The Garage Sale

I’ve previously discussed the amount of crap I’ve accumulated over the last ten years. My chatter did not, however, have the research to back it up. But now, a month after my garage sale, a month after my heart nearly burst out of my ribcage hauling crap to and fro, I am ready to comment on The Garage Sale.

The Garage Sale should be a business. It ought to be an on-going, money-making, I-work-only-on-Saturday scheme. And I should be in charge.

I knew I had a ton of junk, and as I began hauling it out of closets, cloisters and cupboards, the pile amassed in my living room. It heaped on the sofa, covered the area rug, mounded on top of the not visible coffee table. I could not believe my eyes—where had all this stuff come from? And how would it all fit in my Toyota Corolla? I’d have to make several trips.

Pillows piled high against my back windshield and teak hammock poles poked out my car window. Surely, I’d be pulled over.

I had convinced two dear friends to help in the sign posting process, and while Heather and Nik are inherently fun, the two bottles of wine made our chore even more so.

With a wee bit of sleep, in my still wine-stained shirt from the night before, I headed over to the garage sale sight to set up. Six a.m.—I’d have plenty of time to get organized, enjoy a cup of coffee, give my crap a once-over and pull any last oh-my-god-I-can’t-sell-this-items. But I hadn’t factored in The Garage Salers.

Up before the sun and armed with single bills, this breed of shoppers knows no boundaries. The vicious near-death experiences at Wal-Mart for a $35 DVD player doesn’t compare to the herd that amasses well before the given sale time. First, they drove past in their rickety vans, a drive-by assessment of the sale. Then they got out and sniffed around. Literally. Where was the best deal? They clumped at the edge of the driveway, preparing themselves in Survivor challenge fashion. Who would get there first? Who would claim immunity in the form of a 1987 Dirty Dancing beta tape? I tried to put all the babies in the corner, reminding them in my most stern teaching voice that “The sale begins at 8. We’ll see you back here then.” I dared not make eye contact. I refused to answer questions. I think I saw someone pee on a copper angel mirror at the end of the driveway. The gaggle of Garage Salers moved toward me, a group of zombies in a bad horror movie. I checked my watch: only 7:15. They inched closer. It was hard to breathe.

Maybe I should have chatted them up. Yes, I have twenty pieces of vintage Rocco gold jewelry. Two signed copies of Edgar Allen Poe. A first edition of The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” LP. And oh! Whatever you do, don’t forget to check out the 1920’s Tiffany’s hurricane lamp toward the back. She’s a beauty.

When I let them loose on the playground of the front driveway, I thought I was watching a drunk hockey match. People dodged left and right, used their hands and arms to swat others out of the way, engaged in shouting and tug-of-war matches over a clump of cheap plastic jewelry that my friend was in the process of untangling. The Garage Salers had no idea what twisted in that clump, but they “had to have it.” “I saw it first,” one man shouted to a woman grabbing “his” item, as if there were a judge of seeing.

I stood sentry at the foot of the drive with the intention of not letting anything walk out unpaid for. Which, come to find out, is like smelling fresh chocolate chip cookies and refusing to eat one. Some Garage Salers assured me they had paid, though they most certainly hadn’t. Others wheeled and dealed and bargained until I felt like Pa Joad when the bank came for his land. Nothing I could do but comply. Of course, I’ll take a quarter for my great grandmother’s china.

But between the sweaty, odor-filled bodies, I made friends. Seventy-year-old-women tried on my “hooker shoes” and strut up and down the driveway, the rhinestones glinting in the morning sun. A plane roared overhead and one woman smiled, waving like the movie star she’d always dreamed she’d become. Chris, the immigration lawyer who reeked of coffee and aftershave talked to me about immigration policy, about the election, about the “metaphor of bartering though life as though it were a garage sale.”

When the sun hovered directly overhead in its noonday haunt, I called it quits. I packed the leftover goods: the twenty-hole Doc Martins (tried on ten times, never sold) the thick colored weave of the unsold hammocks. The bills in my pocket, aligned and faced, counted out to $534. When I added Quarter Lady’s plethora of quarters from the pinch of my pocket, it was $536. Five hundred dollars in four hours? My mind spun. What else could I sell? How could I have made more money? Was Quarter Lady going to turn around and sell her goods for fifty cents the next day? How could I be so daring?

Exhausted, I drove my now empty car to my now empty(ier) home. I looked around my house. So much clutter removed. The open spaces on the bookshelf allowed the few trinkets I’ve kept to pop out. People have stared at the spine of all five books I’ve kept instead of glossing over the collection. My mom, upon her visit, was able to hang clothes in the hall closet. I didn’t hit a stack of accordion folders when I pulled into the garage.

The release and sale of my crap makes me smile. At least five Garage Salers said to me, “I don’t know why I’m buying this, I have enough junk at home.” I do too. My possessions, now scattered across San Diego can collect dust on someone else’s shelf.


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