Why yes, that was me sitting in a collapsing lawn chair behind a splendid array of household treasures, also known as junk, during the community yard sale.
Can you say, “Man out of his element”? Or perhaps, “Out of his mind”?
It seemed like a good idea when I signed up: Drag a bunch of old stuff out to the front yard, set it on a table, make money. Even better, I knew that a bunch of my neighbors would be doing the same thing, so there would be plenty of traffic. More customers, more sales. Right?
Well, not necessarily.
Maybe it’s because I am a man and somewhat task-oriented, but I am not much for window shopping. When I go shopping, it is with a purpose in mind, which is to buy. This, I believe, is the natural order of things and should be respected.
But yard-sale transactions work differently. Yard-sale-ing is all about browsing. That’s fine, up to a point. But when you start getting editorial commentary with the browsing, I get a little annoyed:
“Is this all you have? You didn’t set out very much.”
Sorry, I didn’t realize I was supposed to be L.S. Ayres.
“Your prices are a little high, you know.”
Yes, I know. I’m hoping to go to Vegas after I sell that candy dish for a quarter.
“This is kinda ugly. What is it, exactly?”
That’s called a PAINTING. Can you say it with me? PAINT-ING.
“Yes, but what is it a painting of?”
If I knew that I might not be selling it.
“I don’t see any watches. Do you have any watches? I’m interested in watches.”
Mister, I don’t even WEAR a watch.
“Do you have any comic books?”
You wouldn’t by any chance be related to a guy who collects watches?
And my personal favorite:
“I’ll give you $5 for everything.”
No, you won’t.
I admit I had some junk in the mix: CDs nobody in their right mind would want to listen to, unwatchably bad DVDs, bad art, ridiculous books. I had dishes I won pitching pennies at a county fair, pottery that was someone’s failed attempt at being an artisté and miscellaneous doo-dads I picked up throughout a lifetime of doo-daddery.
But I also had some good stuff — a dog kennel, a porch swing, several new-in-the-box kitchen gadgets and appliances. Someone could (and did) get an incredible bargain on those.
What got me were the chiselers, the people who are always looking for some way to pay less than anyone else, and I don’t just mean at yard sales. They’re also the kind who habitually check the coin return slots when they pass a vending machine. You know the type.
Well, they were out in abundance playing their ridiculous games. I mean, who tries to talk down a price from 10 cents?
In the end, I started wheeling and dealing. I stacked the junk into piles and began offering bulk prices. It worked, too. I sold bunches of stuff, and when it was all over, I had made enough money to go out to dinner if the place wasn’t too expensive and we skipped dessert.
And then I came back in the house and found a whole bunch of stuff that I had intended to put out for sale and didn’t.
Oh, well. There’s always next year’s sale.
Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.