Sunday, September 20, 2009

Not a chip of the old (auction) block

I love the idea of yard sales.

I adore that on specific days of the year folks can browse the front yards of their neighbors and purchase things they want or need without paying sales tax or shipping costs, and in doing so save some perfectly serviceable item from an untimely demise in a landfill.

I also love the idea of being able to purge the house of clutter and get a small amount of cash in exchange. It is consumer recycling at its most efficient.

But in practice I have to admit I'd rather have a root canal.

Having strangers pawing over trinkets I've set out on a table, audibly sighing or making crinkled-nose expression as they weigh its value to them, usually outweighs my resolve to drag the inventory of my consumer-driven failings curbside.

For this reason the annual town-wide fall event often comes and goes without me, as I harbor only the tiniest of intentions to take part while making absolutely no effort on the organizational front.

This year, however, the potential stock practically organized itself when we moved to a house with fewer closets.

As an added incentive, Ittybit's inner entrepreneur was awakened over the summer when she saw kids selling lemonade by the roadside. She decided hawking beverages on our lawn would be the perfect accompaniment to a table offering mismatched salt and pepper shakers, a handful of outgrown kids' clothes and perfectly good toys missing only some of their parts.

I didn't lose hope, though. The weather forecast for the appointed weekend predicted rain.

When a gray blanket of looming precipitation covered the sky on the morning of our village's municipality-wide event, I was inwardly performing a thank-you dance to the gods of "Better Luck Next Year."

Loom didn't lead to doom, unfortunately.

At the crack of noon (because the sky just would not cooperate and rain on her parade) I started transporting the minimum amount of stock allowable by the bylaws of Respectable Yard Sale Standards to the driveway.

The neighbors (as good neighbors always are) were way ahead of us. They'd opened their driveway boutique promptly at 9 a.m. and had quickly sold out of their impeccably maintained and carefully tagged inventory. Ittybit kept me apprised of their progress with regular reports on the quarter hour.

When it was her turn to open shop, Ittybit happily chirpped away as I lined the bottom of a cooler with icepacks I'd grabbed from the freezer. Of course I forgot to get ice.


Most of the work I'd done in preparation for the "Lemonriffic Yardsale of Ought 9" was preparing her for the potential of postponement and convincing her to sell cans of LemonadeTM instead cups of homemade.

I know … I know … the looks on the faces of her customers when she whipped out store-bought from behind her plywood storefront instead of scratch, told it all: I'd messed with the natural order of the universe (not to mention its subset of bylaws on tag sales) and disrupted the flow of karma, ecological living and even jeopardized the innocence of childhood, all in the pursuit of cutting corners.

I stammered trying to explain, launching into my usual stream of consciousness brain dump:

"I just couldn't do it. … I couldn't deal with cups and pitchers and the stirring of lemonade by a girl with grubby fingers who is always holding the cat. I couldn't think about replacing the pitcher I saw spill in my mind's eye every fourth pour as I tried to keep track of a toddler and a table of junk destined for Goodwill. I mean … Swine flu? Hello? Is this thing on?

"Maybe when she's older," I lied to myself.

"How much?" the first customer asked Ittybit.

My inner core of guilt, however, interrupted: "oh … fifty cents."

"It's a dollar," my daughter corrected, glaring at me.

"A bargain!" her customer declared, handing over the cash.

She thanked them and told them to "come again … Whenever you WANT," using her newly acquired eye-roll and head bob toward direction of "the help" - her two-year-old brother, who was busy drinking the inventory and yelling at potential customers to "GO AWAY from MY HOUSE," and her dear, old mom, who was trying to give away the store for free.

"Maybe next time I should just do the talking, Mom, OK? You can just give change. You're good at that part."

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