The Arab countries have large Saturday bazaars. Mexico has its weekend markets. Here in Salt Lake City we have the Avenues garage sales.
Drive around up there Saturday mornings and you'll see a dozen.If you drove by last Saturday, you saw mine.
To begin with, I don't have much of a sentimental attachment to things. I keep trying to pare my life down to St. Francis proportions. If I get too much stuff around the house, I start feeling cluttered and weighted down - like a magnet drawn through iron filings. So people who shopped "Johnstons" on Saturday got some pretty good stuff.
But, as you might guess, the price was never right.
My first customer was a guy in a 1989 white BMW. He wasn't dressed to the nines. He was dressed to the tens. He bustled up and quickly rummaged through my rubbish. Finally he paused on a cassette tape by Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers.
"How much for this?" he said.
He eyed it a minute. Turned it over. Checked out the slant of the cowboy hats.
"I'll give you 65 cents," he said.
That's how a man gets to own a 1989 BMW. It's also what life is like at Avenues garage sales.
One guy stopped and wanted to buy the sign I'd made. A woman wanted the wrench I'd used to pound the nails in the sign. A Japanese guy tried to buy my cash box, and a reporter from the Deseret News tried to buy one of the kitchen chairs I'd brought outside to set the sign and the wrench on.
"How much for the chair?" she said.
"I'll give you seven," she said.
I contemplated standing up to eat for a week and decided I'd better stick with 10. She passed.
About 11 o'clock a professional garage sale hopper wheeled in.
"I'm looking for something old, in good shape and worth having around," she said.
"I'm available," I said.
She didn't even smile.
"Actually," she said, "what I'd really like is one of those fine old lead crystal vases that reflect the light just so and look good when they're full of carnations."
"Boy," I said, "that really sounds nice. If I have one here I'm afraid you just talked me out of selling it."
She drove away. Smart-alecky remarks, I soon learned, are not the most effective tools in the garage salesman's kit.
In the end I did OK. I sold $5 worth of board games to a friend that I owe money to. So now I owe her less money. A friend who owns a bookstore picked up a few things and gave me credit in his store. My landlord's little girl bought a magazine for a penny.
I did move a few baseball caps, though. As soon as the sun came out they went like hotcakes. Old Garage Sale Proverb: If you want to make money, sit in the sun and sell hats.
My next-door neighbor, Chris Graham, probably summed up the whole adventure best, however. As she was going through my record albums, Mexican mementos, books and flower pots, she said, "I was talking to my dad the other day. He asked me if I'd bought enough stuff at garage sales yet to have my own garage sale."
That's about the way it works.