Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Early Bird Gets To Frog.

Y'all, I am a day person and all that, but this business of garage sales, of getting up at 4:30am so you can be fully caffeinated and have all your battered paperback novels, old clothes and other craptastic junk laid out in time for the early birds who descend upon your merchandise at Moslem dawn (the moment a black thread can be distinguished from a white one, when the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer) ...

...well, it's for the birds. The early birds.

Although I suspect that the American Orthodox Bargainhunter interpretation of Garage Sale Dawn is determined, not by the visibility of contrasting threads, but by that point in the process of daybreak at which the garage sale merchandise can be discerned from the surrounding shadows. That exact moment is the time when, according to the Ancient and Secret Doctrine of Garage Sales, you are officially open for business.

The time you want your own garage sale to be open -- say, eight o'clock or some other halfway civilized hour -- is irrelevant. Higher forces are at work here, and if your merchandise is not on display and ready to be purchased at first light, the faithful hordes will pound on your door until you accommodate them on their crusade.

So it behooves you to be up at half-past-crazy, fortified with copious amounts of caffeine.

Which is what I did. Coffee in hand, I ventured outside to arrange my offerings, early enough for disgruntled bluejays to throw things at me for waking them up.

If you put out your junk, they will come.

And they did.

Items that people were actually looking for, which, of course, I did not have:

  • Antique corkscrews
  • Old bottle openers, either hand-held models with advertising printed on the handle, or the wall-mounted kind
  • Beer steins

  • Retro ashtrays. So far, we seem to have a theme going, but then it changes to ...

  • Salt and pepper shakers

  • Antique shoehorns (people collect shoehorns?)

  • Tinware

  • Commemorative plates

  • Beanie babies (people are still into that?)

  • Coca-cola merchandise

  • Retro clothes (sought not by early birds, but by college students, those enviable creatures who rolled out of bed considerably later in the morning)

Note to knitters: Those of you who do not have a stash-tolerant housemate might want to arm yourself with the above information. And here is why:

After the ashtrays-and-Coca-Cola guy went away, I considered that if he collects ashtrays and Coke merchandise with enough enthusiasm to drive around pawing through other people's junk at six o'clock in the morning, then it is entirely probable that he needs at least as many cubic feet of storage space as the average knitter devotes to yarn stash, except ...

The Coca-Cola signs and ashtrays are not stored. They are, no doubt, all over the house. On display. Everywhere. This means that there are entire houses in my city -- and yours, too -- with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ashtrays, shoehorns, beer steins, commemorative plates and pressed-tin Coca-Cola signs mounted on every wall and laid out on every level surface.

So stand firm, look your yarn-intolerant housemate straight in the eye and say, "It is yarn. At least it is not Coca-Cola signs. Or shoehorns."

Items not for sale, each of which I could have sold ten times over:

  • A can of WD-40, which I had used to lubricate the rowing machine that was frozen into the upstroke from disuse (although it did make one dandy hanger for dirty clothes) ...

  • The two folding tables displaying books and oddments

  • The write-on, wipe-off whiteboard easel I'd written prices on

  • The comfy folding chair I was sitting in, to which I even had the foresight to tape an index card marked NOT FOR SALE with a bold red marker ...

Item most definitely not for sale, which I could have sold once:

  • The tote bag containing a gansey-in-progress, which is very nearly done

The actual events leading up to this last offer went as follows:

I had a little flurry of customers all at once, so I tucked my knitting bag under my chair when I got up to answer a question about an item. The moment I was finished with that individual, a tall and breathless woman thrust my own knitting bag under my nose and wagged it at me.

"How much?"

Offering an appropriately pleasant look, I said, "Oh, that's not for sale. That's my knitting bag. I put it under my chair ... the one marked NOT FOR SALE."

I reached for the bag. She hesitated.

"Are you sure you don't want to sell it? My sister always wants yarn."

"No, I'm sure. It's not for sale. I'm working on a sweater ... see?" I grabbed one handle of the bag and tugged a corner of the garment into view. See? Sweater! Evidence that I am actually using this item! The needles are still warm!

"I'll give you two dollars for all of it. I can unravel it. She doesn't mind unraveled yarn. She makes rugs."

"No." I clutched the bag, politely but firmly. This was quite a situation.

First, this woman did not seem to understand that my own personal knitting was not for sale.

Second, she offered me two dollars for it. Two dollars! I felt like a Klingon whose honor has been called into question. I struggled against thoughts of grabbing the nearest bat'leth, shouting "Qa'pla'!!" and commiting some serious mayhem upon this person.

"Three?" Persistent wench, she.

"I. Said. No. " I pulled the bag away.

The woman shrugged. "Your loss," she said.

I think not. There is 90% completed gansey in Inca Alpaca in that tote bag. But even if it were knitted up in the cheapest, bleakest yarn money can buy, it most certainly would not be my loss.

I put the bag on my shoulder and clamped onto it with my elbow until Crazy Garage Sale Lady scooped up a small wire basket and a Tom Clancy book and went on her way.

As soon as there was a lull, I popped into the house to stash my gansey away.

Close call. That was scary!

So I found the most simple, most basic sock I have in progress, precisely because it would fit into the little belt-bag I was wearing to hold the envelope with the garage sale money.

Or at least I picked up what I thought was the most simple, basic sock I had in progress. It is a mindless, all-over, mini-cable ribbed pattern. And?

It is my own original pattern. A pattern I have knitted dozens of times. It lives in my head. To make it, I cast on 72 stitches to make socks for my husband, and 64 to make socks for me. It is my default pattern. It is the pattern I knit when someone is in the hospital and my brain won't work for anything else.

This particular pair of socks is intended for my husband. So I knitted along uneventfully ... a round here, a round there, in between customers after the sunrise stampede had dispersed a little, my knitting safely in my belt-bag where no one else can snatch it up. Then I divided in half for the heel, and worked away on a 32-stitch heel flap a few rows at a time.

When the flap was finished, it came time to turn the heel.

And that is when I noticed that I had just knit a 32-stitch heel flap.

On a 72-stitch sock.

No matter how hard I stared at the heel flap, no amount of algebra, geometry or trig would convert "thirty-two" into "half of seventy-two."

I promise, I can count. Quite well, thank you. I can even do math in my head, except for long division. But, when forced to face a bargain-hungry mob at an hour when any sensible person would still be in bed, or at least fishing ... that is, if the fish were out of bed ...

... apparently, by mid-morning, I am unable to tell whether I am making a sock for my husband, or for me.

Frogged the heel furiously, counted off 36 stitches properly, and put all knitting projects away for the rest of the day, being fearful of knitting a third sleeve, a flipper or maybe a beak onto the gansey.

You understand.

P.S. Jigsaw sincerely thanks you all for all your kind thoughts. She's holding steady ... and sleeping a lot.

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At 5:30 AM, Blogger Barbara-Kay said...

Ack! I knew there was a good reason I've never had a garage sale!

Glad that sweater survived - that was too close! And to think I met it when it was a mere "sweater-ette".

At 6:01 AM, Blogger Luni said...

My last garage sale was full of the types you describe. I'm still wondering if the subsequent burglary of my home was connected someway. Those two reasons are why it will forever remain my LAST garage sale. I'd rather donate or simply throw the stuff away.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger Suna said...

Yeah...I think I will sell good stuff on craigslist or ebay and simply give other stuff away. I doubt I'd make enough at a garage sale to make up for my time and effort...especially if people think $2 for a sweater in progress in expensive yarn is a great offer. People differ. A lot.

At 10:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For your PJ's try the Vermont Counrty Store. I find they have stuff you'd think a sensible store would carry.
I will never have another garage sale for the very reasons you mentioned, very early, very rude people looking for stuff I don't have.
I've got the cleaning bug too. Now I know why. Heidi

At 1:33 PM, Anonymous Danielle from Mo said...

WOW!! That was a scary momnet even for us out here reading it! No wonder I never go to or have Garage Sales, dont think I could deal with someone tryin to steal my hard work for a mere 2 dollars.

At 5:19 PM, Blogger ButterflyKnits said...

Dear lady... this is why I give all my stuff (well... it WAS my stuff) to bridge house! Glad you saved the sweater and never, ever knit when you have been awake since the "crack of silly".

At 10:54 PM, Blogger noricum said...

Garage sale people are nuts.

I have two somewhat rusty punch can openers with "beer belongs" stamped into them... are you saying they're worth something?

Man... I think I could have strangled that $2 for rug yarn lady! She obviously has never been in a yarn shop!

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous oneken said...

so THAT is what "no early birds" in those ads means


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