“You grab first and look later. That’s important.”
“This isn’t a tea party; manners just slow you down.”
It’s way too early on a Saturday morning to understand the game plan for the next few hours. I’m sleepy, cranky, and badly want a donut, but there’s no time to spare.
With our destination in sight, more instructions are quickly barked at me as a wad of used plastic bags is shoved into my hand.
“Put these in your pocket. It’s easier bringing your own bags, and it saves time. Did you bring a lot of dollar bills, like I said? It makes paying simpler.”
With so many tactical maneuvers and instructions, I felt like I was going to parachute out of a plane to help liberate some foreign country.
Instead, I was going to a yard sale in Watsontown — Jumping from a plane sounds so much better. It sounds so manly.
But this wasn’t just any old yard sale, no way. This was like the Oscars of yard sales; it was the annual community-wide yard sales held across Watsontown.
Dozens and dozens of sales filled lawns, garages, and driveways with an unimaginable assortment of treasures like old bowling trophies, faded plastic dishes, fanny packs, Lawrence Welk 8-track tapes, used shoes, and sewing patterns from the 1970s.
In case polyester jumpsuits with bell bottoms make a bold comeback, you’ll be all ready.
Did I mention I’m not a morning person? Mornings should start in the afternoon. Did I also mention I’m not a fan of yard sales?
I have plenty of junk at home, from the cellar to the attic. I don’t need to buy new junk that’s someone’s old junk.
A friend asked if I would go along and help her find 150 old glass Christmas ornaments for a holiday project. A free lunch including beverage and dessert was added as an incentive. Never one to pass up free food, I agreed to go.
Below are several lessons I discovered about buying items from a stranger’s yard.
So there I was, by myself, still sleepy, cranky, and now cold, going to yard sales in search of holiday trim.
It was decided we would each go to different sales to save time and cover more area.
Within a few minutes, I learn my first lesson on yard sales.
Rules and laws don’t apply within two blocks of any yard sale. I nearly got hit by an old lady driving a Toyota on the wrong side of the road so she could holler out the window, “Got a pressure cooker?”
At yards sales, speaking in proper English is not required. An example would be “Got a pressure cooker?”
The bargain hunters never seem to look both ways before crossing the street because they’re too busy scanning the yard sale ahead of them for that elusive Ronco foot massager or Jell-o mold shaped like a snowman.
Ironically, if you see children trying to cross the street, you’ll see them look both ways before stepping off the sidewalk.
Although I’ve been to a few tag sales, I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered.
Packs of women hastily sorting through piles of clothing and tables filled with banged-up printers, clown figurines, and old kitchen gadgets the Pilgrims must have brought with them on the Mayflower.
As several women clawed at the piles of used shirts and shorts, it reminded me how raccoons raid garbage cans for something good. The raccoons dig around for old apples and burnt pizza crust. The bargain hunters searched for kids’ clothing and sweaters.
Yard after yard was overflowing with a hodgepodge of items jammed onto card tables, in boxes, and on blue tarps spread on the grass.
Piles of clothes, pots, and pans, toys, more piles of clothes, books, tired-looking lawn chairs, glass jars, more sewing patterns, a leaf blower, Crock-Pots, mugs — lots of mugs — encyclopedias, dictionaries, and several wedding dresses. But not old Christmas ornaments. I wanted to gather 100. My search thus far was a disaster.
The first three sales were duds unless you love stained Tupperware, John Wayne memorabilia, old textbooks, and those plates with detailed pictures featuring the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, or films such as “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With The Wind.”
The fourth sale yielded a small box with six glass ornaments. Now I only needed 94 more ornaments.
I was starting to get pooped. I wanted my free lunch.
Don’t make jokes about the seller’s taste in home décor with people you don’t know.
I had this exchange with a woman standing next to a table of items.
Me: “Yikes! Look at these curtains! Where does this person do their shopping, the clearance rack at a brothel in Las Vegas?”
Woman: “No, I bought them at T.J. Maxx!”
Me: “Never know what you might find in that store.”
Needless to say, I didn’t waste any time getting far away from that woman and her brothel curtains.
After a few more stops, I had a total of 16 ornaments.
At this point, the number of people looking for bargains was overwhelming. I was pushed and prodded, knocked down, and had both feet stepped on twice.
I visited sale after sale, and after a while, it turned into a blur of toaster ovens, used Bundt cake pans, ceramic Santas and snowmen, hairdryers, and George Foreman Grills that smelled like greasy tacos.
Young mothers with baby strollers are your friends.
In a crowd, the baby stroller becomes a snowplow, clearing a path once filled with boxes, small dogs, and old ladies with canes. Stay close behind one of these snowplow operators, and you’ll have easy access to seeing an up-close look at the junk for sale.
I was tired and had my fill of buying a stranger’s old junk on their front lawn.
As I made it back to the car and my friend with her three shopping bags full of ornaments, I thought of everything I had learned that morning.
Take your own bags, it is easier, have lots of dollar bills, it makes paying faster, and if a friend offers you free food for going with them to yard sales, tell them you suddenly developed an allergy to grass and old Tupperware.