I don’t like garage sales. You get all the crap you don’t want or don’t like anymore out into your garage and onto your driveway and hope that someone comes by to haggle over quarters and nickels. I hate it.
On June 3rd, She and I will be hosting our 12th garage sale in 16 years. And I still hate a lot of it. But here’s what I like. First, and most importantly, our friends and family bring their unwanted crap over to my house and we all hang out for a day. Second, I really like that first thing. The sale “officially” goes from 8am to 3pm, but in practice it starts at about 6am (all of you who know me know that Troy’s heart doesn’t start beating until 9:30.) Bloody Mary’s get served at about 8, the first beer at about 9, and the grill gets fired up at about 11. By 3 the garage door is shut, and we’re all thinking about an early bedtime.
This garage sale is a little different than most. It’s a neighborhood sale. Believe me, I wouldn’t do this on my own. Have I mentioned I hate garage sales? The first year She and I lived here, sometime in May of 2000, she and I were talking to the neighbors. This was the first time we’d heard of the sale. They informed us of the size, usually hovering around 100+ homes. They told us it’d been happening every June for over 30 years. They told us about crowds, and buses and crazy people. It sounded insane, and we thought they were exaggerating.
They were not. That first year we watched, and it was crazy. Our neighborhood looked like the state fair. The little parking lot across the street at the park was lined with porta-potties. Quite a few houses had applied for food permits and were selling food and drinks. I had to keep a couple people from parking at the foot of my driveway. It was astounding.
So the next year we took part, with friends and family, and a tradition was started. She came up with a few house rules. One, if you want something sold, you have to be here with us. We won’t be responsible for your things. Two, if you have unsold stuff, it leaves with you. Three, we give 10% of the house take to a charity (the sale organizers like every house to do that, but I’d like to think we’d do it anyway).
That year, the house take was about $1000. The biggest sale was I believe a little over $2000. Except for rainy days (there have been a few), it’s been quite fun, but a lot of work. Mostly though, it’s given us some very interesting stories. Here are some of the Greatest Hits.
We move in and out of the house all day, getting food, getting something to drink, taking a break from the crowd. We always have a couple cash boxes being manned and several of us are wandering about policing. I had come in the house to grab something, and a couple friends were standing at the kitchen sink looking out the kitchen window, laughing and shaking their heads. I asked what was going on and one of them just pointed out the window. Right in the middle of my back yard, a family of five had laid a blanket out and were having a picnic. Basket and everything.
In our laundry room we have a rug, about 5×8 feet. It’s quite nice. It’s the magic rug. It’s been sold at the sale 3 times, 3 years in a row. Each of those three years, the person who bought it asked if they could pick it up later. We said yes, and followed our standard operating procedure. We took the money, and gave them a slip of paper with our address on it and a note about what they bought. All three times no one came back to claim the rug. Eventually, we just kept it.
I heard yelling in the garage. It was from a buddy of mine who is not prone to raising his voice. He’s a calm, friendly man whom I’d not seen angry in the 25 years I’ve known him. But he was yelling. I ran into the garage to see what was going on. Some jackass saw a drill he wanted to buy and was testing it. By drilling holes in the garage wall. He was made to leave quickly.
We sold a lamp to some dude one year. He paid for it, turned to leave, then reached up and unscrewed the lightbulb from the garage. I asked him what he was doing. “I bought this lamp,” he said, as if that explained everything. “Doesn’t come with a free bulb dude,” I responded.
“Christ,” he responded, because you know, I’m the jerk.
One year, my dad sold this old executive desk. It was huge, and solid wood. It had to weigh hundreds of pounds. These two young guys about college age bought it. We asked if they needed help loading it into something. They said no, turned it upside down, and placed it onto the roof of their Honda Civic. They got in the car and drove away. I didn’t forget the step where they tied it down because there was no step where they tied it down. They each rolled down their window, reached up, grabbed hold and drove off.
One of my buddies, I’ll call him C, is a garage sale genius. A savant really. He loves that shit. Every year he hangs a sign on the lamp post out front, with a price written on it for anyone who just wants to buy everything. He puts together mystery bags and sells them for a dollar. But mostly, C is known around the sale for putting weird, clever, and usually inappropriate signs on the big items in the sale. Once it was a dining table and chairs he’d set up on the sidewalk with a sign reading “Promote Family Harmony”. Another time it was an in-window air conditioner wearing a sign reading “Kept Hoffa cold, will keep you cold too”. But my favorite caused him some discomfort. He’d put a sign saying “Guaranteed to Make You a Better Lover” on a queen sized bed he was selling. Then he had to help load it into the car of the 16 year-old girl that bought it.
One year, some friends were selling a Burley, one of those expensive little trailers you tow behind your bike with your toddler in it. It was the most expensive sale item that year. And then it was gone. Stuff gets stolen quite often and mostly you don’t care. I mean, the purpose of a garage sale is to get rid of your crap, right? But the Burley was different. It was very nice, still under warranty. So when we noticed it was gone, 4 or 5 of us took off looking for it. My friends J and H found a guy pushing a Burley. He was in his mid 50s. J asked him where he got it, the guy waved vaguely in a direction. J said he thought it was his and that the guy stole it. Guy denies it, waves vaguely. J reaches down, pulls the warranty info out of it, with J’s name on it and shows it to the guy. Guy shrugs shoulders and saunters away.
I came in from the garage to get some food. Just as I walked in, the door to our main floor bathroom opened. Out walked a young and very pregnant woman I’d never seen before. She saw me, and her eyes opened very wide. Then she started to cry. Through her hands she sobbed that she just really needed to pee.
Everyone brings their stuff over the Friday night before, then usually they hang out for a beer. One pre-sale Friday evening, quite late, several of us were on the back porch enjoying said beer when my back garage door opens and some random dude waltzes out of my garage onto the deck.
“Hey,” he says. “How much for the weed whacker?”
“Sorry sir,” we reply. “The sale doesn’t start until tomorrow.”
“Yeah,” he says. “How much?”
Guy must have really needed to do some trimming.
On one of the off years, a rare year we weren’t doing the sale, I was cleaning my garage the Wednesday or Thursday before the sale. I was putting some boxes of things in the middle of the garage to take to our storage locker.
I went into the house to make lunch. When I finished I went back out to finish the garage. There was a little old woman standing in my garage. She’d unstacked all the boxes and they were all open. She was rummaging through one of them.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Hello? Can I help you?”
“How much?” she asked, holding up something while staring into the box.
“It’s not for sale ma’am.” I explained. “And if it were, today is Thursday (or Wednesday), and the sale isn’t until Saturday.”
She dropped it on the garage floor and walked away.
Did I mention how much I like it when my friends and family come over and we all hang out?