Monday, June 10, 2024

I NEVER WANT TO HEAR THE WORDS "GARAGE SALE" AGAIN!

 

My late husband was a collector. It began back in 1977 with Star Wars toys. You name it and he had it. We spent so much time in toy stores, I found myself holding conversations with Barbie dolls, just so I’d have an adult female to talk to.

Over the years, my husband’s collecting obsession branched out to areas and subjects other than Star Wars: coins, stamps, trading cards, Star Trek, Harry Potter, Alien, Playboy, Avatar, X-Files, Xena the Warrior Princess, X-Men, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings. The list goes on…and on. By the time he passed away, his collection filled three storage units.

Out of sheer habit, I still continued to collect a few things after that. And I have been selling pieces of the collection, little by little, ever since.

So at the end of May, when I heard that my town (population 4,200) was going to hold a town-wide yard sale on June 8th, I immediately signed up, thinking it might be a good opportunity for me to sell some collectibles. The town was in the process of creating a list of addresses of the people who wanted to participate. Then when it was complete, it could be downloaded by potential buyers to map out their route for the day as they went from house to house. It sounded like a great idea to me.

I spent the rest of the week working harder than I’d worked in a long time, lifting and digging through boxes, plastic tubs and storage chests as I searched for items I wanted to part with. Then I looked for my folding tables, of which there were only two, hidden behind big sheets of plywood that were leaning against the garage wall.

Before I found those two tables, I became intimately acquainted with every species of insect in my region – and even a few I could swear had been beamed down from other planets. I ended up with so many cobwebs on my clothing, I looked as if I’d just crawled up out of an ancient tomb.

And if it’s true that crickets are supposed to be good luck, I’m guaranteed to the win the lottery – both Megabucks and Powerball – any day now.

But, I kept telling myself as I dug through the rest of the unknown surprises (both living and otherwise) in the garage, it all would be worth it when I had a nice roll of cash in my hot, arthritic hands at the end of the yard sale.

I narrowed down my sale items to “only” about 200, and soon realized I would need much more than just the two folding tables. But when I priced similar tables, they averaged about $45 each, so I came up with what I thought was a better idea – buy metal plant-stands that were on sale and then lay sheets of plywood (the ones I’d seen out in the garage) on top of them to form makeshift tables. While I was out shopping, I also bought peel-and-stick price labels, hanging price tags, blue tablecloths, signs to put out by the road to attract more people, and a 35-pack of bottled water so I could offer it to my visitors in case they became hot and thirsty while leisurely browsing through my many treasures.

By Wednesday, my eyes resembled two oysters on the half-shell because I’d spent so many hours researching the value of every item. After all, I didn’t want to overprice or underprice anything by too wide of a margin. A few of the values shocked me. For example, the Harley Davidson Barbie doll that had been worth $175 back in the late 1990s, was averaging only $19 on Ebay. But a Star Wars game from 1997, on which I had slapped a $4.50 price sticker, had just sold for $159!

Houdini couldn’t have made that price sticker disappear any faster than I did. I put the game away because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t get anywhere close to $159 for it at a yard sale. In fact, even if I’d kept the $4.50 price on it, I knew there still would be someone who'd try to talk me down to only a dollar.

And then 10 years later, I’d see that same person on Antiques Roadshow, being told the game was worth $3,000.

Also by Wednesday morning, the weather forecast had changed from partly sunny to “scattered downpours.”  I panicked. My precious collectibles could not withstand even a drop of rain, never mind a downpour. So I decided to move my sale into the garage where everything would be protected from the elements.

The only drawback was my car was in there, along with everything from shovels, tools, lumber, stacks of boxes, a ladder, a wheelbarrow, trash containers and more, much of which hadn’t been touched in over a decade. But even though I’d already spent more than enough time in the cobwebs, insects and dust, I headed back into the garage, determined to clean it out and then set up my tables with their lovely blue coverings.

Fourteen hours later, I was dirty, sweaty, achy, and lightheaded (because I hadn’t paused to eat anything). But at least, I thought, the garage looked presentable. Not great or spotlessly clean, but presentable. That was good enough for me. I set up the tables.

Or at least I attempted to.

Carrying a large sheet of plywood and trying to lay it evenly on some metal plant stands turned out to be a feat that was nearly impossible for only one person to accomplish. For one thing, I had to carry the sheet of plywood vertically, so I could grip it on each edge, which meant I couldn’t see where I was going. Two people would have been able to carry it flat, horizontally, and just lower it onto the stands.

It took me another hour to get the sheets of plywood to balance evenly on the stands and make safe tabletops. By then, I was so exhausted, I was ready to stretch out on one of them, fold my hands across my chest and be administered my last rites.

But I was afraid I’d make the plywood crooked and unbalanced again.

Thursday afternoon, the completed list of houses taking part in the yard sale finally appeared on the town’s website, along with summaries of what was being sold at each location. I eagerly scanned the list to check for my address.

It wasn’t listed.

I checked again.

It still wasn’t listed.

So I panicked…total meltdown panic, which probably was enhanced by my severe case of sleep deprivation. The town hall closed at 4 PM and it was 3:00. Even worse, the town hall was closed all day on Fridays…and the sale was on Saturday! I grabbed the phone and called. There was no answer, so I left a frantic message – something to the effect of, “I submitted my form before the deadline, and I’ve worked SO hard all week getting ready for this sale, I am absolutely DEVASTATED my address isn’t on the list! What am I going to do now?”

Then I waited for a return call, as I watched the minutes tick closer to 4 PM. I felt like a convict waiting for a last-minute stay of execution. I swear I even was pacing like one.

My friend Dot, who’s one of the calmest people I know, messaged me at that moment. I messaged back and told her I was too upset to chat, and explained the reason why. Then I made a hasty decision to post my sale on Craig’s List, just in case I never did make it onto the town’s list. I figured at least someone would know I was selling stuff. I even included photos of a few of my items, hoping they might entice someone. 

It was about 4:15 when I officially entered my period of self-pity, because I knew the town hall had closed by then…until Monday. And no one had returned my call.

“Why me?” I whined to my dogs. “Why was I the unlucky one whose name was left off the town’s list? For what reason did I work my butt off all week? I ended up with slivers in places I never even knew slivers could reach! And I probably was bitten by some venomous insect I won’t even know about until my ankle starts to resemble the Hindenburg!”

My bellyaching was interrupted by a phone call from Dot. 

“I called the town hall and spoke to a woman there,” she calmly said, “and she apologized and assured me your address will be added to the list tonight. So everything is fine now and you can relax, okay? See you on Saturday!”

I honestly wanted to submit Dot’s name for sainthood at that moment. Sure enough, by 8 PM, my address was added to the very bottom of the list. I felt like buying a bottle of champagne...even though I think it tastes like carbonated vinegar.

Saturday morning dawned cool and sunny, a perfect day. The sale hours were 8 AM to 2 PM, so I was out in the garage by 7:45, ready to face the throngs of people who soon would be arriving. Dot pulled in shortly afterwards to help out. 

Over an hour later, with still not a soul in sight, a neighbor and his wife wandered over to chat. Then a guy in a Mercedes arrived to ask if I had any old coins, which I didn’t. And three hours later, still without any signs of life other than a chipmunk, a couple drove up. They studied every table and then offered me $3 for $25 worth of merchandise.

I was so desperate by then, I took it.

And that was that.

So I actually lost money by taking part in the sale. And to make matters worse, someone ran over one of my signs on the side of the road (I suspect it was the guy who owns the land I stuck it into).

So now, as I gaze into the garage with its neatly arranged tables and still neatly placed items (because most remained untouched by human hands), and then I look at my car parked out in the driveway – my car that used to be red but now is bright yellow due to an overabundance of pollen in the air this year – all I can think about is…

On second thought, you’re better off not knowing.


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Sally Breslin is a native New Englander and an award-winning syndicated humor columnist who has written regularly for newspapers and magazines all of her adult life. She is the author of several novels in a variety of genres, from humor and romance to science-fiction. Contact her at: sillysally@att.net


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