Monday, January 8, 2007

Good Riddance to Old Rubbish

Now that the dust has settled from my wife’s accident, we decided to return our attention to the original problem that resulted in the accident: cleaning out the attic. The goal was to separate out those items that we could sell at a yard sale. I called the Homeowner’s Association to order some Yard Sale signs. It’s against the Homeowner’s Association rules to use homemade Yard Sale signs, and it’s against the Homeowner’s Association rules to attach balloons to your sign.

On Friday night, I picked up the Yard Sale signs on the way home. They’re small, with tasteful green lettering. Very elegant and understated.

After dinner, I climbed up the attic stairway to resume the process of organizing, reviewing and, in certain rare cases, discarding the seemingly endless collection of useless junk we keep in the attic. The garage soon filled with a gigantic mound of bags, boxes and trash, with a narrow path threading through the center, just wide enough to admit a wheelchair.

On Saturday morning, I got up at 6:00 to begin the laborious process of hauling the junk out to the driveway and arranging it in some kind of seductive arrangement, to make our crap look like desirable treasures. Then came the task of sign placement. It seems that I suck at this. It’s my opinion that you place the signs in such a way that they are visible to the existing flow of traffic, with arrows on the signs to inform the driver whether to proceed in the current direction or whether to turn. Apparently this is hogwash, because several people made a point of telling me that they got lost trying to follow my signs. I harbor a sour suspicion that those people routinely get lost in their own homes.

One small corner of the junk we tried to sell

What’s worse is that there seems to be a problem with people placing other signs. Later in the day, I noticed that a realtor had placed an Open House sign directly in front of my sign, so that it could no longer be seen by drivers until they were right on top of it. And in front of the Open House sign, another homeowner had placed a HOMEMADE Yard Sale sign, handwritten on a piece of orange Day-Glo poster board, festooned with balloons.

I didn’t see any Homeowner’s Association vigilantes cruising around, roughing up homeowners who dared to use unapproved Yard Sale signs, but we did see a uniformed sheriff’s deputy eyeballing our stuff from an unmarked car. I suspect he does it every weekend, looking for stolen merchandise.

I’m amused by the drive-by shoppers. A large American car (usually a Buick or an Oldsmobile) will come up the road and slow to a crawl in front of our house. The window will roll down, and an elderly woman will stick her head out and examines our merchandise with beady eyes and a scowl. Inevitably, the window rolls up, and the car drives away.

Collectors come by as well. One guy wanted World War II memorabilia. He didn’t even look at our merchandise; he just got out of his car, hustled up and asked. Then he hustled back to his car and peeled out, on his way to the next yard sale. Another guy asked me if I had any coins. As it turned out, I had a big bag of wheat-back pennies in my bureau drawer that I’ve had for years. I brought them out and he gave me 2 cents apiece for them.

At the end of the day, we had sold about a quarter of our inventory, but nobody bought any of the particularly heavy items, which of course, I had to drag back into the garage.

The next day, we repeated the process, but on Sunday, you get most of your traffic between 11:30 and 1:00, because that’s when people get out of church. We sold a few more things, netting a total of about $100, which my wife pointed out will not even cover the emergency room co-pay.

I made two trips to Goodwill Industries (which I refer to as Good Riddance Industries), ferrying the unsold items. I was met at the donation door by a woman who politely informed me that they would not accept some of our items for various reasons. I said, “OK, if you can’t take them you can’t take them.” The following day was trash day, and I had no qualms about depositing the leftovers at the curb.
“Thanks for being so understanding,” she said. “Some people just scream at me.”

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