Garage sale scene stirs up dust and emotions

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Something about garage sales can bring out the thrill of the hunt in some people.

Thanks to TV shows like "Antiques Roadshow" and "American Pickers," bargain hunters think they're going to find an original copy of the Declaration of Independence behind every framed paint-by-numbers portrait or some early Steve Jobs created-in-his-garage computer in the corner of every closet.

But mostly what they're getting is whatever you or I don't want, haven't used or would never ever put on our own bodies.

With that sentiment intact and against our own better judgment, we proceeded with a garage sale Saturday. After all, the old house has been sold and awaits closing, so 3,500-square-feet of stuff has to go somewhere.

But when you're on this end of the transaction you're selling off emotion amid pieces of your past.

Out on the driveway, we've clearly positioned ourselves well with sale items arranged on borrowed folding tables and discarded items heaped into a Jack's Trash dumpster in the corner. Unsold items could then be tossed in either direction. Junk to the left, Goodwill to the right.

That was the theory at the first cup of morning coffee about 6:30. The sale was to start at 10, so of course, the first buyer sauntered up at 7:30 as we were hauling out the tables and dreading the raindrops that were falling on our heads.

"Got any pocket knives?," he asked.

"Sorry," I told him, "just the one in my back."

He didn't even crack a smile. I knew this was going to be a long, long day.

Neighbors wandered over next under the pretense of chitchatting, but scoping out the merchandise. The teacher across the street snapped up a bicycle, a pair of wooden antique skis and three pieces of Peeler pottery I hadn't planned to peddle.

The new kids on the block next door shunned a 25-cent copy of Donnie Wahlberg's story, "Hangin' Tough," but bought a dresser, lamp, cabinet and more.

Maybe I should have knocked on all their doors to see what the neighbors wanted to see stay in their midst.

Out the door or into the dumpster, I continually said goodbye to pieces of my past.

The old croquet set with broken mallets and missing hoops? Dumpstered.

Likewise the rusted old ancient Nesco roaster, a family heirloom from my grandparents' back porch in the Windy City, so old it featured a wind setting on the control panel.

It was ashes to ashes for the old red 1960s-era Weber kettle grill, which had followed me to Bloomington, Richmond, Va., and three homes in Greencastle. Charcoal grilling may be tasty, but gas grilling is a bit more hasty.

The old chiffarobe, a staple for storing coats and umbrellas and "overshoes" on the landing at my grandparents' two-flat Chicago apartment, was sent on its way to North Vernon with daughter Nicole.

Even mom's old 1998 Honda (still with only 80,000 miles after literally being driven only on Sunday by a little old lady in California for most of its lifespan) found a new home.

But all that emotion paled with the zaniness attracted by those who stopped by to buy.

For a buck, I managed to sell an aluminum minnow bucket, complete with 30 years of dust since last floating in any fishing hole.

Son-in-law Joe, moments after that sale, informs us minnow buckets are hot right now.

"They're making lights out of them," he said.

OK, I was in the dark on that one.

Then the antique hunter in our midst offered three bucks for an old metal rug beater that had once graced the wall above my bed as quite a conversation piece for visitors. Sold, American.

Through it all, frustration reigned as buyers nickled and dimed (actually quartered and fifty-cented) their way through my stuff.

One guitar-loving guy offered 50 cents for a chrome belt buckle embossed with Fender. That didn't put a dent in the $2 being asked. The belt buckle was still there when we closed up shop at 3, so somebody at Goodwill is getting a bargain, with a tiny victory scored by me.

With about 30 minutes left in the sale and the hot sun making us seek the shelter of the garage, a woman wandered in, pointed to the chair where son-in-law Joe had been sitting and asked to sit down. She then proceeded to point to things on nearby tables, asking what they were and what their prices might be as daughter Nicole raised the items for viewing like some yard-sale Vanna White.

And while we had started the day with the knife stalker, we ended it with an older fellow who ambled up with another odd request.

"Got any shotguns?" he asked.

Nope, I told him, not a one. Not sure I've ever seen one at a garage sale.

"Everybody needs a shotgun," he assured me. "Gotta have one for home protection."

"I've got two BB guns," I responded, telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

He gave me that old-guy wave of disgust, simultaneously turning his back on us.

"You'll shoot your eye out," another buyer nearby offered with a wink before I could get the line out myself.

That knife in my back?

Yeah, just go ahead and twist it.

That's what kissing your stuff goodbye does to you.