At more than 80 years old, Ruth Genereaux of Ruthie’s Roost Bed and Breakfast in Mill Bay doesn’t take much guff anymore. She calls things how she sees them and when she feels she’s been wronged she says so.
Such was the case the other day when she filled up her car and drove north to the recycling depot on Norcross Road to dispose of her recyclables appropriately.
It’s the right thing to do, she said.
While waiting in line she saw a woman put a beautiful antique-looking lamp on the counter and walk away.
Genereaux needed that lamp.
“It was brass with pink and in one of my bedrooms, I call it the pink room, I have a brass bed,” she explained. “I thought that would look lovely in my pink room.”
Unable to resist, Genereaux squeezed her way to the front of the line and asked the clerk if she could have the lamp. He agreed.
Life was good. For a minute anyway.
“I got it out to the car when he came out and said he needed it back,” Genereaux said. “He said the manager wouldn’t let me have it.”
Confused, she took it out of the car and back into the depot and asked to speak with the manager.
Genereaux said a brief discussion with the senior staffer revealed the manager feared the company would be sued if the lamp was to, say, burn down her house.
“The manager said ‘It’s our law, We have to have it back because we’re liable, you could sue us’,” Genereaux explained. “I knew I wasn’t going to win. Finally she got it out of my hands. I asked her what she’s going to do with it and she said ‘smash it’.”
Genereaux was horrified.
“That’s ludicrous. I should never have taken it out of the car,” she said. “Nobody’s going to know where it came from. I could have found it at the thrift shop or the side of the road or under the big tent at Bings Creek. I’ve picked things up from Bings Creek several times. I’ve never thought of suing them if something didn’t work.”
The B&B owner said the previous day she delivered 11 pieces of used furniture she no longer needed to the needy.
And there she was that day doing her recycling.
She’s simply trying to do her part.
“I’m over 80 and I can recycle stuff,” she said. “Why are we crushing a beautiful lamp like that? We’re supposed to be trying to save the universe.”
Her message to all: “Do not drop things off that are like that,” she said. “Recycling isn’t recycling there. It’s crushing.”
Better to take it somewhere it can be reused, she added.
Genereaux said she would have happily signed a paper — and still would — absolving the depot of liability, which she feels wouldn’t have been an issue as no staffer had actually taken possession of the lamp when she picked it up.
It’s not that simple, said Island Return-It manager Jenn Crabbe.
“We are a middle-man collection site for other programs,” Crabbe explained. “Because of that, we have to sign a contract that states that whatever is dropped off at our depot cannot be redistributed.
“Once it crosses this counter it no longer is going to be in use,” she added. “We have to honour our contracts. It’s not a risk we’re willing to lose our business over.”
Genereaux claims it had not yet been transferred.
“They hadn’t touched it yet. That’s what makes me mad. They hadn’t put a hand on it yet. If I could have caught the woman that put it there I would have asked her.”
Crabbe said when people come in and tell staff their items are still in working order, they always try to remind them perhaps the best place to take those items would be a thrift shop.
“Everything that comes here is end of life. If people bring things here they need to read the fine print and know it’s not going to be reused,” she said. “Part of it with the electronics is for privacy protection because computers have personal data on them. But for things like lamps, if there’s something wrong with the cord or the wiring and it sets a fire, we’d be liable.”
Now, with her pink room still lampless, Genereaux is wondering what’s become of the potential treasure.
“It really is criminal to throw something like that away,” she said. “We’re supposed to be recycling there.”