GARAGE SALE
So that you'll never be tempted to participate in a "neighborhood garage sale," allow me to explain how they go:

Friday night you're up until two in the morning marking prices on all the junk you're hoping people will buy. At this point you're almost psychotically optimistic, calculating the total value of your "inventory" at slightly over twenty-two thousand dollars. In particular, you're hoping to rid yourself of a hideous lamp constructed from a stars-and-stripes motorcycle helmet like the one Peter Fonda wore in Easy Rider, and you give it a bargain price of $22. Last year's tag is still clinging to the chin strap; it reads $18.

The garage sale is scheduled to begin at 9:00am. At 6:30 a woman awakens you by pounding on your door. "I like to get an early start," she dimples. When you open the garage door to let her in, there are seven cars in your driveway.

By 11:30 all you've sold is a T-shirt for ten cents. Worse, your daughter borrowed twenty bucks so she could go shopping at the neighbors' garage sales. You mark the motorcycle helmet lamp down to $18.

At noon you leave the operation in your son's hands and go inside to get some lunch. A stranger is in your bathroom, trying on clothes. Another wants to know if you have "any more cake."

When you return to the garage, you find your son ecstatic because he has sold a whole set of garden tools-shovel, axe, rake, spade--for fifty cents each. You sadly advise him that they weren't for sale in the first place. "I wondered why there were no price tags," he replies.

You look around. "Where's my new bicycle?" you gasp, horrified. Your son tells you one of the neighbor kids is out taking it for a "test drive."

A little later one of your neighbors shows up to see how you're doing. "Hey, this Easy Rider lamp is a hoot!" he chuckles. "How much?"

"Since you're a friend, twenty-five bucks," you gush.

"The tag says eighteen," he points out.

"Okay, eighteen."

"I'll give you seventy-five cents."

"Sold!"

It's the high point of the day. Around one there's another rush: Word has gotten out you're selling garden tools for half a buck each. "I'll give you a dollar for your lawnmower," one shopper suggests. You ask him to leave. A woman picking through the books you're selling wants to know if you have anything by Carl Hiassen. When you tell her no, she asks if she can "look inside." You ask her to leave. When you step into the house a few minutes later, your son is showing your ties to the man who ate all your cake. "Why don't you check out some of the other sales," you suggest to both of them.

Your neighbor calls. "My wife says I can't keep this lamp," he reports. "I'll have to bring it back."

"All sales are final," you snap.

"Come on, Bruce," he whines. "You can keep the money."

"If you set foot in my driveway, I'll call the police," you warn.

You observe a young man slinking over to the collection of National Geographics you've priced at a dime apiece. He looks a little like a thief, and you wonder how fast he's going to be able to run with eighty pounds of magazines under each arm. "This is my first garage sale, and I'm a little nervous," he informs you.

"That's okay."

"I heard on the radio about this guy who bought what looked like a worthless rock collection, and in it was a sapphire worth two million dollars," he remarks.

"Oh?" you say politely.

"You got anything like that?"

At 6:00pm the sale is over. It's difficult to calculate your take for the day because at some point you apparently sold the cash box. The thought of re-stocking all your stuff back inside the house is too fatiguing, and you begin transferring it directly to the trash can. Your son bursts in, effusive over some of the great stuff he's bought. "Look Dad, only three bucks! Now we have a matched set!" he trumpets, flourishing his prize.

It is, of course, the motorcycle helmet lamp.



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