Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yard sale

"OK, Alex. We'll take twenty for the antlers and ten for the hat."

The antlers in question were mounted to a block of wood, and sat atop a pile of t-shirts.* The hat was in Alex's hand, a gray fedora which he turned to peer at from different angles.

I was just walking by, affiliated with neither Alex nor the woman with the dyed red hair who was presiding over the collection of cast-offs along the sidewalk. This was just another neighborhood yard sale that I happened upon during my weekend wandering. I would not have even known Alex's name had the woman not used it.

I had seen perhaps a half dozen of these sales in the hour or two I was walking around. Coming across a yard sale has always been something I enjoy, like finding that a thrift store has unexpectedly materialized in the middle of a residential block. I like to look at the things people have selected for themselves and then decided they no longer had a use for.

On one of the last truly nice weekends of the season, they had bloomed like late summer flowers all over the place. I took a note of the impromptu signs taped to streetlights and stop signs at nearly every intersection and adjusted my walk to take in as many as I could.

The signs for these events are nearly always misleading. One told of a "Huge Family Yard Sale - Something for everyone!!!," but contained nothing but cast-off clothing items, some of which had clearly been bought in bulk from a discontinued uniform company. Another, which had also promised a wide array of items, did not exist at all. Instead of the tantilizing promised books, records and furniture, I found a small piece of paper taped to a door. A shaky hand had written "No Yard Sale Today." A third, which did not list a location and which I never found, promised a "Yar Sale," which I can only assume meant that they were selling off equipment used in piracy.

As I was passing Alex and his haggling opponent, I was starting to get sick of yard sales in general. I'm glad that they still exist in our eBay-obsessed world, but the amount of miscellaneous crap was becoming wearying. And this was one of the sales where the person who organized it clearly thought of herself as an entrepreneur. A box of pins from the 2006 Olympics sat in the sun with a sign explaining that you would find these for $6.95 anywhere else, but here they were only $4.00.

This made me a little irritable. I sort of hate the assumption that the original price of an item has any relevance once it is sitting for sale on someone's lawn. Maybe this would have been a good deal if I were some sort of collector of Olympics memorabilia, but I doubt it. And if I were such a creature, the 2006 Olympics were recent enough that I would doubtless have already added these items to my collection elsewhere.

"Sir! Sir! This hat!" Alex seized my arm as I attempted to pass. He spoke with a Slavic accent, which is not at all uncommon in this neighborhood.

"This hat," he repeated. "What do you think?"

He thrust the fedora at me. "Uh, a fine hat," I said.

"Yes. But what? Five Dollars?"

"A hundred, easily, in a store," the woman countered.

Alex rotated the hat again, inspecting it and clearly expecting me to do the same.

"Is fine. Yes. In good shape, but I think maybe needs some cleaning, yes?" He made a show of pretending to brush some dust off the brim.

"In a store, a hundred," the woman repeated.

"Well, this is a yard sale," I said slowly. "The original price does become sort of irrelevant." I was torn between my desire to flee and the fact that the woman was giving me a perfect opportunity to vent my displeasure at her pricing method.

Alex made a triumphant crowing sound, raising the hat into the air.

"Well, he's not the one selling it," the woman countered, casting a baleful glance at me.

"True enough," I said, freeing myself from the conversation and resuming my walk. I was no longer the unwitting accomplice of amateur hagglers, and that felt nice.

*A note about the antlers: I do not personally think it's cool to kill something and take a trophy. I am consistent in this belief. I don't like it when serial killers do it, either. Just so you know.


Unknown said...

Yard sales are not so common over here but we are rather fond of a car boot sale (a huge gathering of yard sales hanging out the back of a car, a yard sale club).

I enjoy them, every now and again, and like also to peruse other people's cast-offs. I am also a fan of second hand shops and am tickled by the fact that it is now fashionable to 'buy vintage'.

The hat was overpriced, I would have give her a couple of dollars (I think - never quite sure about your funny Merkan money).

Anonymous said...

We just has a garage sale because we are moving... I usually stay indoors, but this time it was fun!

basest said...

having recently had a garage sale at which we allowed some friends of ours to sell some of their stuff, I was astounded by the items that these friends of mine had kept in the hopes of selling some day at a garage sale. objects that it had to be more annoying to move from location to location (which I knew had happened) than the $.25 they would earn by selling them in a garage sale.

Then I went into my basement and realized that I still have an unplayable accordian that I bought at a garage sale for $10.

Unknown said...

I hate going through other people's crap, but then again I have no real patience for shopping either.

Taffiny said...

I like the idea of yard sales, but I often feel uncomfortable, you know, when they watch you walking through, their stuff, and you decide you don't want any of it. (same would be true if I was the one selling my old stuff).

I also get insulted by hard sells, and crazy pricing, but I don't come across either of those very often.

The Moon Topples said...

Minx: I just knew there'd be a ridiculous Brit name for the same thing.

Marcia: Glad you enjoyed it. I've never hosted one myself, but can see how it might be a fun way to pass an afternoon.

Basest: I, too, have an accordian, although mine is playable. Mine set me back $20, I think.

Ver: No yard sales for you, then.

Taffiny: One hopes they don't take your rejection of their cast-offs as a rejection of them personally. If they do, then they are probably creepy in other ways as well.