Monday, October 4, 2004

Yard sale

(This is slated to run as a column in the Inquirer later this month.)

When it comes to yard sales, three rules apply: Bring lots of plastic bags in case it rains, be aware that old ladies like to haggle and sell as many Mariah Carey CDs as possible.

The morning of Oct. 2 dawned rainy and wet. It was not supposed to be rainy. The day was supposed to be clear but cool, perfect weather for the semiannual yard sale at my apartment complex in Deptford. There would be free coffee and donuts. There would be buyers to cart away my junk from my cluttered apartment.

Instead, there was rain, old people and wet pants.

For days I had combed my apartment for CDs I never play (Spin Doctors. Hello, what was I thinking?), videos I never watch anymore ("Independence Day") and knick-knacks that had remained in their box-untouched and unpacked -- since I moved in two years ago.

My friends Lisa and Karen joined me. Lisa, a veteran yard-seller, brought plastic bags and orange sticker price-tags. Karen, the mother of two, brought kids stuff to sell.
We got to the site of the sale to find our tables dripping wet. I ran back home for towels and tablecloths. We wiped off the tables and set up our stuff on the plastic cloths.

That worked until it started raining. Again. Thus began the cycle of rain, wet, no rain, wipe. Thank God for those plastic baggies keeping dry my CDs, videos and knick-knacks. (Mariah Carey must not get moist!)

At first there were many tables of my fellow apartment dwellers selling their wares. One by one, the families got too wet and packed up. After an hour, there were just three groups of us still there. By now, my jeans were soaked because I kept sitting on a wet chair.

The first prospective buyers arrived when Lisa and I were setting up. They seemed annoyed that we did not have all our stuff set up at 9 a.m. on the dot. Next came an older woman with a car packed high with stuff. She looked at our stuff to see if she needed more stuff. She did not.

A man came by to tell us there was a really BIG yard sale in the parking lot of the Tweeter Center that day. With 600 tables! Did he want us to compete? Perhaps to ask 597 strangers to come over into the apartment complex parking lot? Who knows.
More rain. We ate some free donuts.

"There were no jelly donuts," Lisa moaned.


Karen arrived with all her stuff.

"It was sunny when I left my house," Karen said, eyeing the sky.


Karen brought a red, inflatable Blues Clues "Thinking Chair." I wanted that chair. Nah, I already think too much.

Hey, was that the sun coming out? With that, a phalanx of senior citizens showed up. Two ladies came to haggle. For every price I quoted ($2 for the CDs and $1 for the books) they haggled lower. For them, the thrill was in the negotiation. I should have haggled harder but by now, my jeans were completely damp and I was cranky.

Then came the two older couples. One nice lady with very high hair bought my fan. Perhaps it would help keep her hair so high. They also bought a lot of other stuff. One man three of my CDs - including the Mariah Carey one. Yea!

A chatty daughter, her mother and her grandmother walked over. They bought even more stuff, including lots of Karen's leftover handbags. Yea! Karen went off to meet her husband and kids with a lot less junk in her life.

Things slowed down. Except the rain. THAT started up again.

Around noon, we finally started packing up. That is when even MORE people arrived.

"Is this it?"a woman shouted out of her car window. "Is this all there is to the yard sale?"

Yes, yes it was, we said. She looked sad, in a mournful, existential way.

This was not the case with SUV woman. She looked mightily aggrieved when she saw us packing up the table.

"The yard sale is over?" SUV woman asked indignantly. "The sign says it goes until 1 p.m. That is what the sign says! Till 1 p.m.!"

Oh well. Life is full of disappointments, SUV lady. Perhaps you should head to the Tweeter Center. There were apparently 597 more tables than at my apartment complex.

Lisa and I drove to eat lunch. We pried our soggy money out of our wet jeans. I made about $20. Yea! And then we promptly spent all that on lunch - and dessert-since we were so darn hungry. At least there was a lot less junk in out lives and in our apartments.

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