Encounters at the Yard Sale


Me, standing amid some of our superfluous stuff (check out the crock pot I purchased in a crackpot moment). Notice the big pockets in my cargo pants — for stashing all the loot we were about to rake in.

The Nuts and Bolts — Humanoids vs. Human Beings

At 9:00 a.m., we stared out into the empty street wondering when Koreatown was ever going to wake up. Finally, a little after 9:30, our first visitor, a man in a cowboy hat, pulled up to the curb in his pick-up truck. He climbed out, didn’t even look around and asked if we had a lunch box for sale.


At 9:45, another guy in a cowboy hat materialized and made a beeline for two pairs of Converse sneakers. A minute later, we were in the black — by four whole dollars.

Yard Sales. The weekend activity I love to hate.

Two years ago, in preparation for our move to the city, we’d also staged a yard sale. I used the word “staged,” because, as artists, we tend to arrange our stuff in a non-cluttered and visually pleasing way — which may possibly work against us on some level. I’m not sure.

Anyway, in my yard sale experience, two distinct types of browsers tend to show up:

  1. The Humanoids — unfriendly critters who browse with a 99-cent store mindset and refuse to make eye-contact. They’re on a mission to buy the Taj Mahal for the price of a dog house. Or a find a diamond in a lump of coal. If you’re asking two dollars for something, they’ll bargain you down to one. One dollar? Fifty-cents. Anything over two dollars? They’ll wave their arm in disgust.
  2. Human Beings — they say, “hi” or “good morning.” Some might comment on your stuff, remarking that they like it or that it’s nice. Others strike up conversations.

The Humanoids are fully aware that you’re selling stuff from which you’ve grown detached, and that, by late afternoon, anything unsold will be thrown away or donated to Goodwill.

And they’re right! But the fact that they choose to use this awareness against you is what makes you hate them.

The Humanoids can be quite ballsy (sometimes, they’ll go so far as to ask if they can browse through the inside of your house).

So, to protect yourself and your dignity, you’ve got to set a few boundaries:

  1. This is a yard sale and not the mall. It’s not necessary to “bag” sold items (sometimes, I’ll do it as a courtesy, if the buyer is elderly and sort of adorable or just plain nice).
  2. If The Humanoid says, “Please hold this for me,” ask them to pay for it on the spot. Otherwise, A Human Being will inevitably come along, eye the same item, pay for it immediately and assume possession — which will then enrage The Humanoid — who had been planning to resell that item on eBay for twenty-times the price. At our last yard sale, a fight broke out over a cheesy, two-dollar lamp from the 1970s for that very reason.
  3. The Humanoid must carry their purchased item with them when they leave the premises. Your driveway is not their personal storage cube.
  4. As an addendum to #3, if The Humanoid buys a larger item, he or she had better have arrived at your house in a truck. If not, sell it to someone else — because The Humanoid will take his or her sweet time, sometimes as long as a week, to pick up their purchase — allowing their four-dollar item to depreciate by a boner-inducing half — which was probably their intention all along.
  5. Mentally calculate the least amount of money you’d take for a specific item — and then pad that amount. The Humanoids get off on bargaining you down to almost zero. Take it from me, feeling like a chump is so depressing!
  6. Swallow your pride and “let go” of any emotional attachment you still might harbor toward your belongings. The love affair with your stuff must be over — only a masochist would sell coveted personal property to The Humanoids for a couple of dollars. Don’t cling! The Humanoids always want something-for-nothing, which only increases your pain. Don’t give them the satisfaction!

Human Beings — The Upside

Of course, Human Beings do show up and they are what constitute the perks. Our first Human Being was a transplant from New York, a friendly guy with whom we immediately bonded. He bought a lot of cds and dvds. We chatted about music, life in L.A. vs. life in N.Y.

He said that when he moved to L.A. twenty-eight years earlier, it was as if he had slowed down and “pressed the pause button.” He still feels like he’s “on pause,” he said, but that the day will come when he’ll hit the “forward button.” That’s when he will move back east, because, “at heart, he will always feel like a New Yorker.”

I related to just about everything he said — but the “twenty-eight years” part really frightened me.

I can’t imagine another fifteen years of L.A. By then, they’d have to sweep up my desiccated remains and dump them in the Mojave.

But I recovered when a gracious young woman who had stopped by during her morning walk returned, as promised. She then bought three pieces of furniture and threw me some extra dollars — just because she thought we’d set the prices too low.

Around 2:00 p.m., we were ready to pack it in. The sun had already moved to the front of the house and we were starting to bake. But, just then, the jingling bells of the ice cream man caught our attention. Our first personal encounter with a Paletero, a Mexican ice cream vendor, was about to occur. If you’ve never seen one, check out this sweet video:

This particular paleteria was manned by two Mexican guys, one older than the other. The older guy browsed the yard sale for a moment, taking a fancy to a pair of size-ten men’s boots we were selling. As they bantered back in forth in Spanish, the older one, who wasn’t very tall, sat down in the driveway to try them on. They didn’t fit. They were much too big.

His younger compañero, in a fit of hysterical laughter, kept urging him to take them, anyway, only because of how much he liked them. “Sólo dos dollares!” he said. Only two dollars! But the older guy kept saying, “Son my grandes! Son muy grandes!”

By this time, I had joined in on their conversation and we were all joking and laughing. In Los Angeles, the only time I ever get to use my ability to speak Spanish, surprisingly, is at yard sales. When the younger guy asked me how I’d learned to speak Spanish so well, I told him “many years of school.”

Then he asked if we wanted to buy some ice cream.

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