Monday, July 30, 2012

Seller's Market

As I've mentioned before, I used to be a huge record collector. Years of accumulating and living in a small apartment with a wife whose fabric and bead collection seemed to multiply weekly made me think more and more about selling stuff off. Actually, as much as I liked finding and buying, I also liked letting stuff go, culling my collection of stuff I hadn't listened to in a while, releasing my treats into the world in hopes that my efforts would result in treats coming back to me.

Ebay was helpful with this - I sold records for awhile when I was getting rid of my vinyl and would make at least $100 each time I posted stuff. Through the luck of good timing, I was occasionally able to 'buy low and sell high,' unloading Sub Pop singles I bought for 3 or 4 bucks in college for $30 or so. Just like the housing bubble, those days are long gone. Also like the housing bubble, I have a nagging suspicion that I had something to do with causing it.

I felt I earned whatever money I got, after dealing with nit-picky questions, annoying cheapskates, and buyers who would flake out after winning, as well as standing in line at the post office and buying mailers and whatnot. And inevitably, even though it was posted over and over that I only shipped to North America, at least once each auction I'd get an email from the high bidder saying "How much to be shipping to Turkey."

Sure, I could stick to my guns, but money was money, and if selling to Balki could clear some stuff out of my house and make me some cabbage, then I was shipping to Turkey. Plus, I felt justified gouging him a bit for shipping to compensate for my pain and suffering.

As annoying as ebay buyers could be, however, they were nowhere near as aggravating, confusing and downright crazy as yard sale people, if only for the fact that yard sale people were actually yammering ridiculous questions at you in 3 dimensions, and you couldn't turn the computer off to make them disappear.

My ex-wife and I had a couple yard sales when we lived in Riverside. I think our apartment was near the center of prime yard sale happy hunting grounds or something, because we never did half as well once we moved to Murray Hill, where you'd think there would be more poor people looking to sift through our refuse.

We never put an ad in the paper, we'd just put up signs, which is where potential customers would first start harassing me. As I'd try to tape a sign to a cement post with a roll of wrapping tape, looking like Pee Wee taping up the reward flyer for his bike, people would yell questions at me from their cars. "Where is that?" What time do you open?" "What are you gonna have there?" I could understand their excitement, though. I mean, just look at me struggling with this sign. Why, anyone could see from my clothing and demeanor I was a man of wealth and taste. What valuables would I have waiting the next day? Used gold bars? Cursed antiques? Rare spices from the Orient?

Once crazy yard sale people see a sign and a starting time, they memorize that stuff, driving by an hour early, hoping we were setting up the gold dubloons extra early just for them. Actually, at that point, we were trying to figure out how to set up the card table and still putting price tags on everything. They'd still circle around in their old Cadillacs jammed full of treasures, just watching us. It was like being in a shark tank at feeding time.

If you want to see the strangest people in your community without visiting your local nut house or the public library, just set up a table and start selling your used stuff. Here's a conversation I had with a guy:

"You got any bookshelves for sale?"

"Nope. Had some earlier, though."

"Oh yeah? How tall were they?"

"I dunno...about 6 feet, I guess."

"How many shelves?"

"Like, five, I think."

"Were they wood or metal?"

"They were wood. But they're gone. Somebody bought them hours ago. Sorry."

"Hmmm...was it a dark wood or a light wood?"

Later that afternoon I had a guy haggle with me over a 26" TV/VCR I was selling for fifteen bucks. He wouldn't take my word that it worked, so I had to lug it upstairs and plug it in to demonstrate.

The whole time I'm thinking, "It's a TV for fifteen bucks. If it doesn't work, just turn it into a fishtank or drop it off a building or pretend you're Elvis and shoot the screen out. Hell, that's worth fifteen bucks in entertainment right there."

But I didn't say anything and let him take it away for ten bucks, since it kept me from lugging it back upstairs.

I don't have as much stuff to sell anymore, although if someone from like Africa or Haiti were to look at my treasures I'm sure they'd have a different opinion. Every once in a while I think about getting rid of some of it, either online or in person, but then my laziness and hermit-ish-ness kicks in, and I kick that thought out of my mind and drive it down to the Goodwill. Actually, I found that the Vietnam Vets will take the stuff right off your porch, and you don't have to even have to talk to another human being! What a wonderful time to be a lazy hermit with too much stuff!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Lend Me Your Ears

I was in the doctor's office about to get waterboarded. Every once in a while a bunch of wax builds up in my ears, so they squirt some water in them to flush it out. It sucks. I can feel them firehosing this water next to my brain and it takes about three hours. Well, three hours in horror time, actual time is about 5 minutes or so.

 The doctor (who is either my age or a few years younger) checks out my ears,  leaves and sends in the assistant who starts setting up the spray bottle and tarps and whatnot.

I'm sort of pacing around the room while she gets ready.

"You OK?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah...It's just that...well, the only thing that freaks me out more than going to the doctor is getting stuff stuck in my ears."

"Oh." Her face sort of fell. "Yeah, I remember you."

However, I didn't pass out, even though she used a bottle and a half in just one ear while I squirmed and gave up military secrets I didn't even know I knew.  Plus, with all that stuff out of my ears, I can hear crimes being committed three miles away.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Mall Has It All

I have about a 20 minute window for shopping. Too much longer than that and I get sort of dizzy and bored and holy crap, why didn't I just order pants on the internet like a normal person instead of driving all the way out here on my day off.

This, of course, does not apply to the countless hours of my life I wasted digging through record and DVD stores, looking for that elusive catch that would make me a more well-rounded individual and, more importantly, the envy of my fellow nerds.

I didn't used to be this way. In fact, when I was in middle school I loved going to the mall. Loved it. In fact, the summer before high school a friend and I would spend almost all day there, even though we didn't have any money. I'd give the guy's name, but I haven't heard from him in years, and I don't want to sell him out in case he's running for office or something, you know? Me, I've got no prospects, so I don't mind implicating myself.

We would walk or ride our bikes there, which from what I remember was quite a trek. We almost always had less than five bucks between us, so we'd have to plot the best way to stretch it to last all day.

That was hard because we were addicted to video games. We'd usually start out in the arcade, which would take a couple bucks out of the pot right from the start, but what were we gonna do, not play Gauntlet?

We could usually go to a couple of the stores in the mall with single games and say the machine took our quarters and get a refund. The managers didn't really believe us, but we'd usually be able to get 50 cents out of that which was enough to keep the video game shakes from returning. If that didn't work, or we felt we had gone to that well a little too much, we could always play the video game systems in Sears, but that was a desperation move, sort of like alcoholics drinking vanilla extract.

Far away from Bradenton, in a wonderful land called California, the Summer Olympics were taking place. The commie countries had boycotted the games, giving America a huge advantage. Why did this matter to two kids in Florida? Well, McDonalds had a scratch off game where you'd win free food whenever America won an event. We'd buy a drink or small fries and almost always end up winning something else - thanks Carl Lewis! When people talk about missing the Cold War, I know exactly how they feel.

After our meal, it was time to hit the movies. We would hang around the outside of the theater until we found two ticket stubs on the ground, which was fairly easy, as nobody cared about littering back in those unenlightened days. We'd show them to the guy at the front, telling him we left to play video games if he ever asked, which hardly ever happened.

Once we got inside, it was relatively easy work to get into whatever R rated movie promised gore or nudity.

And the mid '80s were a glorious time for teen boys at the movies - Porky's rip offs, slasher movies, barbarian movies - you pretty much couldn't lose.

Like all good things, our Celebrated Summer at the mall had to end. One day the theater changed ticket colors,  so when we walked through, the ticket taker called the manager.

We were told to sit in a chair and wait for the manager. Naturally, as soon as ticket guy's back was turned we split up and took off running. I thought I had it made until I felt a tightness around my neck. Ticket guy had some good hustle and caught up to me, grabbing me by the back of my collar and throwing me to the floor.

I was hustled off to the security office and my parents were called. I was banned from the mall for a year. I'd like to think I didn't rat out my friend, but I don't really remember, so who knows. I probably told my parents it was all his idea.

I'd also like to think that this scare taught me that you can't get something for nothing, and scamming free food and movies was no way for a man to live, but that wasn't true at all.  In fact, in just another three or four years, my mom would get a call from the cops telling her that I had been arrested for stealing a pizza with another friend. But that's a story for another time.

Man, was I a shitty kid.