On a muggy, August morning in 2008, I had a garage sale...probably the last I will ever attempt. There were a lot of characters who came that day, but there was one particularly feisty old man I remember... fondly.
They started arriving before sunrise as I busied myself in the dim light under the porte cochere. I heard car doors slam and looked up and saw silhouettes moving across the lawn like hopeful zombies. They hung back staring at my disorganized mess (nearly as bad as photo) and I begged them to return later. A construction worker stomped away annoyed. A mother and small child begged to just look a little bit. A creepy man whose mother might have owned the Bates Motel, crossed his arms and said, "I'll wait."
By 7 am I was drenched from the humidity, but ready to open up and get this over with. My son Scott and his friend Suraj raced to throw larger items out on the drive. I cringed at my lack of "display". I had so badly wanted to play
store and have things pretty. Forget it.
The creepy man continued to lurk. He frowned at some costume jewelry and begged me to look in my house for more. I assured him I didn't have time and he pouted and leaned against a brick pillar as if waiting until I did. Other shoppers flew from their cars, grabbing items like it was a moonlight madness sale. They ignored my mother's French Provincial bedroom set and still sealed PBS DVDs. They filled their arms with new boxes of Tide and L'eggs panty hose and buckets of rags. I was proud when I caught a few clever shoppers trying to combine items I had stapled into Ziplock baggies. No time to wonder how many thieves I didn't catch.
Rocker Thief and Lexus Lady
I tried to explain to one woman who spoke little English why I wouldn't go down on the price of the child's antique rocker. I later caught her trying to put it into her car. Hmm? Did she think I said, "No, I won't lower the price, so take it for free." Another woman arrived in a Lexus and spoke with a thick accent. She tried to haggle me down on a 25 cent travel clock. "Yes, I know the battery cover is missing. That's why it's not a dollar!" "Why not a dime?" She demanded. "No that price is firm!" I answered...as if I really cared about the clock or the money. I don't mind a little haggling, but this was an aggressive power play...and she was driving a Lexus!
The Feisty Man Arrives
I was pretty impatient by the time the old man arrived. He took his time creating a large pile of 50-cent items and then he was ready for some haggling. He had the same accent as Lexus Lady, but he came on foot...although he may have owned a Lexus! The first thing Feisty Man did was announce his age. "I am 83 years old. You make me a deal! You give me a very good price because I am an old man." I laughed because I could see his eyes smiling. I told him I was pretty old, too and that's why I needed his good money. We spent many minutes laughing and bartering. I added a little eye rolling and whining to his drama. I was happy to give in finally. I gave the man $20 worth of junk for $5 because he amused me. After I took his money he added. "Now, how will I get this home? I walked over a mile." Then he seemed to have a good idea. "No problem," He said as he scribbled out his address on a piece of paper. I gasped when he asked me to deliver his purchase to his home. "Are you kidding?" I laughed. "You want me to deliver $5. worth of stuff!?" Surely he was joking, but I could see Suraj nearby shaking his head and smiling as if he recognized this kind of converstion. Then the fiesty old man grinned. "You deliver and I will give you some good Indian food."
Just then there was a rumble and I could see storm clouds moving closer. I sighed and told Scott and Suraj to just get in the car and drive our friend home. The old man smiled and followed the boys down the drive, carrying his loot. By the time the boys returned, it was raining and I had pulled in the last of the goods the goods from drive. I took a quick sample of the Indian food. Just enough to give me energy to start packing up for a run to Goodwill.
Thank You Feisty Man. You gave me a chuckle at the end of a frustrating morning. You amused me with your determination. Were you actually charming, or were you just charming in comparison to the others? I hope you didn't walk away laughing that you'd pulled a good one over on me. It felt like a win-win to me. You got your stuff and a ride. I got rid of some stuff...and a funny memory!
To celebrate my birthday in April 2012, I decided to reflect on the past with a different kind of list. I've met a lot of people in my 55 years, but I'm going to stop and remind myself about the strangers I've met. These are people I met by accident, not through friends or work. For some reason, these strangers dropped into my life. Even though we may have only spent a few minutes together, these people have never been forgotten.
Each week, I'll spotlight someone I met in the past, who in some small way, made me stop and think.
Remember 55 Strangers