Monday, January 08, 2007

Steal This TV!

Japan has the reputation, and I can vouch for the fact that it's an accurate one, of being a very safe country. Certainly there is crime in Japan. For example, the local news will often carry the story of a vending machine that was vandalized. And, yes, I'm being rather facetious because there are more serious crimes.

In fact, bicycles parked in front of my apartment have been stolen, not once but three times. What's baffling is not that they were locked at the time but that they were all second-hand, bordering on decrepit. The thieves actually did me a favor because the condition of the bicycles, well, at least two of them, was so bad that it was hard work riding them, so they seldom got used.

Which leads me to my current problem. I want to get rid of my old TV. In Japan, large appliances are hard to get rid of. Very few people buy used goods (although the numbers increased when the country began experiencing a recession), and there are no junkyards where one can go to throw something away.

What's more, one actually has to pay for the removal of furniture and large appliances. It's a complicated process of calling to arrange a pick-up date, getting a number, going to a convenience store to buy a sticker for 200 yen or so, placing the number on it, putting the sticker on the item to be discarded, and placing it in front of one's abode on one of the infrequent pick-up dates. A real hassle.

For TVs or computer monitors, most flatbed trucks that come around to collect old newspapers will pick them up - for free! Sometimes I'll hear one coming, announcing itself in a high-pitched voice through a loudspeaker, and I'll dash outside to wave it down, but it's always in the next block by the time I get to it.

So I hit upon a plan. I'd just put my TV outside in front of the apartment some evening, and surely it would be gone by morning. My plan didn't work as well as I had wanted. In fact, it didn't work at all. I picked an evening when it was dark and the pavement was dry. At first I put the TV (complete with manual and remote control in a plastic bag taped to the top) near the front stoop. Then I changed my mind and put it by the corner of the building, so it obviously looked discarded. If any neighbors were peeking from behind their curtains watching me do it, at least they didn't report me.

After depositing the TV outside, I kept checking to see if it was gone, but it stayed right where I left it. Then it started snowing, and the TV remained in place, gradually getting covered with snow. When I got up in the morning, sure enough, there was a mound of snow with the TV still under it. Somewhat chagrined, I put on a jacket, cap, and muffler to cover as much of my face as possible, and went outside to retrieve it.

Now the TV sits at the top of the stairs in my building just waiting to be stolen, but more likely until I catch one of the old newspaper trucks. Who knows how long it will remain sitting there? Probably longer than any of the bicycles I've had. Maybe in the spring I can use it as a flower stand.

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