Recommended wine for today’s entry: I’m going to say a nice Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler for today. It’s hot and sticky out and that just seems to go nicely with talk of yard sales. If you don’t have any B & J, or are just too high-falutin’ to buy it, mix one part boxed wine to two parts raspberry Kool-Aid. Watch out for the mustache.
This morning, my mind was wandering, as it often does while I’m showering, watering the flowers, driving or listening to my children. Today I got to thinking about yard sales. This being Memorial Day weekend and all, I figure it’s prime time for some of the big humdingers — the Neighborhood-Wide Yard Sales. Go on — clear all the beer cans out of the El Camino, grab the classifieds and set your alarm.
I have a few observations about yard sales:
1) The sales plan, albeit simple, is pure genius. OK, so you want people to buy used crap that, even in its prime, commanded a less-than-ten-dollar investment at your neighborhood Wal-Mart. So you put a notice in the newspaper, highlighting your premiere item — the showcase — the wedding dress you never wore because, unfortunatley, prior to the big day you either got jilted, pregnant or just plain fat. Never mind the circumstances, a new wedding dress will bring them in. Now, make ’em wait. Let them sit in their cars for at least 30 minutes, hopefully in the wee hours of the morning, when they will chug a couple Starbucks ventis and dream of the plethora of treasures you’re laying on a cobweb-laden card table just inside that garage door. Like a kid at Christmas, anticipation is often more gratifying than the actual event. Then, just when the first streaky shots of sunlight appear on the horizon, throw the garage door wide and watch them, drawn to you like moths to the beacon, grabbing up the plates bearing remnants of last night’s pork chops and T-shirts from Dollywood with yellowed stains of amusement park sweat and stubborn memories of mustard. (And don’t forget to charge all the coffee-drinkers a couple bucks to use your bathroom.)
2) Yard Selling (I just coined that phrase) is an art we learn while young. When I was growing up in a quaint little Kentucky neighborhood, my sibs and I would wait until the babysitter was distracted (that means tipping my dad’s bourbon into her Coke bottle), then we’d go out in the cul-de-sac (we called it “the circle” because, after all, this is Kentucky and not France) and sell all the toys that we’d either crapped up or tired of. You know, Barbies with mohawks and missing appendages, board games with Big Red stains, Barrel of six remaining Monkeys — you know the stuff. So we’d creep outside and sell it to the other little mangy kids in the neighborhood, who’d pay with money they got out of their mother’s purses while they were distracted … you get the picture. Then we’d use the money to buy their old crap the next week.
3) I think that 90 percent of the items found at a yard sale have been purchased at a different yard sale within the calendar year. Consider this scenerio: In a series of yard sales, little Mike sells the Racko game his grandma gave him for his birthday because it’s an old lady game, getting top dollar from Hubert, who is bored and recovering from a bad tumble off a ladder. Hubert loses two cards under the cushions and four cards under the recliner, then, because the sequential numbering part of the game is just too hard to master what with the pain pills and all, he sells it to Gertie. She starts a game with her granddaughter and then her Metamucil kicks in and while she’s gone her goopy-eyed poodle gnaws on three more cards, which she wipes the spittle off of and takes an iron to. Then Gertie, being a good Christian, donates the game to the church yard sale, where Miss Mabel picks it up for a song, plays it twice, sits on the box and flattens it, puts black electrical tape on the corner to fix it, traps a hunk of cat hair under the tape too, sells it to Max, who can’t figure out why it’s making him sneeze because he can’t see the cat hair, so he sells it to Mike’s grandma, who seems to remember that little Mikey used to play Racko. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, over and over again.
4) The “rush” can be dangerous. In the mid-90s, my neighbor Ann asked me if I wanted to put any items in her yard sale. At first, because I considered myself a seasoned sales professional, I thought that I was above the yard sale scene. After all, I sold more than a million dollars in radio advertising just a few years prior. But all it took was one guy, lovingly caressing my old Timex with the dead battery, looking up, making eye contact. “Do you have any other old watches?” he asked, offering me a smile that told me he appreciated the superior quality of my wares. YOUBETIDO, I shouted as I raced down the hill to my house, where I dumped my husband’s jewelry box onto the bed and was back up the hill with every watch I could find — about six of them — in a matter of minutes. Sold! What a rush!
I wonder if they have yard sales in Beverly Hills or on Fifth Avenue.