One man's bike is another's 'mongo'

Some would regard my bicycle as an antique. But rubbish? I had just heard the word "mongo" on the radio that morning when a woman personalized it by cordially accosting me in the drugstore.

"Is that your bicycle out there?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm sorry, is it in your way?"

"No, but it's a three-speed near the trash by the curb. I thought you might be throwing it out."

To be fair, she didn't say near "the other trash," but I got the picture.

She was being hopeful but also a responsible citizen. She didn't want to steal. But if I was throwing out the bike - not unthinkable for an outdated three-speed - she wanted to salvage it.

"Is that mongo?" I asked, pointing to the discarded items on the curb.

"Yes," she smiled, evidently knowing all about it. She advised me to move my bike.

Soon I found there's a recent book about my new word, "Mongo: Adventures in Trash," by Ted Botha. Mr. Botha realized he wasn't the only one who reused other people's garbage after he moved to New York from South Africa and furnished his apartment with what others tossed.

I recalled a long-gone National Public Radio report from Japan in which mongo, though not yet known as such, was a popular pursuit. There's nothing demeaning about taking home a chair or rug - or bicycle - that has seen better days with someone else.

"Are they really throwing that away?" One has that feeling when seeing a sofa in the gutter.

I myself threw away several rolls of wire garden fence that had become rusty and hazardous to peapickers. The rolls did not disappear with the first waste-management truck. Then they were gone. Somebody's mongo?

If so, best wishes to him or her.

And I hope the woman who rescued my bike went on to find many other treasures in the trash. She wouldn't be the first to see something that others didn't see, such as a great future for the stone the builders rejected.

Here's to the world's recyclers. Why should landfills have all the fun?

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