I don’t like getting up early. Getting up early for a garage sale suits me even less. At 6:15, I had to convince myself that I was doing a valuable service by putting out decades of accumulated crap for the edification of a bunch of bargain-hunting weirdoes. It was a hard fought battle that was only won by reminding myself that my dad had given over the profits of the sale if we did manage to actually make any money.
My brother looked even less happy to be awake.
At 6:45 we were out on the driveway, shuttling boxes and tables out to the edge of the street, marveling at the strangeness of some of the items we were supposed to be selling. A set of cards that featured different breeds of cat? A shallow glass bowl half-filled with wax? Candy molds made out of 50-year-old plastic that looked about as sanitary as a toilet seat? A Santa Claus coated in fake fox fur? Slim pickings.
That didn’t deter the first visitor, a middle-aged woman that arrived before 7:00 AM.
“Where is everyone?” she asked. I laughed, thinking that she was making witty banter, until I saw her look of genuine frustration. We were, indeed, the only people in sight. No neighbors were out yet, nor any other shoppers.
“I guess we’re it so far,” I told her as my brother laid out a display of mismatched shot glasses. In my head, I was saying something far different to her, something about the kind of person that gets indignant that people haven’t destroyed their Saturday mornings by getting up before dawn to cater to her stupid desire to improve her collection of crystal figurines.
She walked off in a huff. I briefly considered throwing a Raffi record at her as she left.
Ben and I did our best to arrange our wares in a way that would draw in potential buyers. Bikes and stereos to the front, golf balls further in, exercise equipment in the middle, speakers made into pyramids. We tastefully arranged old holiday ornaments and decorations (prompting a woman to ask if we were eliminating Christmas and Easter from our lives), hung disgusting old purses off of the table corners, and tried to figure out why we were trying to sell framed pieces of artwork that had clearly be drawn, glued up, and painted by children.
People started arriving in volume by 7:30. One of them was a man that sauntered in with the look of a hardcore hoarder. He asked if he could sit in the office chair and roll around with it while he perused the tables, and seeing as he promised to buy it, who were we to refuse. As he looked at things, he regaled us with stories about his previous jobs. He was a police officer for 12 years, an auctioneer for 20. He worked in pharmaceuticals for 18 years. He taught business for 5. He was a ranch hand for 17. He sold cars for 9. By the time this guy had left, he had filled his entire Ford Explorer with our junk and was pushing 130 years old according to our math.
The day passed and more junk was sold off to happy people with bad haircuts. Our strategy was to take someone’s best offer and immediately halve it on them. The interaction went like this.
Weirdo: “That surround system says $20 on it. Can I get it for $10?”
Us: “No, but we’ll take $5 for it.”
Weirdo: “Oh. Wait, what?”
Us: “You heard me. I want $5 for it.”
Weirdo: “But I… um… okay. Here’s $5.”
Us: “Do you want your change?”
This approach brought me all kinds of praise from one painfully earnest middle-aged lady who was looking at a rabbit skin that I had brought back from a road trip in 1988.
“That’s one very dead rabbit,” I told her as she examined it.
She nodded sincerely as if I had shared a fascinating insight with her, instead of just a smartass comment built from boredom and an attempt to gross people out.
“You are in God’s country here, you know,” she said, turning her attention away from the fur to look at me. She smiled fervently. “Everyone has their own little oasis, their own little piece of perfection.”
I looked around at the swamp bordering my dad’s property.
“Sure is!” I said happily, if somewhat manically. The 6:15 AM wakeup had made my personality a bit dodgy by this time.
“And you have such an… eclectic set of things here,” she said, sweeping her arm to take in all of the wonder of five tables worth of random crap.
“Yeah,” I said, “that’s what happens when your dad’s been married four times and keeps stuff from each one.”
That shut her up for a second. When she regained her composure, the very earnest lady continued with, “Oh, you’re just joking with me.” She laughed merrily.
“Nope,” says I. “But it’s okay. I only learned about the first marriage when I was 16 years old, so that had little effect on me as a person.”
The woman stared hard at me for a second, and I briefly wondered if I had broken her sensibilities and if she might explode momentarily. Instead, she clasped her hands together, smiled with all of the obliviousness and joie de vivre that only the most battle-hardened crazy cat ladies can muster, and said the most ironic thing I have ever heard in my entire life.
“I must say, for all of that, you seem to be a very well-adjusted young man.”
Tomorrow: Feeling my age, forcing charity, and the biggest warehouse of crap I have ever seen.