I buy storage units at auction and sell the goods on line. Sometimes I get gold and silver, other times broken crack pipes. Each auction win is the beginning of a new journey where I search for the things I can sell and learn more about the former owner than their best friends may know about them. This is the story of East, 10x10 unit in Laurel. (Names have been changed to protect the original owners)
From the outside the unit had nice shelves and lots of little white boxes. Some crabbing gear and folding chairs. The small boxes looked promising and $375 later I was the proud owner. A month later I now know Ester's story and how her treasured belongings came to me. Belongings including bill receipts, insurance paperwork, Hummel Figurines, Danbury Mint collectibles and more.
She was divorced in the 70s. In 1981 married another man who was also divorced. He worked for Goddard flight center in a field related to the shuttles. She worked for the University of Maryland. They lived in a small house in Laural and had a trailer which may have been a camper. Their union produced two children, a son and a daughter who grew up and moved away. In 1999 the couple renewed their vows and as the new century began they made the move towards retirement.
Ester was friends with the people who ran the storage facility where they moved some of their collectibles. Ester was a bit of a QVC addict and needed a place to keep her thinks organized. Her husband passed about three years ago. Once a month she would come in and chat with the unit owners when she made her payment. A kind older lady who always brightened their days. Then one time she arrived a bit distraught.She was in her lower 80s and for some reason she got lost driving over even though she had done it many many times. Then it all clicked again she knew where she was.
The following week her son drove her in for the payment. She wasn't pleased because the MVA had revoked her license. She didn't understand why, but she wasn't clear either. Her words did not match her meaning. She showed all the signs of rapid mental decline. Then her son got cancer and they never saw her again. She didn't come to make payments, she didn't mail them in, it just stopped. The owners tried calling her, but all her numbers were disconnected. They came to the conclusion that her daughter had taken over with the son busy dealing with cancer. The daughter was taking the money and shutting down every expense. Probably didn't even think of the unit containing thousands of dollars of fine collectibles in mint condition.
The owners sent a certified letter with the auction date and when that date I arrived with cash in hand and a spare lock. They in a bidding session that took no longer than five minutes it was mine.
A part of me always feels guilty, as if I am taking advantage of another's failure. But I know that someone may get this and use all the personal information for identity fraud, or destroy her heartfelt memories. I do the best I can to return them to facility so the original owner can get them back and then I shred all the paperwork that contains PII. I don't have to, but it is the right thing to do. So I suppose I am doing them a service by protecting them. Protecting people who I know so well from a few boxes of things who will never know me.