Steve Eaton: Rare purchase on eBay brings deep satisfaction, but solidifies 'dork' label

Published: Friday, March 14 2014 9:51 p.m. MDT

I have sacrificed much to purchase something that only solidifies the perception that I am a dork. It now sits in a place of honor, on a soft cloth, in my den where it is lovely to behold. I don’t dare use it.

Dabbling in eBay is like eating chocolate-chip cookies. You may not be thirsty now, but after you eat a delicious, soft cookie, you suddenly, absolutely have to have a glass of ice cold milk.

If you do any exploring on eBay, you soon realize there is a lot of things for sale that you really need. With me, it’s often stuff I never knew I needed until I discovered it. Not too long ago, for example, I purchased an iCog Dione v.5CB steampunk wood case for my iPhone that I really needed once I saw it. I didn’t make that up.

It was more than a year ago when I came across a one-of-a-kind mahogany briefcase on eBay. It had a hand-carved design on it, and it appeared most people, including very smart people that you and I both know, were ignoring it.

I waited until the last second, and I bought it for just $30 plus shipping. It wasn’t perfect. It had a scuff mark on it, but it was pretty cool so I showed it to a friend I respect who has worked as a carpenter making complicated things like cabinets and things you have to measure carefully as you create them. He showed my briefcase proper respect and said it was indeed unique and nice. Then he said words I wish I had never heard him say.

“Gee, it’s too bad it’s not a rosewood briefcase. Now that would be a find.”

He went on to explain to me all the reasons why rosewood would be very difficult to fashion into a briefcase. Apparently, they never form into briefcases naturally in the wild, so they have to be cut, cured and treated in a very complicated way before they are capable of looking like a briefcase. They are hard to find and very expensive. If you own one, it makes you happy.

I didn’t really understand why rosewood is special — and I still don’t — but suddenly I had to have a rosewood briefcase. There are some offered that purport to be rosewood briefcases on eBay, of course, but the real thing is elusive.

Now when I talk about this briefcase, I know what you are thinking. You are wondering if I am aware of the fact that any briefcase, no matter how expensive, is going to look just plain dorky in the post “Leave It to Beaver” era. Yes, I am aware of this.

And yet, I have just three things I need to do for sure before I die. One of them is to go to Maui for a nice, long vacation, the second is to inherit the Bill Gates fortune and the third is to get a rosewood briefcase.

Now, before you judge me too harshly, let’s do a review of your life. Do you have a new car when a used one would do? Do you ever go on a weekend getaway that you didn’t really have to go on? Have you ever been to a professional sporting event and purchased concession snacks? If so, then you’ve probably outspent me. Everyone has their "rosewood briefcases;" it’s just mine is from the 1950s and makes people laugh.

I could go on with such justifications because even though I financed my purchase by selling other stuff on eBay, I had to use every argument I could think of to convince my wife that to me a rosewood briefcase is truly a need and not a want. It took more than a year. From a marriage standpoint, it was my hardest, most complicated, tricky and outright dangerous eBay buy yet — and that’s saying a lot.

I didn’t think anyone would understand this irrational desire until I met a guy through eBay who was selling his rosewood briefcase. He had cared for it well for years, treating it as a piece of art or expensive furniture. His wife told him that he, too, was a dork for having such an outdated accessory. I think the fact that I appreciated his love of fine wood, coupled with the fact that I was willing to pay him his asking price, won him over.

I was disappointed after I got my rosewood briefcase to discover that it didn’t make all my problems go away as expected. I still love it, however, and spend my spare time practicing, walking from room to room with my $30 briefcase so I can learn to move about without smashing into things. I don’t want to scratch it.

Recently, I showed it to my carpenter friend. He handled it very carefully and said he was very impressed.

“Rosewood is such a beautiful wood, you know,” he said. Then he looked me in the eye. “Do you know that if you had a few thousand dollars you could buy an incredibly beautiful rosewood desk? They are so expensive but so very sweet. I’ve seen a few on eBay.”

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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