Open Letter to the Lady who Tried to Haggle with me at my Garage Sale

Lady – what’s your problem?

You were the first one there when the grinding gears slowly opened the maw of my garage, waking both neighbors in the process. You clearly know the drill.

Maybe you saw my unconventional neighborhood signs? Most people are content with some neon poster board, or the milquetoast GARAGE SALE sign from Home Depot. Not me. I rented FOUR suits of armor and hung a homemade “Garage Blowout” message made of chain mail sign from each. For my own reference, you could’ve at LEAST been so kind to tell me which one led you here – was it medieval, or renaissance? The one with the surcoat?

My point: you knew this was no ordinary inventory on display.

In another time, my spread could have been featured in an issue of GQ. “Tucked away in a non-HOA condo development just outside of the more sought after neighborhoods lies this quaint 2 bed/1 bath duplex. Though humble from curbside, it’s interior reveals a collection that rivals the Smithsonian,” the article would say. Then there would be seven consecutive pictures of me holding pineapples (summer issue).

“Eclectic” doesn’t begin to do my items justice. Every aspect of my garage sale was orchestrated like a symphony, and a woman of your experience would have picked up on that immediately. This wasn’t a suburban picnic from some family of kids with outgrown toys, Power Wheels and strollers parked across the lawn like a NASCAR beach event while old nightgowns and stained Faded Glory jackets gently jive in the wind like an underfunded ghost pageant.

By comparison, mine was a tour of the Louvre (haven’t been yet, heard great things).

I put the good stuff right up front, and you took the bait. You grabbed the Sergeant Pepper’s salt & pepper shakers (I laugh every time), the expandable step ladder and the french press (I’ll get a better one when I visit the Louvre). Though we never looked at each other, we knew the game was afoot.

Rounding the corner, you stopped to consider the tupperware set, but passed. I can only assume you prefer matching sets and I respect your decision.

You thumbed through the vinyl, inspected a single record, and moved on. Maybe you don’t have a record player. I don’t either. I bought all 5 of those on an impulse once trying to impress a girl. She worked at a record store. Hindsight, I think she was just happy to make a sale.

Nearing the presumed checkout area, you saw it. I saw you see it. Who could HELP but to see it? If I had been closer, I suspect I would have heard the sound – or rather the absence of sound – when your breath was taken away.

You thought you’d taken it all in, thought you’d sized me up as a proprietor. “Clearly a man of distinct taste and charisma,” you thought. “The kind of man just as comfortable in a dojo as he is in a Ron Jon Surf Outlet.”

But then this one item put you back on your heels. “Internationaltraveler,” your thoughts coalesce. For before you, separated an ample distance away from the tree shears and weed eater was a 6 foot, high-gloss authentic Australian rain stick.

Was time suspended? In your mind’s eye, did you find yourself deep in the interior of the outback, clouds swirling about you as you wield this mystical scepter? Were you one of the wandjina, with the power of both flood and drought in your hands? Was it you who danced in your vision, or the rain, or both?

Or not.

I had the same feeling when I purchased it at the airport in Sydney. In a moment of clarity, money is no object (even more so when the exchange rate is unclear). When you find yourself tear-soaked in an international terminal, you put yourself together and you purchase the item of your desire. You also get to board first, apparently, because the crew wants to keep on eye on you. Win-win.

You reached for the rain stick and, for a moment, I felt as if all of mankind were one, connected by the same raw desires.

As you made your way toward the cash box, you probably wondered “why would he sell such an artifact?” Indeed, in years past, wars might have been waged for such an enchanted item. But I’ve been fighting a war of my own (MasterCard).

The next five words stunned me.

“How much for the stick?”

The stick. The STICK? You think you can fool me into forgetting what I had? This wasn’t some lacquered up walking stick designed to impress a bunch of LARPers. This “stick” contained the sounds of a pregnant sky, and we both knew it. Plus, the price was clearly marked, just like the other items. $40. I paid nearly 3X that (I think). No OBO. You don’t haggle when you can have the harmony of the heavens in your hands.

“It’s marked there,” I said, chilly.

You glanced down. I noticed what looked like a small mustard stain near the collar of your shirt. What could you have possibly already eaten this early that would require mustard? I began to feel sick.

“I’ll give you $20,” you said, with uncommitted eye contact.

I am not an angry man. My parents will tell you as much. Most weekends, when I found myself showing off the rain stick to friends or the mirror, I didn’t picture myself a lord of the storm, unleashing a tide of destruction on my enemies as lightning cascaded across the 8 foot ceilings of my condo. Rather, I was the nurturer of the lands, bringing refreshment to the desert.

In that moment, though, my rage felt like trying to stuff the universe into a throw pillow. Like putting a massive ship into a bottle (also for sale, $8).

Summoning the type of will that my parents keep encouraging me to use to “find a real job,” I shot back.

“The price … is not … negotiable.”

And why should it be. In this life that is but a vapor, I’m told by my aunt’s Facebook posts that life is measured by the moments that take our breath away. Years ago in that airport, it was my breath that was literally taken away as I found the object of my desire. The fact that you could stand here with your mustard shirt on two strong legs revealed only that you didn’t know what you had.

And you never would.

You handed me the stick, paid for the remaining items (thanks for all the freaking dimes), and went on your way.

And I in turn set the item in the back of the garage, removing the price sticker as I placed it next to my old Dreamcast. In a life full of so many common objects, maybe some items just shouldn’t be resold.

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