Here's an anthropological experiment you can try at home. It's not quite as interesting as shacking up with a tribe of cannibals for six months, but it has its merits. And it's actually more an andropological experiment, because the behaviour involved is very much a male thing. The experiment goes like this:
Grab some junk, any junk, the more broken, sun-brittle and smelly the better. Put it on your nature strip. Wait twenty minutes. Soon, they will arrive. Observe.
By they I mean of course the hard rubbish scabs, attracted by the pheremones released by the blistered plastic and rotting wood of massed suburban detritus. You'll recognise them by a) the hungry look in their eyes; b) their beaten-up old cars; and c) the fact that they are standing on your nature strip examining the scorched shell of your old Atari with preternatural enthusiasm. Watching these consumer-item-ghouls is fascinating, and instructive. For one thing, you'll learn that nutters don't only come out at night.
Distantly related to garage sale obsessives and swap meet desperadoes, hard rubbish scabs are nonetheless a breed apart, placed on earth to get something for nothing, even if that something is eighteen years old, completely knackered, and never worked in the first place. Other people's trash is their... well, trash, and they'll grab what they can, when they can, regardless of actual value. I mentioned their hungry eyes: you notice them as soon as they swing into your street, cruising at kidnapper speed, their wide, blood-shot eyes scanning the nature strips. These are desperate men: junkies. If you must put out hard rubbish, I suggest you do it during daylight hours, and never alone. You never know when a scab is going to turn up and steal all that stuff you don't want anymore.
Perhaps it is due to the pleasant weather, but the scabs are out in force this hard rubbish season. You can't turn a corner in my neighbourhood without confronting several middle-aged ute owners, poring over the discarded furniture and knick-knacks on display. This afternoon, I put an old electric guitar on our pile, and watched as it was enthusiastically snapped up within ten minutes by a guy who looked the type to take it home and play the chorus lick from "Sultans of Swing" before going out to murder young children. In fact, I'm having a hard time maintaining a genuine rubbish pile on the nature strip. No sooner is the stuff dragged out there than somebody is winching it into the back of the Landcruiser. The question is: what the fuck are they doing with it all? Feeding it to their ugly dogs? (Ugly-dog-ownership being another characteristic of the hard rubbish scab.) I suspect the stuff hangs around their backyards and spare rooms for a couple of years, before being put out for hard rubbish collection. And so the cycle of life continues.