Spring: The Season of Weeds, Pollen and Junk

garage sale signIt’s that time of year again. Drivers running stop signs, cutting you off, driving and parking on the wrong side of the road, even parking in the middle of the street. Yes, it’s Garage Sale Season. Forget spring. While some are spending their weekends raking, mulching, planting, tidying up their yards, others are speeding down residential streets in the hopes of scoring the best deal on sometimes junk, before someone else. Saturday mornings can be very dangerous to walk in the ‘burbs.

This is not to be confused with Dumpster Diving Season which begins with the first warm day of spring- like weather when everyone starts putting out all the leftover materials of home improvement projects completed over the winter, furniture that to be replaced, the decluttering of those who will be selling their houses and need to stage their homes — and anything else for which they no longer have any use.

Cars troll the neighborhoods slowly during the week to sort among the trash. The trick is to beat the garbage collectors who are the biggest Dumpster Divers. They call each other about their finds and deliver them to each other‘s homes. This explains the sight of multiple garbage trucks in the neighborhood when there isn’t any collection on that day.  Also why some weeks they are not timely in picking up because they’re busy searching and relocating trash before residents drive by and scoop them up.

I used to live in an area where competition was fierce in neighborhood sales due to antique dealers cutting you off. They came with their trucks and notebooks searching for specific items for their stores and clients. There was one house I stopped at where the homeowner moaned “I’ve been raped.“.  She hadn’t seen the buyer’s truck and sold items at garage sale prices to someone who was going to turn around and sell them for a very tidy profit margin.  She was kicking herself.

I once beat a dealer.  I happened to be on my way home from running errands and stopped on a lark.  I didn’t know the value of the table I’d found, but I liked it and would fit nicely in my dining room.  A dealer there insisted on helping me get it in my car — carefully.  He knew what it was and the value.  Picked up that puppy for five bucks.  Found the manufacturers mark after I got home and researched.  Whoa!  A bona fide antique worth way way more than five bucks.  Did a happy dance — just because I beat a dealer! Besides, I saved a neighbor from kicking themselves because they didn’t know what they were selling so cheaply.  The dealer would have resold the table.  I use it.  It’s gorgeous.

Adult communities really brought out the dealers.  All those old people with old stuff.  Good stuff.  At one stop the owner asked how I was that morning.  “Exhausted.  I feel like I’m stuck in an arcade game on the sixth level of hell and I haven’t scored enough points to get to the next level of hell.”  She laughed.  The designers of the community built it on three concentric circles with only about three through streets from one circle to the next, the other roads being courts and I had forgotten to bring my local street map with me that day. I probably was driving around the same circle three times before finding the one street that would lead me to the next circle.

I always thought that was a cruel design for old people. It’s tough enough getting older — and slower.  Why make it more difficult by designing a maze?  Of course, on the up side, it kept the riffraff out.  Low tech security.

A nearby town had their townwide sale this past weekend.  For unknown reasons it attracts the tourists.  There are cars with out-of-state plates driving and parking with disregard to all the rules of the road.  They’re driving 2-3 hours to buy other peoples’ garbage…Don’t they have yard sales closer to where they live?  Some even rented out box trucks to haul their finds home.  It’s not a town that’s considered high rent.

The nearby towns where I used to live were more upscale and it was always just locals tooling around when there was the townwide sales.  Tourists didn’t descend on the towns for yard sales.  It was always a pleasant day to stop and chat with neighbors — always a great way to admire and inquire about their landscaping plants.  People obeyed the rules of the road.

There was one street which could just barely accommodate two-way traffic.  With parking it made for an obstacle course.  Drivers would wait and give clearance to oncoming cars. No one played chicken.  While waiting to drive further up the street in search of parking that wasn’t blocking a driveway, one owner participating in the sale waved me into his driveway.  So I did.  His wife then told me “Don’t tip him. It’ll only go to his head.”

Those were good times.  Since Sandy blew through, that town hasn’t participated in any townwide sale.  Nearly every house needed to be gutted, their moldy possessions thrown out.  Some never rebuilt.

There was a time and place when the neighborhood sales were fun for both buyers and sellers: the sellers who provided free coffee for buyers (so that you‘ll browse slower), the group of husbands who taped off an area of the yard and sat in their lawn chairs drinking beer watching the ‘festivities’, the people you kept running into around town “You again!”, those who shopped with their dogs (scoring great deals from dog lovers) and offered water for the dogs ’cause yard saleing is thirsty work. “Ooh, I didn’t see you had a dog in the car.  We could have bartered.”  No way.  The dog was worth way more than I spent.

It used to be about buyers looking for items they actually needed or wanted, even if it was to make a gift (like a replacement bowl  for my mom). These days it’s about people looking to find items they can resell for a profit. They’re easily identified by their trucks, out-of-state license plates and general rudeness. Locals are polite and will chat each other up:  “You look like a woman who could use a chainsaw.”  Already have one.  We laughed and then chatted for the next half hour about chainsaws, trees, surviving the winter storms, the community.

Community yard sales are all about community.  And if someone beats me to an item I would have liked, well then, it saved me money and I still scored big.  Especially the tip about sharpening my chainsaw blade.

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