“Ouch! What did I step on?”
“No wonder you can’t shut the closet door! What is all this stuff?”
This is called pre-yard sale conversation.
In spite of my lectures on the value of money, the eternity of plastic, and the bane of clutter, my son collects plastic figures. Somehow we escaped G.I. Joe but not Masters of the Universe, superheroes, army ants, wrestlers, Ghostbusters, and now Ninja Turtles.
These are billion-dollar enterprises. Whenever my son gets close to completing the collection, new figures are introduced. He couldn’t live without a mailman who dropped his pants and transformed his belly into a toothy monster mouth. I saw him looking at our letter carrier with interest.
Manufacturers understand boys. Every year or two they create a new series to whet the collector’s flagging appetite. The stores are now stocked with Dick Tracy figures and, I’ll bet, Gremlins II are not far off. How about a politician series? Each figure would transform into a useless lump.
The bizarre thing is, these toys all have the same questionable play value. Good guys versus bad guy. They only vary in powers or abilities. Does it matter whether the figure can spit, spin body parts or mutilate?
When crossing my son’s room was like entering the Temple of Doom, I offered half the money from any toys sold. Suddenly that Dusty He-man didn’t seem so precious. It was easy to take the clutter induced, “Let’s have a yard sale.”
Conversations in closets, sheds and the basement went like this:
“Whose is this?” (Demanding)
“When’s the last time you used it?” (Disgusted)
“Not very long ago.” (Muttered)
“It’s filthy and has a spider’s web!” Stronger disgust.
“It’s still good.” (Quick)
“Great. Then someone will buy it.” (Insistent)
“But, I like it!” (Voice pitched higher)
“Then you’ll have fond memories.” (Decisive)
“Whose is this?”
When I finished the slag pile of saleable items, we made signs. My daughter warned us that her teacher said permanent markers cause brain cells to pop.
“Open a window,” I suggested.
“Pop. Pop. Pop,” muttered my son.
“We’d better do these outside,” I sighed. None of us could afford too much popping.
The usual types came to the yard sale.
Happy Bargainers laughed and socialized. Sometimes they offered less but never cheated.
The Lonely Scavengers had tentative voices and hesitated over each item. Once I showed an interest, they talked about their grandchildren (whose parents were probably tripping over plastic figures already).
The Serious Collectors looked for specific items, china or teaspoons, to complete their sets.
The Weasels got as much as they could for as little as they could any way they could. They didn’t smile and seldom conversed. They took off price tags, moved items into lower-priced boxes and offered a fifth of what was asked. One sent her tiny granddaughter, already wearing the jewellery, up to me with only half the money.
Finally, we packed it in. The leftovers were given to charity and the money was counted and divided. My son was ecstatic. He wanted to go to the mall immediately. There was one plastic ninja turtle villain he just had to buy.
Published 1992 in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-news.