Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Yard Sale

With a third child on the way and a pressing need to clear some floor space, my wife and I decided to subject ourselves to the most shameful of all domestic endeavors: the yard sale. The first step was marketing. So we placed an ad in the local paper and made some yard signs to position at nearby intersections.

Then, it was time to place an add on Craigslist. Before crafting my own ad, I perused a few of the other items listed under “Yard Sale.” The idea was to do a little opposition research to see what we would be competing with on that Saturday. The image below was lifted from the very first garage sale ad in my immediate area. I am not joking.

And yes, I added the black modesty bar so as not to run afoul of Blogger’s adult content policy. It seemed unlikely that anyone could remain that oblivious to their surroundings and still manage to navigate the Craigslist posting process, so I had to assume it was intentional. Since their posting was going to generate far more traffic than the handful of poorly—lit photos of a food processor I had at my disposal, I briefly toyed with idea of contacting the wonder-crotch twins and asking if they would just sell my items on commission (and burn anything that remained).

Instead, we forged ahead and ran the ads on Friday informing the general public that we would be open at 6 AM on Saturday. So, at 5:30 AM we arose to find a running car in our driveway helmed by a middle-aged woman on a Bluetooth headset. It became immediately apparent that she was the advance scouting party for the individual she was on the phone with because she quickly glanced over each item and gave a loud verbal assessment of it to the person on the other end.

Moments later a man in his fifties saunters in, makes eye contact with the woman and tells her to tell her sister Rose that he said hi. Pausing her narration, she informs he counterpart that Billy said hello and in the blink of an eye she was gone. Billy hung out and haggled over a used pair of men’s khaki pants before leaving empty-handed. In the next hour, we were hit by a handful of other yard sale enthusiasts who willingly traded sleep for the opportunity to browse our selection of teacher supplies and a gently-used hamster enclosure.

Fortuitously, there happened to be an estate sale in the vicinity; so while people were waiting for their assigned time slots, they hung out at our garage sale and made ridiculous offers on items that we were clearly not selling. We met one very sweet soft-spoken retiree who purchased a wicker bench from us. She asked if I could carry the item to her vehicle, which I soon realized was a small SUV.

After some finagling, I managed to work the majority of the bench into the trunk but we were unable to close the liftgate. After locating some spare rope, I managed to tie it down to where she could get it home. As I did this, we discussed the erosion of common courtesy and the lack of chivalry in our modern society. Discovering I had laid down my knife inside and needed it to remove the excess rope, I told her that I needed to run and grab something to cut the rope with.

Gently protesting, she began digging in her purse while assuring me that she “probably had something” that could slice through the rope. Foreseeing myself attempting to saw through a nylon cord with a fingernail file but unwilling to appear dismissive, I politely waited for her to conclude her search. Then, in one swift motion, she produced and deployed one of the largest serrated folding knives I have ever seen. Perceiving my shock, she told me, “Baby, I grew up on the southside of Chicago so you’re lucky this is all I found in my purse.” I returned her handbag machete and she sweetly thanked me once again before driving away.

Following her was not one, but two separate individuals who breathlessly approached my wife and I asking if we had any “saxophones we would be willing to sell.” This was perplexing since none of our marketing material mentioned musical instruments of any kind. Perhaps they were both participating in a band-camp scavenger-hunt.

Four hours in, we were visited late in the day by an older gentleman killing time until his estate-sale slot was available. We had a pleasant conversation and he inquired as to the curious behavior of modern parents always holding onto their children’s hands in public. Speaking for myself, I admitted that without physical restraint I worried that my children would wander in front of a car. He contemplated this for a minute, and then mused at how much the world had changed since his own youth.

From there, he began to recount an episode of Forensic Files he had recently seen. The episode featured a young mother who was in public with her preschooler and turned to get some water from a drinking fountain. By the time she turned around, the child was gone. He went on to explain that the child had never been seen again and despite evidence of a grisly demise, a body was never recovered. Grunting with amazement, he concluded his story by admitting that he guessed “that might be a pretty good reason to hold a kid’s hand nowadays…..” He then bid me good-day and drove off.

Finally, after 7 hours, we closed up shop. That night, around 8:30 PM, my daughter and I were sitting on the couch as I got her dressed for bed. The doorbell rang several times and I peeked through the curtain half-expected to see Forensic Frank holding a shovel and a bag of lime. Instead, there was a man I vaguely recognized as a neighbor pushing an infant in a stroller.


I opened the door and he looked at me and stated matter-of-factly, “I missed your garage sale.” Unsure exactly how to respond, I said, “Yup.” An awkward moment of silence passed between us before he asked if I was selling any clothing for little boys. I told him that we were not and then he asked if I had anything else for sale. I told him that I was still trying to unload some furniture. He asked to see it and indicated that he and his wife would be back to get it. I never heard back and he has waved at me twice since then while I was out getting my mail. I should have just taken my chances consigning with the Swingers' Sidewalk Sale down the road... 

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