I am the the offspring of one of the garage sale legends; She of the Suburbs who has whittled people down to pale husks of their former selves, left them standing alone in their driveway with cupped hands full of pennies while she drives home, chuckling at her fortune. So when my mom gives me yard sale advice, I take it. She told me to have a sale on Friday, because it’s ‘secretly the best day’. She also helped me organize my wares (junk) in an enticing way to lure those slowly cruising minivans in for the kill. So I followed her advice, and here is my recollection of events.
8:40am- Finally get everything set up, position myself on the front porch and wait for the bargain-crazed hordes to descend upon me.
8:50am-No one has stopped, but after observing my neighborhood for a few moments, I am struck by how many weird people are shambling around this early. It’s like I caught all the night creatures stumbling back to their barrows. A man walked by me who was either on LSD, or was blind and had lost his cane and dog. He walked with a sort of half-squat, waving his arms wildly around in front of him. I was terrified he might stop and browse, but he continued on.
9:06am- First visitor! Woman presents me with a question I’ll hear many times throughout the morning: “Do you have any other stuff?” “Sure, let me check the warehouse, what were you looking for? Maybe if you just browse my catalog you can find exactly what you need.” What you see is what you get, lady. She perused some ceramic statues that my mother-in-law donated to the sale. “How old are these?” “I have no idea. My favorite feature is that they’re $2.” Like I’m selling Byzantine Era pottery at my yard sale.
9:29am- A pregnant woman stops by to browse the baby clothes. I’m tempted to just tell her she can take whatever she wants, sort of a ‘pregnancy discount’, but I realize this is only my second customer and that might be a terrible business plan.
9:46am- A man shuffling from either cerebral palsy or hand grenade shrapnel from Vietnam (who am I to judge) approaches the yard sale, with his eye on my stack of books. Suddenly my partner-in-sales/dog Peaches leaps up and starts ferociously barking at him. She hates shufflers, I suppose. The man hesitates, I tell him ‘she’s cool’, and I grab her collar to restrain her from lunging to show just how ‘cool’ she is. The man decides ‘Fuck this guy and his bigoted dog’, and walks (shuffles) away. I explain to Peaches that while we do reserve the right to refuse service to anyone, I get to make that call. Not her.
9:59am- Another “Do you have any other furniture?” request. Why would I hold anything back? If you made me a decent offer, I would sell you my bed. I know, I know, you want one of those big rattan bowl chairs that were big in the 80’s. We all want one of those. I don’t have one, so beat it.
10:08am- There is a birdhouse on our porch that a family of chickadees has moved into. Whenever we go out front the adult birds chirp a monotonous alarm to one another. I’ve been outside for over an hour and one of us is going to snap, I just don’t know who will go first. Either I will pick up that birdhouse and punt it across the street, or the two chickadees will attack me, pecking flesh away from my squirming body until I’m just a skeleton. Yes, yard sales are that boring.
10:15am- The big plan for this yard sale was to use the profits to buy a new barbecue grill. We’ve never owned one, and this is our summer! So far I’ve made $0, so at this point I’m just hoping to recoup the $3 I spent on supplies to make the signs advertising the sale.
10:27am- No sooner do I complain when the gods of commerce turn their benevolent nine-eyed heads my way! First sale! A man stops by and buys some baby clothes. He holds up an armload. “How much?” “How many do you have?” I ask this because there is a clear sign stating the clothes are $1 each, or 5 for $4. “Dunno, he says. How about $5?” Sold. The man walks away with upwards of $300 in adorable, unstained baby clothes, but I’m happy. My first sale. The dam has cracked. Here it comes.
10:28am- A shrew of a woman hurries up to me. “Do you have any old watches, jewelry, or musical instruments?” “Ah, yes. Let me take you inside to the real sale. I can see you’re a pro, madam, and I don’t want to waste your time.” I can only guess this lady’s gig is cruising yard sales, buying junk and then turning it at the pawn shop for probably pennies on the dollar. It’s a living. (No it isn’t)
10:36am- A woman comes by and browses the little dresses I have hanging. She looks over at Peaches and asks, “Did you outgrow these?” Peaches doesn’t even get the joke. Then the woman tells me she doesn’t have any children. So… she just browsed the dresses for her own dog? Or just to make that joke? Whatever the case, that’s all she stopped by to do.
10:40am- The price slashing begins. I had priced items expecting people to haggle me down, but perhaps they’re too high. Everything must go, because if it doesn’t sell I’m burning it in a pile Saturday night. I make this sad sign:
11:02am- Peaches, my sole friend all morning and the only source of (one-sided) conversation I have, abandons me to sleep like a pig in the dirt. I get my revenge.
11:06am- Several angry hornets show interest in some maternity jeans. Go ahead and take them.
11:17am- My friend Claudine stops by to say hi. We have a nice chat, and when she’s leaving she notices the vacuum I’m selling for $10. I tell her that it probably works, it likely just needs a new belt, but I’m not sure. My uncertainty must be obvious, because she balks. Smart lady.
11:26am- The chickadees are growing hoarse. I’m winning! Lunatic laughter bubbles from my throat.
11:35am- Rainclouds on the horizon and no customers in 239 years. I decide to pack it in.
11:40am- Halfway through packing everything in when everyone shows up. A woman asks if I have any baby clothes and for once her question pays off. I do have baby clothes, I had just put them inside. She browses, doesn’t find anything she likes from the 4,239 options there. A loud, seemingly drunk couple stops by. The woman wants my laptop bag and asks the man for $5 to buy it. Before she gives me the money the man (henceforth known as ‘asshole’) stops her. “Wait, did you make a lower offer? Look at the sign.” Curse that sign, and my withered hand that wrote it! “You’re supposed to offer less at garage sales,” the asshole tells her. I want desperately to point out that the bag is very nice, in great shape, and retailed for $75 new. The woman looks at asshole, then to me, and gives me the $5. Double win, cash and dignity. Pow.
Total take for the day: $10 from two sales. If I learned anything important it’s that Friday might be the best day for garage sales in the suburbs, where gender roles leave women at home with nothing to do but skulk for gently used placemats, but here in the city people have fucking jobs. I probably had ten visitors total. But tomorrow is a new day, and I am ready for you, bargain ogres.