Mark Twain once said, “the more I know about people, the better I like my dog.”
The great American author most likely came up with that quote some time during his worldly adventures, but it could have come just sitting in a fold-up lawn chair on his driveway while people rummaged through his belongings.
To get a thorough transect of human nature, one doesn’t have to travel the world or enroll in a psychology class. In fact, there is no need to even leave the house – just host a garage sale.
The image of the pants flying high into the air is pretty hard to forget. It happened near the end of Saturday’s event and was just one of many bizarre behavioral occurrences.
“Two dollars? You kidding me?” was the lady’s response. “I can go get these new for that!”
Then she threw the pants high above her head and stormed down the driveway. If it wasn’t so disrespectful, it would have been comical. For one, the athletic wear in question cost $100 and the price tag was a mere 2% of the original value (not to mention negotiable since after all it’s a yard sale). Also, not sure what store she’s going to get those pants for less, but sure wish she’d share it with the rest of us.
About an hour earlier, an elderly lady expressed interest in our bird clock. Despite repeatedly stating it wasn’t the best looking thing, she demanded we put in new batteries and set the time accordingly. After remarking the chirping sounds were “annoying,” she thrust forward two $1 bills – less than half the listed price. No thanks for spending 15 minutes on getting it up and running or for throwing in five new batteries. Just a take it or leave it pittance.
Not wanting to deal with it anymore as there were others more worthy of attention, we accepted the money. As she walked out, she grabbed an item off the $1 table and announced loudly: “And you’re throwing this in, just to make it fair!”
Then off she went. Or so we thought.
As a nice woman asked for a signature on a self-published book, she tramped back up. Oddly, it turned out the polite woman was her daughter-in-law.
“Hey, did you know the author of this book is here? It’s this gentleman next to you,” she said cordially to her mother-in-law.
“I don’t care! We’re leaving! Let’s go!” was the retort. The Bird Lady then headed off to her car for the second time.
The behavior of people as they inspected the merchandise offered was intriguing. Several people actually scooped up items into their arms and held on to them as they shopped, only to finally dump all the stuff on the last table and leave. Apparently, the pieces were liked enough to hoard for 10 or 15 minutes, but not to the point of inquiring about price or purchasing any of them.
The antics of one woman took the top award for most entertaining and vexing demeanor of the day (although it’s hard to beat out Bird Lady). After kicking and pounding on a nice piece of luggage – very reminiscent of that old Samsonite commercial with the gorilla – she declared she’d pay no more than $3 for it. Since she had just successfully haggled $20 worth of goods down to only $5 minutes earlier, the $15 piece of luggage was not going without a fight.
And a little fight there was. After firmly countering with $5 as the final price, the piece of luggage received one last test.
“Ah, forget it!” was her quick snort as she gave the little suitcase a swift goodbye kick.
Surprisingly, a few others also left in a huff, although not quite so dramatic. One gentleman simply dropped all the books in his hands and left murmuring angrily to himself when he thought $1 was too much for the four publications. Despite one of them being a nice hard copy of Into Thin Air.
While a flood of mongers is expected at a garage sale – after all it is unwanted, used stuff on display – the cantankerousness was quite eye-opening. Although the grouchy hawkers did cloud an otherwise sunny afternoon, there were a few on the flip-side that definitely warmed things up.
The story one elderly gentleman shared regarding the daily woes he faces thanks to his neighbor was very amusing. Apparently, every morning she walks out and feeds the crows. In his estimate, about 50 crows converge for breakfast at 9 am sharp every day. While not quite out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, the large and very loud squawking birds do create quite the unpleasant scene for him.
Then there was the pleasant lady who came looking for books – “classics” as she put it. The imagery she laid out as she talked of a town long ago full of nothing but orchards as far as the eye could see brought a smile to our faces. As did the true-life story from the young man who purchased a futon for college, which he was now attending – something that had only seemed like a fantasy to him and his parents before they shipped the “trouble-maker” off to a wilderness boot camp school in Utah.
“It was intense,” he said. “It was one of those schools in which they roust you at 5 in the morning, throw you into a truck, drive you out into the wilderness and simply drop you off. They just leave and you have to defend and survive all by yourself.”
All rugged wilderness aside, at times the garage sale seemed a daunting task to survive in itself. The arrogance and petulance of some people made for a baffling day to say the least. Luckily, there were also some fascinating people and stories to combat the overwhelming negativity in human behavior.
In the end, it certainly does makes you appreciate the finer things in life – such as good family and friends. Especially man’s best friend.