CAMP Out: Fay's Rehoboth Journal - Caveat 'til it's empty, or let the seller beware!
|by Fay Jacobs|
I should have heeded the warning.
A friend told me to put "Early birds will be shot!" in my yard sale ad. Being a yard sale virgin, and clueless, I failed to take her advice. Besides, threatening firearm use sounded way too Charlton Heston for me. So I proceeded in blissful ignorance.
When we lived back in Maryland, weekending at our beach condo, I longed to have all my belongings in one place. Whatever I needed was always where I wasn't. But once we did the downsize thing and arrived here with all our worldly possessions, it was instantly clear they wouldn't all fit in the mythical one place.
So the garage became a giant self-storage bin, housing piles of extraneous furniture, boat stuff and four kinds of doggy seat-belt contraptions that not a single dog ever agreed to use. To unearth stuff from the stash required those excavation teams we just sent to Turkey. And forget about putting cars in the Forbidden Zone.
Eventually, this combination of too much junk and not enough money for our landscaping plan gave birth to the yard sale scheme. So we invited two other couples to add their junk to our pile and join the fun.
First we needed a newspaper ad. I considered:
Yard Sale Four gay men and two lesbians Decorative stuff and tools.
But I settled for just time, date and place.
On sale's eve, we ferried our friends' surplus dry goods to our garage. Heading home along Rehoboth Avenue, truck bed piled high with lawn furniture, dressers and rocking chairs, we whistled the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies.
Later that night, the six of us, fortified by Margaritas, started stickering. Frighteningly, at Ames I'd found an actual product called "Garage Sale Dots," and it occurred to me that we were amateurs in a professional sport.
Two hours into putting twenty five cent stickers on stuff that cost a week's salary in 1978, I needed another Tequila infusion. I mean how do you put a price tag on old Steve & Edie albums? The first gift my ex-lover gave me? The amazing Ginzu knife??
For a fleeting moment our crew started coveting each other's trash but then got a grip and banned swapping.
"How should I price the treadmill?" Bonnie asked.
Well, it's a terrific towel bar. Frankly, I'll give somebody ten dollars to haul it out of here.
We finally went to bed at 1 a.m., only to be awakened at 3 by a ferocious thunderstorm. Great, I'll be the only person in history to have a yard sale rained out in a drought.
But by 6 a.m. when our crew re-assembled, the skies merely threatened. As we sipped caffeine and pushed the button to raise the garage door, we saw them - a procession of glassy-eyed people, inching toward our driveway like a scene from Night of the Living Dead.
"We're not open until 8," I hollered, waving them off. While most of the creatures waited in their cars, a few angrily peeled away, shouting, "We won't be back!" I did not see this as a negative.
As we frantically set up shop, the crowd at the foot of our driveway grew larger and scarier, shoppers snorted and jockeyed for position, preparing to break from the gate. This was way too much pressure for one hapless seller, who nervously started polishing the merchandise. "You're obsessing!" I told him. "Stop cleaning the junk."
By 7:45 I started to understand the need for weapons. I should have said, "Early birds will be violated." In fact, unarmed and incredulous, we couldn't hold them off and our position was overrun 15 minutes early. "Um, okay!" I shouted to the advancing army.
"You've never done this before, have you?" croaked a woman leading the charge.
"No, " I admitted. "Be kind."
Shoppers broke from the pack and raced to pick though our mountains of crap. My accountant, partner to the junk polisher, got so scared he retreated to the house and didn't come out for half an hour. By then, the swarm was even thicker, with prospectors rifling through the debris like it was a crab picking contest.
"Does this vacuum suck?" squawked a wizened old woman.
This stuff all sucks, that's why we're getting rid of it, I thought, but assured her that the old Hoover sucked great. The frenzy continued, with people driving by, pointing and shouting, "How much??" I didn't know if they meant the merchandise, the shoppers, or me. Dollars, dimes and quarters flew as people scarfed up our junk. I sold a bent chandelier for $7 and some goofball came along and bid $9 to the guy who'd just bought it. Of course, the stylish stuff had to be marked down. The really ugly, useless stuff sold full price.
"Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore," said Mr. North Shore as buyers carried away stray lamps, mirrors and the CD's we got by mistake from that annoying record club. This was great! You'd think we were giving away beanie babies. We could have sold ice cubes to Eskimos. In fact, the guy who bought the rusty freezer looked vaguely Alaskan-American to me.
After the initial rush ebbed, the six of us looked at each other, exhaled and were stunned to discover it was only 8:17. We thought we'd been on the sales floor at Macy's for hours. Medic!!!!
All morning, cars clogged the street and our entire local transportation grid. And I couldn't believe the wad of bills accumulating in my pocket. Junk dwindled so fast that at one point I ran back into the house to re-stock. Heck, I never liked that toaster anyway. It's a good thing Bonnie put the dogs in their crates or I might have considered auctioning them off.
Amid the commotion, John from Abizak's cruised by and hollered, "None of the stuff you bought from me better be out here!"
"I'm selling this stuff so I can buy more of yours," I hollered, all the while making change and making money.
One by one the lawn chairs, rocking chairs and footstools disappeared, leaving us to play musical chair with the lone remaining seatan exercise bike. After that went, we just shuffled around, pockets so weighty with quarters, we couldn't have bent to sit anyway.
This was pretty heady stuffmade worse by the woman who came up to pay me for a pair of old binoculars, stared at my face, turned to her partner and said, "Look, Honey, it's Fay Jacobs, from LETTERS."
The momentary intoxication of celebrity was quickly quelled when her partner asked, "Who the heck is Fay Jacobs?"
"Nobody, absolutely nobody," I assured her, humbly taking her two dollars.
Meanwhile, Bonnie played QVC, insisting on plugging appliances in to demonstrate their condition. They sold anyway.
Incredulously, at the crack of noon, the hordes retreated and there was nothing left but a small rubble pile. Then, in amid a flurry of paparazzi photos, we actually drove the Subaru into the nearly empty garage. Ta-Da!!!!! So it's over. Yippee for the Fay & Bonnie Tree Fund.
That is, until the next day, when I got an answering machine message. The shaky, geriatric female voice said "I was at your yard sale yesterday, and was looking at that." My mind raced. How did she get my number? What did she buy that doesn't work? Nobody told me about this part!"
But the half-Hepburn, half-Yoda voice continued, "I was looking at that buck naked statue of the three women you had for sale. I want to know if you can get me a dozen of those.."
Okay, next time I shoot early birds and practical joking queens. For the record, Boy Toy, the Three Graces statue still lives here. Some kitchy things survived the purge. But I can't help looking around at stuff that could easily go into the next sale. After all, we still need lots of trees. And, since we live on such a visible corner, if things get really rough, I can always rent out our driveway for other people's yard sales and take a cut. Hmmm. An entrepreneur is born. Caveat EmptorLet the Buyers Be There!!!!
Fay Jacobs' CAMPOut, the 1998 winner of the Vice Versa Award for "Best First Person Column," is a regular feature of Letters from CAMP Rehoboth.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999