I must confess to a deep, dark secret: I love yard sales, garage sales, rummage sales, estate sales… I love them all. These erratic commerce events are one of the few ways I “put it in low-gear”and let myself glide, disconnect and unabashedly waste time. Serene and detached, I roam through the ocean of clothes, kitchenware, crafts and discarded Christmas decorations, just to see what I see. There is something delicious about mindlessly yet methodically meandering, stopping periodically to read a book-cover, check a shoe size, or consider the purpose of a newfangled gadget. And, miraculously, every once in a while, a golden treasure “sparkles” in front of my eyes. This morning it was a book I’d heard about but wasn’t sure I wanted to read… but for one dollar, how can you resist?
One might say that the sporadic nature of garage sales is, by
definition, what make them so addictive. As B F Skinner contends, the very intermittent reinforcement of that occasional “pellet” is what keeps me on the prowl. When I behold that sporadic “steal of a deal,” the gush of dopamine in my brain clangs like the bells and whistles of a slot machine jackpot. And so, like the senior-citizen- filled party bus gliding towards the flashing neon signs of Reno, my car seems to automatically veer toward those colorful advertisements for the next big bargain bash — “today only!”
Getting to the actual event is half of the fun, of course. Like a treasure hunt clue, the glossy poster on the side of street lures me into the fray. Surely, I don’t have to get home immediately… What’s a five-minute detour, when it could result in surprise treasure? Each new sign hints of hidden gems to be unearthed, as I float right, then sail to the left… until the multi-colored, be-speckled yard surrounded by parked and hovering cars announces that “x” marks the spot.
Once safely disembarked at this new frontier, I make it a point to start simple conversations with my fellow pilgrims . After all, these are my kinswomen who, like me, come in search of something unknown to even themselves. We compliment one another’s hunting skills, ask our neighbor what on earth this gadget could be, or entice each other to snag that bargain: “That would be perfect for you… you have to get it!” And the proprietress is always to be engaged with. Like ancient marketplaces from around the globe, we are pulled into a historic relationship, with its rituals and norms. Even the novice patron knows to acknowledge the beauty of the wares displayed; haggle, successfully or not, over a valued object; and upon departing, to always thank the owner for hosting us in her garage, on her lawn, or under the pop-up tent erected to keep us cool.
Understanding that the search for the unknown and unknowable elusive treasure somehow answers an unmet need deep in my psyche, my husband smiles paternally when I return home to parade my new-found (and, yes, recently discarded) riches before him. He puts up with the crazy gadgets we never really use, the unread books on my crowded bookshelves, and the sandals, scarves and sunglasses that end up in the Goodwill basket. He knows it’s not about the items as much as it is about thrill of the hunt, the search for the unknown, and the fleeting moments of connection in a stranger’s garage.
Please share your experience with these charming treasure hunts…