Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Windy City Metals

by Michael Dymmoch
Great thing about being a writer is you get to use things you stumble across in your everyday life—sort of like getting free materials when you manufacture widgets. I discovered Windy City Metals (4617 W Division St) when someone in my building threw out a 60 pound compressor. I didn’t want to see it buried in a landfill, but it wasn’t on Waste Management’s approved recyclables list. And my building regulations don’t allow me to leave stuff in the alley for Laura Caldwell’s Shopping Cart Guy. I recalled seeing an ad for WCM on one of their trucks. It turned out to be a pretty cool place (and clean, relatively speaking), populated by real characters.

Like Gerardo, who started to sway, then two-step, and finally sing along with the salsa music that employees were playing at disco volume. Gerardo got me smiling, and tapping my foot. Which prompted me to ask his name. Which prompted him to ask me, “Queres bailar?” I noticed he was entertaining several of the other customers as well. Actually, some of the other customers were pretty entertaining too—at least for a geek like me.

A couple of them backed their truck up near the waiting line and pulled an enormous metal frame off the back, onto the concrete floor. The frame supported two— I don’t know what they were called—some kind of motors or compressors. The guys proceeded to beat the frame apart with a sledgehammer (components sell for more if separated).

Even in line, one of them was dismantling while he waited his turn.

As the recycling volunteer for my building, I visit WCM at least once a month, and I’ve started carrying my camera because, frankly, some of the stuff I notice while I’m out are unbelievable. Like the guy entering the yard on his bike, towing a bike trailer, with a shopping cart full of assorted junk attached to the rear. (Didn’t get my camera out fast enough to get that one.) Or the fuzzy trailer I spotted along Division Street on the way to WCM.

I’ve been recycling things since my conversion on Earth Day 1970. When I was a single mom, a trip to the junk yard with aluminum chairs I’d scavenged, helped me out when the money ran out before the month did. Now, I donate my proceeds to the employees' holiday fund and just keep the characters, the locations and the things you couldn’t make up.


Sara Paretsky said...

Great post, Michael. Something about machines, I love them, too.

Dana King said...

Excellent post, and a good reminder to all of us that characters, events, and conversations are wherever we come across them, available for our use for free. There have to be some cool stories ideas that use such a place, too.

Michael, it was a pleasure to meet you at Bouchercon. I'm looking forward to getting together again, whenever it might be.

Kevin Smith said...

Spent 40 minutes at a warehouse in the 25th Police District watching our stuff go into interesting setting, with sofas wrapped and stacked on racks and crates full of everything else. I'm meaning to take notes on the visit...