Our neighborhood association sponsored a garage sale over the weekend, i.e., individual homes were invited to have their own sales and the association would supply a yard sign and advertising on Craig’s List and in the local newspaper on Friday and Saturday. The weather cooperated with sunshine and mild temperatures in the 70s – 80s range so a large turnout was expected. We weren’t disappointed. The traffic was steady from 8 a.m. until we shut it down 2-ish in the afternoon.
Teresa and I are old hands at garage sales in our fourteen years together since we downsize twice a year as regularly as time falls back and springs forward. She now has a booth in an antique mall in Prosperity, South Carolina so we can sell our “better” items there and the “lesser” items are doomed to the garage sales. Sort of like separating the wheat from the chaff. She and her friend Shelley find all these activities highly entertaining and are just as apt to shop at garage sales as we are to have one which is why our inventory remains fairly constant.
My role in this process is the same every time we have them: I am the money changer. I take in the dollar bills, coins and checks and am responsible for making sure our paying customers are satisfied and happy with their treasures. I am not allowed to negotiate lower prices under any circumstances – my job is to refer those seeking better deals to either Shelley or Teresa. Occasionally I break this rule, but nobody’s perfect.
The garage sales at our house on the corner of Canterbury Road and Manning Avenue attract a diverse group of people. We are at an intersection of two downtown neighborhoods…Forest Hills on Canterbury and the Lyon Street Community on Manning. The demographics of the two neighborhoods are widely divergent in terms of socioeconomic conditions and racial composition, but our garage sale typically is a wonderful melting pot of folks looking for fun and bargains. Saturday’s crowd was no exception.
In the midst of the minglers, a young tall African-American teenager with an Afro and a prominent gold tooth approached Teresa and asked her about a small older model laptop computer we had for sale. He wanted to know if it worked and she said it had belonged to her son who probably bought a newer model at some point and never threw this one away but she couldn’t guarantee it worked. He seemed to be willing to take a chance on it and bought it for $3.
When he brought me the three one-dollar bills, he smiled a really sweet smile and asked me if I could please wrap the laptop in something and give him a bag to put it in. He said he didn’t want the police to see him walking down our street with the little laptop because he was afraid they might think it was stolen and shoot him.
I was speechless but said something inane like I was so sorry and of course I could wrap it in newspaper and put it in a grocery bag – which I did. He took the bag, thanked me and I thanked him for stopping by. The whole conversation took less than a minute, but Teresa overheard it and we talked about it last night.
We had no answers for the complex issues the young man innocently raised yesterday with his purchase in the driveway of our home. Teresa and I have ongoing philosophical discussions on social justice matters in our nation and in our neighborhood and are aware of the growing disparity between wealth and poverty in our country. Just for a moment, though, our consciousness was raised from the philosophical to the personal; and our garage sale was more valuable than we had bargained for.