Saturday, April 24, 2010

An Invitation to Take All That You Can Carry

Normally having to work on Saturday is a bit of a drag. Sadly, I am much like you and everyone else and I have too few hours in which to do things hopelessly running after all of the things that I have to do. Once upon a time the goal was to have a surplus of time. Thereafter the goal became to have time and things to do in equal supply. Now? I just hope like hell to keep all of the things that I must do within my field of their number continues to grow and to outstrip time. Pete Hamill was right, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short." I, much like you and the rest of the world, run shorter and shorter every day.

Yet this morning the office has an air of sanctuary about it. For on this morning, while I journey north to tithe in the Land of King Dollar, the Missus is preparing for an activity that only she has the patience to undertake. You guessed it: a garage sale.

Of all of the inane rituals of suburbia, in my ranking system the garage sale is ahead of such stalwarts as the block-long placement of Luminaries on Christmas Eve and the walk-across to say hello by one neighbor while a second neighbor is engaged in some activity (cutting grass, changing oil in a vehicle). The garage sale is some sort of half-assed suburban safari as teams of hunters - always approaching at low speed as if afraid to reveal their intentions too soon and thus causing their quarry (usually sets of dishes no one has eaten off of since The Great Society, books no one has read since the date of purchase or 8-tracks no one has listened to since....well since the Feds ordered the destruction of all 8-track players - they did not but had they would you have noticed) to spook.

Once the hunters decide to alight from their vehicles - which often times have a "Hey what sale did you buy that beauty at?" air about them, then the fun really starts. Apparently oblivious to the thought that each has already revealed him or herself as someone who honestly can answer "No" to the question my father asked each of his six children any time he saw any of us doing something he deemed unproductive, "Don't you have anything better that you could be doing right now?" the hunters become hagglers. Having sized up their prey - be it a combination silk/polyester tie so hideous that even in my days as a raging drunk I likely would not have left the house with it around my neck or a decades-old combination hot plate/grilled cheese sandwich maker - they turn their attention to the timeless art of negotiation.

Margaret - for reasons that have never been entirely clear to me - is a wily garage sale negotiator. Actually my wife is an exceptionally skilled negotiator in all settings but it is in this setting - as the Queen of Trash Deemed Not Worthy to Occupy the Corner of the Basement For One More Day - that she truly shines. She can stand in a sea of crap that she has already determined is never coming back into our home - sold or not - and make it sound as if it really is a treasure. She is amazing to watch. Neither age nor language impedes her. She apparently knows enough Spanish to be able to respond to any prospective buyer's suggested purchase price by countering it at a higher amount.

On what is supposed to be a glorious day 'NTSG Margaret and her friend Carolyn shall hold court in our driveway as people who live in areas in which there apparently are no conveniently located dumpsters into which to dive shall stop and hopefully shop. I say hopefully not because I have a hankering for the Extra-Value Meal that we will be no doubt be able to purchase on our share of the proceeds but because the more junk that leaves voluntarily today means there is less junk that will have to be forcibly removed from the premises via dumpster at a later date.

My role in this exercise is already complete. I used the web site of the Star-Ledger ( to place an advertisement for Margaret in our town's Forum as well as in the Forum pages of neighboring towns. I laughed when the other day someone responded to my post by inquiring what was going to be available at the sale. I laughed because I realized that I had no idea and also because....well because the question seemed so silly. It is not Macy's for crying out loud with one of its famous "one day sales" that always has "a preview day" (why not just break down and call it a two-day sale?). It is a garage sale. What is for sale? If you cannot answer that question yourself then you are indeed someone I hope stops by today.

And bring your friends and family. Treasures for discount prices. Here in the land of hope and dreams.


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