Having a garage sale, yard sale, boot sale, or whatever you wanna call it sale is a great way to get rid of accumulated crap. It’s also, I discovered one warm weekend in July, a great way to learn more about my dad, Charlie, and the wacky people interested in buying both his and our assorted crap.
I made the signs, set up and wiped down all the tables – which had been stored outside for some unexplained reason and thus were covered in dirt and spider webs – and woke up bright and early with my sister, Leigh, on a Saturday morning to mind the shop set up in Dad’s garage for the next two days. We were already at a disadvantage; exhausted from staying up ridiculously late the night before to organize and then drive around under the cover of darkness (to hide our shame) putting up the signs in the neighborhood. We were also forced several times in the days leading up to the big sale to assure Charlie this was indeed a good idea and that having strangers looking through our crap would in no way hamper his ability to replace the crap we’d hopefully get rid of with more worthless crap in the future.
Not surprisingly, the 8-10 computer towers (from Dad’s assortment of 100+) we put out were not popular. While they were fully refurbished with updated components and boosted memories, they still physically looked like freak computer towers made from the parts of lesser computer towers. Even one techie nutter/customer, who gleefully explained the humble progression of his own tower addiction by saying, “One, two, three storage units later…” chuckled at the sight of them and turned his back in snobbish disgust.
But the laptops? They were another story entirely.
Whether it’s a Dell, Toshiba, or HP at least one laptop a week has shown up via post or Fed-Ex at the house since I arrived for the summer. The deliveries have gotten so commonplace the local UPS guy practically knows me by name. This new technological fascination has basically resulted in Dad all but abandoning the out-dated towers like disease ridden orphans and allowing his brand new collection of laptops to congregate in multiple locations in the house. What lead to this latest development you might ask? Let’s review the possibilities:
- After careful consideration, Charlie gave up on ever seeing a return on his poor investment in desktop PCs.
- Charlie believes that laptops are the wave of the future (like CDs to his 8 Track Tapes).
- Recognizing how little space is left to store his electronic treasures (i.e. crap), Charlie’s solution was to simply buy smaller computers.
My bet is on #3.
But whatever the reason for their existence, in order to get rid of them we had to formulate a game plan:
- Gather up our own crap to unload, thus padding out the available merchandise.
- Keep Dad isolated in the house for most of the weekend to avoid frightening away potential customers.
It was fool-and-Charlie-proof. We’d get rid of computers and maybe make a little money for ourselves, too! Between that and our excellent saleswomanship (which essentially involved us announcing to interested buyers, “It works. Buy it.”), by the end of the weekend, my sister and I managed to sell 5 of Charlie’s craptops… er, I mean laptops! Perhaps they are the wave of the future!
What followed was the task of notifying Charlie of each laptop departure.
After our first laptop sale Dad seemed so excited with our initial progress that he started dragging laptops out of their hiding places around the house and added them to the pile of available units. By the third, however, when I ran in the house to inform him of another sale to celebrate, his mood seemed to be reduced to a depressing funk.
“Dad, we just got rid of another laptop!”
“Oh.” (Cue sad, hound dog face)
“Isn’t that great, Dad?”
“I’m kinda sad to see them go.”
He buys them, fixes them, and then adds them to a growing pile of rapidly aging technology where they do nothing, but take up space and collect dust. Nevertheless, Charlie still had to be convinced, not only to get rid of his crap, but into accepting the money earned from his investment!
I may have a friggin’ ulcer by the time this Summer of Dad is over.
Charlie’s crap wasn’t the only thing we got rid of that weekend. Let’s take a look at some of the receipts:
- Some guy got a really good deal on an old gumball machine I never used.
- A grandma bought almost all my old jewelry that probably hasn’t seen the light of day in a decade.
- An old WCW 4-Horsemen wallet with chain was purchased by a man who I’m pretty sure was not actually a pro wrestling fan.
- An old bingo game, with every single numbered ball accounted for went to… well, I had to keep that after spending an entire afternoon counting the balls then getting the mixer to work again.
In the end, it was a fun two days actually; we got rid of a lot of stuff and got to wrangle with a lot of strange people looking for bargains too, including one guy who never figured out why he couldn’t buy a set of silverware (which was .75 cents) and a stack of plates for a dollar. It was .25 cents PER PLATE! PER PLATE, JACKASS! Take your damn dollar and step away from my yard sale!
Aside from all of the obvious entertainment and success that goes with selling junk out of your garage, the highlight of the entire weekend came from a very unexpected place. And, strangely enough, it didn’t involve Dad’s crap, my crap, or even my sister’s crap, but my mom’s old crap.
Mom was a notorious hoarder. After we lost her years ago to cancer, we were shouldered with the burden of going through her things and taking them to charity. I HATED doing that, especially giving away her clothes. It was years before I could even consider going through them. But the day I finally unlocked her hidden stash, I never had a problem throwing anything away ever again.
First, we found boxes FILLED with Ladies Home Journal, Sunset, Redbook, etc. – basically every woman’s magazines published in the 1980s. She also collected articles and recipes cut out from newspapers, brochures stockpiled from the doctor’s office (usually about how to detect and treat mild to severe medical conditions), and religious bookmarks, prayer books, and pictures. If it was in any way associated with food, health, or Jesus, Mom was apparently all over it. One such religious relic she had stored away was not one, but two over-sized, nearly pristine monthly calendars from 1980 with “collectible” printed on the cover next to the giant face of a pope. We found these completely by accident during the sale, tucked away on a shelf behind, what else, more crap.
“What the hell should we do with these? Recycle?” I asked my sister, holding one up so she could see the absurdity for herself.
“Throw ‘em in the Free Stuff pile…”
“In case there’s some freaky, religious weirdo that likes to collect pope calendars from 1980?”
Enter Bart and his special friend we’ll call Dude #1.
By the end of the weekend, two hick dudes in a ’70s Ford pickup rolled in and started looking through everything we had left. And I mean EVERYTHING.
“Hey, Bart, check these out!” Dude #1 laughed picking up a red stiletto (a.k.a. stripper shoes) to show his friend, “I could wear these…Well, when I dress up in drag, of course.”
Bart, on the other hand, found the last piece of jewelry – a small, fake diamond cross for .25 cents. “Lookie here, man. A cross. I’m gonna get it!”
Then finally, after snatching up two religious books (part of Mom’s memorabilia) and rubbing Bart on the back with a wooden hand-held massager (“Hey Bart, I could use this on you while I’m wearing those red heels.”), Dude #1 spotted the 1980 Pope Calendars.
“What’s this?” Dude #1 whispered, picking one out from the free stuff pile. “Oh man! It’s a calendar, with popes! Oh, this is so AMESOME!”
As Dude #1 flipped through the pages, Bart seemed slightly perplexed by his friend’s excitement. “Why don’t you get a few of these here candles and light ’em so you can see it at night too?” he teased. But Dude #1’s enthusiasm could not be deterred.
“Can I just have this?” he asked.
“Yeah, of course. Help yourself. Take them both!”
So, Bart and Dude #1 took their cross, religious books, and two “collectible” pope calendars from 1980 and left Charlie’s garage, patting themselves on the back for their clever hunting skills.
Probably a good thing they left the red stripper shoes behind.
Reflecting on the weekend’s events – such as Dude #1 and his Passion of the Pope Calendar and Charlie’s bizarre attachment to laptops – I could have easily chalked it all up to random insanity. But, then I realized I’d learned something from those two warm days in July, something that gives me hope for all future yard sale adventures:
One man’s (or woman’s) crap really is another’s treasure.