked like George Carlin and had a mural of himself on the outside of the store with dollar signs replacing his eyes came out and told me this metal was copper one, not copper two. It weighed 14 pounds, so he’s give me two seventy five for it. “Two hundred seventy five dollars.” I thought. That was more than my co-workers estimated, but less than I imagined, so I tried to negotiate, “You can’t give me more?”
“I’ll give you two eighty.”
“How about three hundred?”
“Three hundred? You realize this is two seventy five a pound.”
I realize in hindsight this was ridiculous thinking. That obviously copper is not worth that much, but early Sunday morning I really thought he meant two hundred seventy five dollars a pound. He told me to get to the bulletproof glass window where he’d give me the money and I tried to do the multiplication. He did it for me. “Thirty eight fifty.” he said. For that split second as he counted out the cash from the register I thought he would hand me three thousand eight hundred fifty dollars. The immediate future seemed very bright. Reality didn’t hit me until I saw my payment was in fives and singles with a couple quarters.
Thirty eight dollars fifty cents.
Enough to buy a big rock of crack.