2011.07.13 Spare me from garage sales

Written by David Green.

(The following column was first published July 24, 1991, following the community-wide garage sale.)

By DAVID GREEN

Garage sale number two just wasn’t the financial success of a year ago. We brought in $95 in 1990 (which I’m sure I forgot to report to the IRS), but only about $52 this year. Blame it on the economy. Or blame it on the quality of the items out for sale. 

I place no blame anywhere; I think we did very well. As I pedaled off to work Saturday morning, I glanced around our yard and thought surely we were one week early for the annual trash pick up.

Take that child’s potty seat, for example. My wife had it tagged for $2, yet it had these suspicious brown stains on it. It was actually very well scrubbed, says Colleen, but those were rust stains that simply would not come off.

Eight minutes after the sale started, Colleen called the office to give me an “I-told-you-so” kind of call.

“We sold our first item,” she said.

“Yeah, what was it?” I asked.

“The potty seat,” she replied.

After lunch, I was left in charge for a few moments and made the biggest mistake of the day. I heard someone out in front so I rushed to the door and found a woman holding three stuffed animals and a pair of dollar bills.

She must have been a graduate of the Chris Wood School of Talking Down Garage Sale Prices. Chris has helped my kids obtain some items pretty cheaply.

The woman with the animals had a pleading look on her face as she held out the money and asked, “Would you take $2 for these?”

I didn’t have any idea what they were supposed to sell for. I noticed one of them was the battery-operated kind that sings disgusting songs over and over and over, every time you push on its cute little paw. I saw the rare opportunity to get that rowdy thing out of the house and make $2 at the same time. I told the woman surely I would take her money.

She thanked me as though I had just done the kindest act a fellow could do. Then I watched her drive away in a Cadillac.

Colleen returned and asked if anything sold while she was gone. A couple dollars worth, I answered. She wanted more details. Just a few stuffed animals, I said.

“It better not have been the singing bear complete with batteries!”

I didn’t answer as she ran to the stuffed animal table. I was inside reading about Lyndon Johnson’s decision to halt the bombing in North Vietnam when her attack rained down on me through the open window. The bear was Ben and Rosanna’s sale, so I owe them each a dollar. Probably the kind relative who gave them that bear is reading these words right now. I suppose I owe her a dollar, too.

Colleen says we didn’t make as much money this year because we didn’t have as much junk to get rid of this time. Sure, you bring in some cash with a garage sale, but the real value lies in the condition of the basement. Each summer it looks a little more orderly. In a couple more years, thankfully, we won’t even have to participate in the big community-wide junk trade-off.

Not so fast, says the wife. Take a closer look at the basement. Nearly everything down there is what I refer to as my “cultural artifacts” of the past 20 years. Sort of a museum in cardboard boxes and grocery sacks.

Let strangers paw through my past? You’ve got to be kidding. I’d sooner live in my basement museum.

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    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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