Good stuff, low prices

Our yard sale revealed a mysterious universe

We just held a big yard sale to move along the myriad things we did not wish to keep in our new life as we move into our new house. This was my fourth such undertaking and Marcia’s first time trying to sell stuff we no longer cared to possess.

Because the universe is mysterious and seemingly a bit sadistic—as well as loving and miraculous—Marcia came down with a bad cold a week before the event and was just starting to feel better as the blessed day dawned, whereas I was just entering Zenith Flu Cold Symptom Time as the alarm clock sounded at 6 a.m. on the dreaded day. Oh, joy. Had we not advertised the bloody sale in the newspaper, I might have stayed in bed battling exhaustion and tides of snot, but such was not the case: The hordes would soon be descending, and so I rose from my warm nest and went out into the frigid dawn to help Marcia empty the garage onto our driveway.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the aforementioned, possibly sadistic and certainly ironic universe had, just two days before the event, seen fit to break our two-car garage door, a folding fiberglass contraption running on Rube Goldberg-like tracks, so that the bottom of the door was left hovering some 4 feet above the ground, which necessitated our doing variations on the limbo as we brought forth weighty boxes of goodies. And as we ducked and bent and schlepped, I wondered if I would live to see the opening bell—9 a.m.—without collapsing.

But long before 9 a.m. the so-called early birds began to arrive, though we had specifically requested in our ad, “No early birds, please.” We should have said, “Early birds will be attacked by slavering hounds, but we didn’t, and so they came, the first few deflected by our stern renderings of wishful thinking such as, “We don’t open until 9. Please go away,” and “We’re not open yet.” By 8:20 a.m. there were 12 of the patient scavengers—and for some reason, I thought of the disciples—standing on the very edge of our property, impervious to our entreaties to go away. Soon, we opened up for business.

Two of the early birds were a husband-and-wife team who, in a matter of few minutes, had set aside 65 books and a dozen CDs. And as I watched the husband riffle through the pages and make sure the covers were clean and the spines intact, I realized these two were not buying books to read, but to sell. Indeed, we would eventually learn that they had an online used-book business, their inventory largely furnished by early-bird assaults on yard sales.

My favorite parts of the day were those glorious moments when shoppers found objects they had been wishing fervently to find, yet hadn’t (probably) thought they would ever find for a couple bucks at a yard sale. For instance, one of the items on sale was an electric shredder mounted on a wastebasket, something Marcia hadn’t used in a decade. Toward the very end of the sale, a woman sped up in a little sports car, jumped out and pointed at the shredder. “Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “Does that work?”

“Yes,” I said wearily.

“Oh my God,” she repeated. “I dreamt last night about shredding all the piles of papers on my desk and on the floor in my office that have just been in my way.” Then she stomped her foot. “How much do you want?”

“Two dollars,” I said, though I would have happily given it to her gratis.

“Sold!” she cried, as her dream came true.

Another high point of the day was when Marcia sold (for only $5) a very nice and fully functional electric keyboard to a young couple with a 6-year-old son who was literally hugging and kissing the keyboard and begging his parents to buy it for him. The husband was cradling their other child, a month-old baby girl, and smiling in wonder as his son danced around the keyboard.

Soon after, a crusty old man approached me with a big basket brimming with things he’d found to buy. “Good yard sale, man,” he said, handing me a wad of money.

“What, pray tell, makes it so good?” I asked, marveling at the subjective nature of reality.

“Good stuff,” he said, winking. “At fantastically low prices.”