True Story©… Back-Breakin’ Work

     Times these days are tougher than a $2 steak cooked well done.
When “times” don’t allow me much time to go out into the world without my wife in tow, my misadventures become considerably more difficult.  The long and short is that I cannot include her in my little hustles unless she is a willing participant.  With school back in, I get enough free time when she has to go to the school for meetings and such.

Some years ago I encountered a video where a dude used some plaster of paris and sand to make a small foundry in a bucket for smelting metal in your back yard for casting on a smaller level or, one might infer, scrap metal recycling.  Some metals can scare up to a couple of bucks a pound, whereas silver and gold can scare up a ton more than that.  The issue at hand is that recycling centers have upped the security bar and questions they ask of you approach with a ton of copper piping and don’t have a professional (and licensed) reason to have it in your possession.  Small ingots – or maybe even little “muffins” as the above-linked video seem to me they would allow one to fly under the radar.
I am not about to talk about going under abandoned houses and stealing copper from the plumbing and HVAC systems.  Most of the dummies you read about on the internet fail because they had the stones to aim too damn high.  Sure, copper is recycling at like $2.50 a pound right now, but copper is also lighter than fuck, so amassing the amount of copper necessary to even make it to a couple hundred bucks is WAY more than one might be able to fit in their automobile.  Unless, of course, their automobile is a large truck.

     Cast iron recycles for considerably less, like around a dime a pound.  Seems like aiming low enough to not be noticed, right?  The beautiful thing is that it is EVERYWHERE!  “Everywhere?” you ask, I hear you.  Literally everywhere.  Walk out of your front door, locate the nearest sidewalk and start walking.  Before your smart watch or tracking device gives you credit for 1000 steps, I ASSURE you, you will walk right over several hundred pounds of cast iron in the form of manhole covers and water service ports.  
Go outside and look, I’ll wait…

… welcome back.

     A little internet research tells me that an average manhole cover is 249.1 pounds and that is by the design of making them sturdy enough to be driven over by vehicles ranging from a ton and a half up to several tons repeatedly for decades.  I’ve noticed that of late, cities have stopped putting them in the middle of streets for the safety of the so-called city "workers" tasked with standing around and looking in them and instead usually place them at corners by the sidewalks nowadays.  In older neighborhoods such as my own, one will encounter ten manholes before having driven even a half of a mile (yes, I counted).  Hunt for them at the speed of your own ability to get one up off the ground and into your transportation vessel.

     I hear you asking, “how in the hell am I supposed to get a manhole cover off and into whatever I need to get it where I have to go?”
Again, thank you for asking…
Do you know you usually have something in your car that will fit in the hole(s) in a manhole cover that is just the shape and strength to pull a manhole cover off, just so long as you’re strong enough to pick it up?  That’s right, children, your TIRE IRON!

     Okay, so now we have a will and a way.  I have it in my mind that I can go get a couple of manhole covers a day without being noticed since cops are busy protecting the businesses downtown all over America and not giving a shit about the suburbs until it is time to shoot someone.  I could then come home to my home-built foundry and break them down into to littler pieces wherein the guy at the recycling lot won’t ask questions about why I am trying to recycle a city manhole cover because I do NOT have a fake ID that has Moe Phillips’ name and my ex-wife’s address on it for just such a situation.
[Phlip note: I need to add that idea to my supervillainy playbook]

     I learned from the building and filling the garden here at the house that the driving dynamics of my Subaru are made weird by roughly a thousand pounds of stuff outside of driver and one passenger.  That’s four manhole covers.  I was able to snare that in that with two “within a thousand steps of my house” quickly enough to not be noticed or needing to play in the middle of the street doing it and two more in a park across the street from my mom’s house.  I got them home and unloaded into my back yard.  While in the park, I noticed by remembering that the park USED to be where the eastern part of the city used to process water, there are SEVERAL more of the pop-up manholes along the path behind the park and thereby accessible without human eyes.

     So now I got six manhole covers at 249 pounds each, ready to break down into regular-ass iron pieces, I should be able to turn a day’s work into about a hundred and fifty bucks, right?
What I failed to take into account when I watched the video on HOW to melt metals down into smaller and more easily-moved units was that they were dealing with things as small as aluminum cans, jewelry and MUCH smaller pieces of copper, and not a 2 and a half-foot-wide manhole cover that weighs more than I do.

     To make the situation even worse, a neighborhood jogger apparently didn’t notice the manhole cover missing as he turned the corner and the fire station down the block had to come and get him out.  Now I can see from my front room that the local news has started at the corner and begun to fan out and ask the neighbors about the mysteriously disappearing manhole covers.  Next came the police asking if anyone had seen anything and I have to figure out where the fuck to put these things without being seen trying to figure out where the fuck to put these things.  Quick thinking had me roll them out of my back yard into the brush behind my house.  Luckily, there is a city park behind the house where the local miscreants have left things like liquor bottles and stolen bicycles and lord knows what else before I lived here.
What that gave me if they came asking questions, though, is deniability.

     Luckily, the cops never stopped at my house and the news already knows not to come near my shit ever again.
So now I am up to the need of a means to get rid of these manhole covers in a manner that does not have my name appended to it in any way.


     One time when I was like 14, a drug dealer had a dope fiend move a couch down a winding set of stairs by himself.  The couch, which I STILL don’t know why it was upstairs, was enormous and he was having a BITCH of a time with it.  I was walking down my street and the dealer did his normal of giving me money to go to the store for him to get a “big mouth” (what we called 1 liter Mountain Dew back then) and some cool ranch Doritos.  As per usual, he told me to get something for myself and keep the change.  As I went off on my mission, he yelled up the block “ay lil man!  Get me two big mouths!”
Alright, bet.  I go to the store, I come back with three Mountain Dews and two bags of the chips.  I keep one of each for me and give him the other and I am still clearing about five bucks just for having walked like six blocks.  Now I am interested in seeing how this couch situation will play out so I stayed and watched while I snacked.  After what FELT like days but was really just a summer afternoon, superfiend gets the couch down the stairs and to the street.
… and now the fun part…
His payment?  That ONE Mountain Dew that I was paid five bucks for having gone to pick up.
This story was NEVER as funny back then as it became when I was old enough to understand things like the value of a dollar and irony.

****Back to your regularly-schedule programming****

     I hopped in the car and rode out to the old neighborhood in search of one of those “side job” dope fiends willing to move around 1500 pounds of iron and perhaps go to the face at the recycle station where I am pretty sure their face is known.  Lo and damn behold, I found one and strangely on the same street I lived on where the above couch incident took place.  I convinced him that a 15% cut of the cash would be his payment for going to the recycling station, using the excuse that my license was expired and the station would need a valid one.  If y’all don’t know shit about crackheads, the promise of about 20something bucks for what was quickly explained off as a “nothing” job set to assuredly take less than an hour is an EASY sell.

     Dude actually RECRUITS another fiend to help him and agrees to split his cut with him.  They recover the covers from the woods behind my house, put them in the car and I drive us all to the recycling station.  They unload the covers from the back of the car and I move to the parking lot facing toward the exit with the car running while I listened to NPR.
Three minutes…  Five Minutes… Ten minutes…
“Damn, what the hell is taking them so long?”

I look up and see a cop car coming down the block to the recycling station.  With no regards for what might happen with these dope fiends, I put the car in drive and fucking LEFT!
It was readily obvious that the folks had put feelers out to the area recycling stations to be on the lookout for someone dumb enough to try to recycle two manhole covers.  Imagine the surprise when the city starts finding wildlife washing up in the city’s water supply from the four that AREN’T on the road that I got to.

My car and license are still registered at my mom’s address because that is the last place I lived before I bought this house and just haven’t bothered changing it because I am there damn near every other day anyway.
My phone rings…
Mom: “Phillip what the FUCK?!!?”
Me: “Hi mommy.”
Mom: “Not today…  What have you done?”
Me: “Nothing!”
Mom: “The cops just left and say that your car was seen on surveillance leaving a recycling station where someone was trying to sell manhole covers.”
Me: “Mama, that is fucking ridiculous.”
Mom: “You’re telling me!”
Me: “I was at work today.”
Mom: “Indeed you were, I saw your light on and that is what I told them.”
Me: “Thank you.”

     Indeed, my alibi was that I was at work and that assuredly the OTHER cops saw my car at my house when they were canvassing the neighborhood.  When I got home, there were no cops for me to have to explain this to.  I can only infer that they decided to hem up the crackheads for trying to sell the metal in pursuit of an easy arrest and I would always be able to keep the original cops having seen my car at my house while I was scheduled to be – and was – clocked in working as one out and the “y’all REALLY gon’ believe a dope fiend!?” ways out of any attempts to involve me in this shit.

     I have also probably torn my ass with the old neighborhood dope fiends if I need cheap labor and MIGHT need to make a point of using my wife’s car to ride through from now on.

You know, if I would apply myself to legitimate income streams instead of these half-cocked shenanigous adventures, I might be able to make something of myself one of these ol days.


Unknown said…
Hilarious!! I’m inclined to believe this story.

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