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My Robot Is Pregnant theme song!

tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

September 29, 2009

why i yard sale

“Mr. Grappone, a cheerful 58-year-old who has hundreds of thousands of records in storage, said he did most of his business through eBay and other online outlets, but liked to see his old customers. And then there’s the thrill of handling cash. ‘There’s nothing like it,’ Mr. Grappone said, vigorously chewing his gum as he counted out the bills for a $158 sale.”

That was a New York Times article. I read that a lot. Online. I don’t explore the web too much really. Harper’s is cool, but I forget to go there. I like how brief they are. And there is breadth to their coverage.

I like to yard sale because I like to treat people how they treat me. I like to talk trash to people right in front of me, I like to make people smile, I like to send them home with a good deal, and I like to have a knot of cash in my pocket. I don’t do fifty cents. Fifty cents doesn’t buy me time at a parking meter. I want a buck or it’s in the free pile. Every yard sale should have a free pile. And I like cash.

I like a pile of cash in my pocket. God it feels good. At the end of the day it might only be $200. My mouth is tired from dickering. My skin is burned from the sun. My head hurts from the mimosas. But I keep pulling that wad out and fingering it. Finger. Face the bills. Fold them in half. Slap the stack and shake it at my pal. Tell him I’m rich. It doesn’t take much. $200 bucks.

I really want to talk about Roman Polanski. Sophia and I just watched the documentary about him, Wanted and Desired. See, he’s a wanted man in America, but in Europe, he is desired. They didn’t care he had sex with a 13 year old.

We love this stuff. Couples can talk about it in bed, asking, “How young is too young?” and “When is someone old enough?” Some of us don’t mind 13 year old’s doing it with 13 year olds. Some of us do. Others don’t know what to think when a 20 year old goes to prison for statutory rape of a 17 year old. I have a few good scenarios to consider myself. But what are we trying to figure out?

The age of consent? No. We are trying to define abuse. And no one really cares if a 45 year old is abused. It’s about the innocent. Abuse of the innocent.

Every yard sale transaction is a back and forth. It’s testing someone’s limit. “Can I get fifty bucks for this couch?” vs “Can I get this couch for five?”

Over the course of a six hour garage sale, how many items will you sell that results in both you and the buyer being happy? I’m not talking about the complimentary tote bag from Borders that came with your $50 purchase, or the tea set your roommate left behind that you’ve always hated.

Let’s talk about something you are emotionally involved in. A chair your Mom gave you when you moved out. It was in the living room of the house you grew up in. It’s really old. All week you tell yourself it’ll bring $60 no problem. The day of the sale no one looks at it. By noon someone sits in. They ask how much. You feel terrible as you offer to sell your birthright for “How about $30? It was my Mom’s. It’s really old.”

They aren’t at all interested in that price. They even get back in their car immediately because they are offended at the audacity of the price.

By one o’clock the foot traffic has dwindled and people are only looking. A cute young couple stops by. They go through the few record albums you have out. Lionel Richie’s “Dancin’ On The Ceiling” catches their eye, but they don’t know if you are serious or not about it. It’s awkward. They look at the coffee mug on the blanket you’ve stretched out as a sales floor. Then they ask innocently, “What’s the story with that chair?”

Your undone. You have a bite, but no heart to yank the line. Here are people who like the chair. They don’t want to take it to Antiques Roadshow or sell it on eBay. They just need a good chair. Your mother is a good person.

“Five bucks?” you ask, as though it may be a little high but actually worth it.

“Well, it’s nice.” Yes. Yes it is. It sat in that weirdly wallpapered living room untouched for twenty years while my sister and I stretched out on the floor and argued over what was coming on tv next.

That chair has Queen Anne feet. You saw that. Maybe. Maybe that means nothing to you. It’s been refinished and reupholstered and all original value decimated and it never cost much to begin with.

They are holding the coffee mug. “If you throw in the coffee mug, is it a deal?”

I am a terrible salesman. I’m not innocent though. There have been moments when I realized the person had no clue. I struck at their weakness, their innocence, and I took something very valuable from them without any repercussion.

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