Uncategorized 29 Sep 2002 03:45 pm

yard sailin

Yesterday, about mid-day, we turned onto our street and
almost ran into a convoy of minivans circled loosely around our neighbor’s
driveway. Fortunately, we had stopped just a split second earlier due to
overwhelming confusion brought on by a giant, neon-orange posterboard sign,
taped over the Stop sign, which declared in block letters threatening
to slide off the right side, “Multi-family donuts sale —>”. Ah yes, it was time
for the annual, city-wide, yard sale. It had completely slipped our minds this year.

In previous years, we had an informal ritual around the yardsale. All year we set
aside items that we no longer want but that might yet hold value for others.
We have a special corner of the garage reserved for such items. It is unique only
in that it blocks part of the car door to the garage.
It gets really exciting about a week or so before the sale. First, we promptly forget to send in
our sale listing to the guide that the city prints. It tells the world which houses are
participating in the sale, and what items they are foisting. We prefer to rely on
providence for our customers. Not to mention, after much practice it seems
impossible to come up with any better descriptive blurb for our sale than,
“miscellaneous junk that, ummm, we,… don’t want anymore.” So, the time that would have been
wasted crafting the verbiage for the listing is instead spent preparing the
merchandise for sale.

Dust is a major bargaining point for yard sailors. Shiny things are always more attractive.
Everything has to be dusted and de-spidered. Next, each item must be adorned
with round, colored, stickers that are about the size of a nickel. On each sticker goes
the auctioneer’s (Kristin’s) estimated value for the item. It’s a heavy responsibility
to price the items and requires painstaking research by a process we call “guessing”.
This strategic first bid to the imminent throng of treasure-seekers sets the
tone for the whole transaction. Remember, you’re not trying to bring home the
bacon; you’re trying to dispose of the grease. On the other hand, there’s no sport
in just giving things away to people who are obviously out to win the prize
through deft haggling, especially at 7:00 on a Saturday morning.

This is the most interesting part of the yardsailing subculture for me. Why does it have to
happen so early on a weekend morning. Don’t these people work during the week?
Ok, that’s not so interesting. The really interesting part is the haggling.
I am not saying that the money that is changing hands is not important to the people
involved. It is. Some seem to make their living by these swaps. Usually though, the
amount of money involved is so small that people don’t get too concerned. Also,
the sellers are usually just trying to get rid of extra stuff they now consider junk. The
worst that can happen is that they have to go another year without being able to
park the car in the garage. These circumstances allow you to negotiate a reasonable,
yet lower, offer without the fear of a stock boy throwing a box of Cheer detergent at you,
yelling, “Here, just take it! Now get out of my aisle.”
This process of negotiating the value of an exchange is known as bartering,
but is not practiced much anymore. Well, according to our research, apparently not in grocery stores anyway.

Alas, this year, we forgot to participate in the selling side of the ritual. We decided
to atone by partaking in the second step of the ritual. This involves driving
around in the afternoon buying more junk with the proceeds of the first step of the ritual.
This seemed a good penance since we would have to use money already in our pockets.
When yardsailing one must give the sea its due.

When acted after the first step of the ritual, you are hopeful that this phase does not
present bounties of treasures so amazing that you spend all the money you made
in the morning. Usually this is how it works out for me. The wonderful feeling from thinking
about parking the car in the garage really tempers the boiling avarice of finding
treasures for cheap.

So, dutifully, and cautiously, we tracked posterboard signs to suburban lairs. At our first stop,
I almost got an Atari 2600. It had no controllers, no power supply and no rf converter.
It did have a couple of good games, like Video Pinball. I remember playing that for days on end
as a kid. They wanted $20. I offered $5. They would only come down to $15. No thanks.
Too rich for my blood. Why, at the yardsale 2 years ago, I got an original nintendo game console,
with all the parts and several games I had never heard of, like King Kong’s Super Cheerios,
for $15. We played it all that day. A year later I sold it for $20. I got paid $5 to play video games
for an afternoon.

Undaunted, we hopped back in the Kristin mobile. She navigated us past
poorly parked station wagons while I stood watch for the next sign of bounty.
It’s funny – the likelihood of a garage sale sign on the next block
seems to be inversely proportional to the current speed of the car.
Anyway, several u-turns later, we found a promising looking sale.
There, behind a table mounded over with yellowed lace doilies and musty-smelling crystal dessert bowls,
were several boxes of cds. There were quite a wide range of artists from Michael Jackson
to Eminem. The only question more pressing on my mind than “Who would sell those?”
was “Who is going to buy those?”

Nothing there for me it would seem. Then, the last row of the last box, what is this?
Bands I liked from a few years ago, but not enough to have shelled out $15 per cd
to have made them my very own: The Wallflowers and Better than Ezra. Hmmm.
Scrawled on the front of the cardboard box it said $2 per cd.
Each band definitely had a couple of songs I liked. It was late in the day, so the seller
would be worn down. This was shaping up to be a deal the likes of which I was seeking.
Indeed, $3 later, we were on our way, jamming to the cds.
The Wallflowers’, Bringing Down the Horse, and Better Than Ezra’s, Deluxe are both pretty good
albums. Score! Treasures!

We didn’t find much else, but we had a lot of fun driving around the city. Kristin found
a few things that she liked, but it’s funny the junk that other people think are treasures.

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