Three weeks ago one intrepid reporter stood up in front of a crowd of well-heeled property managers, flanked by a head table of giants of the waste management industry and powerful city officials.
“They really mean to stop me this time,” the reporter thought.
Flash forward to Tuesday, when the reporter, in the guise of the Couch Patrol, rode again, fueled by the stimulation of the “Great Sofa Challenge.” The Corvallis Rental Property Managers Group, Republic Services and city of Corvallis housing and code enforcement officials issued the challenge at that May 30 meeting, promising to be out on the streets in force on Monday, looking for abandoned couches and other debris associated with Oregon State University students moving out for the summer.
OSU community relations officials, meanwhile, held the Great Move-Out event Thursday and Friday, reeling in tons of donated stuff in a well-organized drive in the parking lot of the Grace Lutheran Church.
The Couch Patrol chose Tuesday deliberately, wanting to see how thorough the scrubbing was.
It was pretty thorough, actually.
As the photographer kept saying:
“I must say it’s looking a lot better. Jim, you may have worked your way out of a job here.”
“This looks all very civilized … you might have to find another windmill for next year.”
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
At 1:22 p.m. the Couch Patrol left its secret base, traveling in Bessie, a hatchback with 300,000-plus miles, that blends in well in near-campus neighborhoods. The weather was a bit muggy, with decent cloud cover.
Our first sighting was a battered couch/lounger next to a dumpster in an alleyway between Northwest 19th and Northwest 18th. Stuffing was beginning to leak out of its arm. The photographer expressed concerns over whether an alleyway meets the Couch Patrol criteria. We huddled briefly and decided to count it.
A few blocks away on 13th just north of Harrison was a desk and a jar of what looked like protein powder. A sign on the desk says “Free S---” and thus could not be photographed.
On Jackson near 15th we found an overflowing dumpster with some sort of combination futon/convertible couch stacked behind it. We also find two red potatoes … couch potatoes ... inevitably.
Heading up 15th we spotted a bit of a debris field. Kind of a strange one. There was a shelf with some pots and pans. A wastebasket full of small area rugs. A scenic beach photo. A plastic tub of what looked like firewood. And some burned debris of some kind. Almost seemed like the beginning of a novel.
Heading back to Bessie we spotted two perfectly good Dr. Scholl’s flip-flops … abandoned in the parking strip. No footprints were leading anywhere that we could see.
We also were spotted by a student loading pieces of bedding foam into a pickup truck. She called us the “garbage patrol” and told us there used to be a couch “over there.” Garbage patrol. Ouch!
Finally, at 18th and Harrison we spotted our first real abandoned couch, a blue, green and red three-cushion number sitting under a shade tree on the sidewalk. Residents inside were talking and laughing, oblivious as we shot photos and examined the unit. While we are there a Republic Services truck rumbles past.
One block over, we looked south down 17th toward the campus … and all we see are clustered, orderly sets of trash carts. Which led to the “this all looks very civilized” comment from the photographer.
We decided to redeploy to the south side for further reconnaissance, dissecting along the way the awe-inspiring 13-pitch walk drawn by Beavers slugger K.J. Harrison during OSU’s comeback Saturday against Cal State Fullerton. Seems like OSU, the landlords, Republic and the city are exhibiting the same brand of strong execution.
Our tour of the south side yielded more streets of orderly trash carts. We saw one tenant loading a mattress into an SUV and a couple of card tables next to a dumpster.
“This is pristine compared to year’s past,” said the photographer, who lives in the neighborhood.
On our way back to base we swung west across Kings Boulevard toward the Chintimini Park area. Zilch. Null set. Squat. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes if enough people chip in, things can change. It could happen. It DID happen.