Saturday, July 25, 2009

Live from My Garage Sale

Yeah...I'm writing this post as I sit and wait for another customer to give me a quarter from a toy that my son doesn't want, or a CD that's outlived my interest in it.

There's also a laserdisc player. An organ. Computer cables. Old 78 records. Anyone need a corded phone? I didn't think so.

How (and why) did I acquire all of these things? Much of it came from garage sales, so there's a little bit of nonsense in that cycle of buying and selling. The books and CD's are being sold for a lot less that I paid when they were new. I paid full price for U2's side band project, Passengers, when it first came out, which was probably a $12 dollar investment. Now, you can get it only inside my garage, only until this afternoon, for $.25. That is roughly 2% of what I paid for it.

Speaking of my garage sale CD's, they are the CD's that FYE, Co-op Records and Allied Record Exchange did not buy. They are the albums that three record stores in two different states would not buy to resell. They are selling equally as well at my sale.

My son remarked, as he was squirming and sitting by me, that it would be great if you could buy everything ever. An adult in earshot remarked that, yes, it would be. And then, as if to underscore some kind of slight sadness, some unfulfilled wish, under her breath repeated the same thing. Knowing from anecdotes and statistics that wealth does not bring happiness, I pondered how life might be if I could buy anything I ever wanted. Maybe when I was younger, that might have been impressive. Now, I'm excited about having less stuff, not more. I was a little saddened that the adult who agreed with my child's comment was a more seasoned citizen, roughly in her 60's. I'm always surprised when I meet older folks who seem to have not figured what I have about life. They are the ones who should know better.

I sold most of my 8-track tapes. I never look at them, let alone play them. I have a ton of office books, mostly church or Bible related. Most of them I've never read. I'm selling my Mini Disc deck with 10 discs. I hardly ever use it. I'm keeping my portable MD recorder. I use that quite a bit. I'm almost appalled that we had enough stuff for two garage sales in two years. But, I'm glad that we've had them. Stuff is not the stuff of life. We had a few early garage sale buyers who, arriving ten minutes early, and driving by the house a half hour early, may not know that.

A garage sale tells you, yells back at you, what has important to you at different times in your existence. It's a documentary on your life, using not film, clever camera angles and narration, but items purchased and money spent. It's all on display, your dreams and schemes, your passions and pursuits, your hobbies and whims, and it's all being haggled over.

Remember when you got those Dr. Martens shoes after shopping for them for months? Now, someone is trying to get you to take less than the price you marked on them, which was already too low. And then you remember how cool it was to have them, and how you wore them out the day you got them. Or what about that band you really liked? You bought their CD's and shirts, saw them in concert, and now you can't give the CD's away. If you're me, you can't give away CD's of the band that you were in. This crap on a table represents time spent and emotional investment, but none of that context is relevant to the bargain seekers who are pilfering your items and messing up your neatly placed junk.

I once went to a garage sale where I found an old pair of headphones. These were the big kind, the kind that will shut out the world, and give you a headache for the trouble because they're so clunky. I used to love those kinds of headphones (still do) because they sound great. So, I picked them up, and noticed that the wire was a bit frayed and had electrical tape on it. I asked a younger woman if they worked, to which she replied that they were her father's, who was an airline pilot, who was now dead. "He was a great man who never had any junk", she said; everything he bought was of high quality. None of this was stated to make a sale, but to keep and affirm a memory of a person she'd dearly loved. My question not answered, I placed the headphones down slowly as she walked by. Clearly, I had touched a nerve inadvertantly. Those headphones had context, weight and history attached to them. She was throwing all that in for free, and maybe I should have purchased them for that reason alone.

But, they would have ended up in my garage sale eventually.


Anonymous said...

actually we tried to sell those cds in three different states. i believe we first took them to the co-op in davenport, ia.

Anonymous said...

that comment is from summar, your wife, by the way. i dont remember my google account info! :)

Anonymous said...

really good post. you always find such great insight in the most common & ordinary places. i love that about you. this post made me wanna call you & have you bring all our stuff back in. having people pilfer through things once important to us (even if they are not still!) suddenly doesnt sound like such a good idea. do not take less than $50 for the tiny longaberger purse! :)

Anonymous said...

That was a great post. It's funny, this weekend I took about 400 books to Frogtown Books (used book store), and they only gave me $80. I was glad to part ways with the books as we are trying to open up some space in the house.