Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Things You Find At a Yard Sale

I had a yard sale on Saturday. It wasn't a great yard sale. It was largely a bunch of knick knacks and clothes I couldn't fit into anymore along with some clothes and house hold items left over from my uncle's apartment that no one in the family wanted. Aside from that I had four large pieces of furniture I was trying to sell. A barely used futon couch, a love seat (or sofa depending on your region of the country), a winged back chair and a king size, four poster bed of solid oak with a crest on the footboard and headboard.

The bed had belonged to my grandparents. The crest was Spanish (Castellan I believe). No, my grandparents weren't Spanish. They bought the bed at one of those fly by night import stores. No idea if it's "authentic" anything, but it fit into the house they owned 30 years ago. Now, both my granparents are dead, nobody has a place for it and it's been sitting in my basement for two years so I thought I'd sell it.

I set it out front. It was definitely a crowd drawer. I had about 20 people stop and ask after the bed alone. However, I never sold it. Why? Because people want something for nothing. It has ever been so and ever will, but I didn't need to get rid of the bed so bad that I was willing to sell it so cheap. Nor was I willing to separate the parts. Both things I had asked of me several times.

I wanted $200.00 for the bed. I priced a similar bed (sans crests) and it was nearly $2800.00 so I did not think my price was outlandish. Plus, I kept thinking, this is solid oak, not some cheap press board set up I would have sold for $20.00 (which somebody offered me --piffle). The "posters" or columns are six inches in diameter not those cheesy little spindle things that everybody else gets when they buy the latest "four poster" bed. Not that it mattered.

I had the $20.00 offer for "the frame" which, I kept trying to explain to the customer could not be sold separately because it is actually oak slats that slide into the head board and foot board, not a cheap metal frame that you can pick up at any second hand store (if you really were hard up for it). I pointed down to these slats lying next to the headboard at least twice during the discussion. He finally got it, but then promptly offered me the $20 for the whole thing. Call me sentimental or an Ebenezer, but I'd toss out my queen size bed and set up the king, even with the extreme loss of my already limited walking space, before I'd do something crazy like that.

Then somebody offered my $25.00 for the box springs (plural because they are two twin size box springs that make up the "king"). Nope, all together. That's part of getting the "whole bed" cheap. I'm thinking that most of these folks were just hoping for a steal and had no idea what certain pieces of furniture would be worth.

One gentleman stopped about the bed and then, upon learning the price, turned to go, saw my mom's car in the drive way and wanted to buy it instead.

Then another saw my riding lawn mower, pushed way back in the garage so no one got the idea that it was for sale, and asked if I'd take $150 for it. Please. I have 3/4 acre land that is highly terraced front and back. My push lawn mower is not self propelled. The riding lawn mower was not for sale. He did buy my hand held CB for five but not before trying to get me to sale my ergonomically correct rake (also back by the lawn mower and not for sale). Besides, the rake had, admittedly limited, sentimental value. The boyfriend I had when I bought the house (long story, or not, but I'll tell it someday), had given it to me along with some other lawn and tree grooming tools. The gift that keeps on giving. Long after they're gone.

The bed was good for business though. Plenty of people stopped to look at it and walked away with little knick knacks, books (even magazines - my "tattoo" magazines were extremely popular even if they were old - go figure), shirts, flower pots (I kill cactus so planting paraphernalia not related to the over all yard are not hot items in my house), a few "kids toys" my sister in law sent over to get rid know, little things for a quarter to a buck. By noon I had enough to buy my mom and me a decent lunch.

What was really interesting were the people that stopped by.

I met a nice young Iraqi couple. They had two cute little children with them. The mom wore a simple colored hijab with a long sleeved shirt and a long vest like jumper over a pair of slacks. How did I know they were from Iraq? Aside from the hijab (which is common in at least 3/4 of the Middle East) which was colored (a slightly "progressive" Middle East country) and the fact that they were speaking Arabic not Urdu or Farsi or Pashtun which ruled out most of Iran and Afghanistan (if you want to know how I know when I can't speak a word of it myself and actually have no immediate Arabic speaking friends, I tune into radio Sawah once in awhile to listen to music and they broadcast the news in Arabic, plus, reading Iraqi, Bahraini, Kuwaiti and Saudi blogs, even an idiot can phonetically sound out a few essential words and phrases in Arabic). The man said to his wife and then his little girl at another point "Y'allah" (sp? sounds like Yaw-la) "come here" (also, "let's go", "you go" and a few other meanings we English speakers need a billion words and phrases to say). Still, that didn't say where they're from. They could have been Jordanian, Syrian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, etc, etc, etc.

I learned they were from Iraq because, in my brash American way, I asked. Politely, of course, as I was admiring their baby. And, no, before you ask, I did not ask them their political views or views about the war or Saddam or anything else. I was trying to sell them a few more flower pots. My grandma told me you should never talk about politics or religion at the dinner table. I figure it is sound advice for a yard sale, too.

A little later, a van pulls up and out pops another young couple from Sudan and their three children. How did I know? Well, the husband was wearing a t-shirt that read "Free Sudan" and they were speaking an African language (not Arabized or German or French or any other romance or anglicized language - yes, I can tell the difference, can't you?). So, I must assume that they were Sudanese.

Then a lovely lady, also wearing a hijab, but her dress was, interestingling, a knit material that had a blue camouflage print. Her Hijab was a guazy blue thing with a few sequins sown ever few inches on the hijab. She was West Indian. Possibly Jamaican, St Thomas, Barbados or something like that. An Island that still retained it's softened, British accent over the lilting tongue of the native population.

Of course, I had your garden variety Americans and recent immigrants from Asia or Latin America show up, but these folks I noticed in particular. I was genuinely interested in their stories. But, alas, it was a yard sale, not a social tea, thus, while I had brief conversations about the weather, the items for sale, their children and on one brief occasion, a foray into direct nosiness.

It was quite an interesting day.

At the same time of the yard sale, I had lulls of no visitors or bargain buyers so I read two books. One was a only about 200 pages. Christopher Hitchens: letters to a young contrarian. It was published in July 2001, before 9/11 and before the Iraq war so it is not about that subject. However, I found the book very interesting. I did disagree with him once in awhile, but I found that I was holding to his general point of the book: being a free thinking, individual who doesn't follow the masses does not mean that you follow either the left or the right. He intimates, long before his current stance as a pro war Trotskyite, that the problem with the left was that they thought if they followed the dogma of the left that made them free thinking, non-sheep like people. Where as, following any dogma made you a lap dog and not a free thinker. He warns his young contrarian he is mentoring not to fall into that trap.

All in all, I recommend the book as an amusing read with a few points of good advice for anyone regarding "thinking" and that is the point of his book. Learn to think.

The second book was interesting as well: Generation Kill by Evan Wright.

I'll tell you what I thought about it later. In the meantime, I have two other books in the queue for this week, Karl Zinsmiester's, Dawn Over Baghdad and Matthew MacAllester, Blinded by the Sunlight. This last book is the story of Saddam's prisons written by the author who was an unfortunate inmate there during the lead up to the war when certain reporters were accused of being spies.


Paul said...

A mini U.N. in your yard. If you had gotten an Israeli, perhaps you, as Secretary General, may have made some progress.
I find it interesting that people enjoy, or tolerate, sitting outside all day with their surplus. Your method would work for me, until the customer interupted my reading.
Still, glad you enjoyed yourself but am sorry the bed didn't sell.
Thanks for the book tips.

April said...

I think I would rather jump from a tall building than have my own yard sale. I'm not sure how much I would have to make for it to be worth it to me.

My grandmother, even as she neared her last days (perhaps especially as she neared her last days!) was shameless. Oooohhh....she would say. Will you take a quarter for these (say, four sheet sets and some vintage costume jewelry)? I'm not well, you know...

As for reading, I've put myself on the reserve list for Kayla Williams' "Love My Rifle More Than You." I love memoirs, and have been digging warriors' memoirs lately.

riceburner147 said...

Kat: you need to take the Headboard to a decent antique dealer and get an idea of its worth. If they are reputable they will tell you if its valuable or not, and if you ask, a dealer that would buy it.