TRASHING TRASH AROUND
by Tina Portelli
In the suburbs they are called garage sales, yard sales, and lawn sales. Because we in Brooklyn, do not have either lawns or garages, and our yards are in the back of the house, we call them stoop sales. We do not want pedestrian traffic through our apartment, so we set up our unwanted merchandise in the front of the house, on the stoop. We do not advertise in the Penny Pincher Flyers as they do in Long Island. We use our computer to create luring date notices and tape them to street poles and trees.
At these sales, items are tagged with a price, but everything is negotiable. You can find some excellent buys if you have time and patience. The seller will delight in bargaining with you. A lot of the stuff is pure junk, things I would be embarrassed to give away or let people know I owned in the first place. A rust pitted fry pan, a comb missing teeth, a broken tape recorder?
As I pass these stoop set-ups, I am careful not to get too close to the merchandise as to avoid conversation with the proprietor manning the stoop. Once I did get too close and knocked over a drinking glass. The woman charged me a dollar for breaking it, “ You break it you own it. ” Did she think this was Tiffany’s? The glass was worth ten cents. I paid the dollar with a grin of amusement and walked away. She had lost a potential customer.
I will never buy used clothes or shoes. I have enough of those at home. But the one object that will make me dig out my money are books. You can glimpse into the private life of your neighbors by browsing the books they are selling. Self-help books on relationships tell me that there may be a husband available soon. An abundance of cookbooks might explain why they may be overweight. Child rearing material tells me they just couldn’t do it alone, or the children are grown, and the financial section tells me the market took a chunk out of them, that’s why they are holding this great sales event. The romance novels tell me the wife is in need, while the stacks of sports books tell me why.
At a quarter a book, I will buy books out of curiosity, sometimes never getting past the introduction. It is worth the investment to investigate a new topic. These are the same books I will donate to the library or leave in a box on the sidewalk for passer buyers to take for free.
At the end of the day, the unsold items are usually left outside by the trash cans. That’s when the real bargain hunters show up after dark and get their junk for free. Then try to sell it the following week at their own sale. I have seen merchandise move from stoop to stoop in a season; the prices may vary but it’s the same recycled junk. There could only be one Howdy Dowdy cereal bowl in this neighborhood.
Displaying my life on a stoop for pocket change would never be for me. I’d rather dump the junk and give away the good stuff for free, to friends that know it came from me.
Tina says, "I am 54, single and live in Brooklyn, NY. I work in Manhattan as a full time office manager. My writing is a newly found passionate hobby. I get my ideas from personal experiences and the adventures of family and friends. I have never taken a writing class, but three years ago I started practicing meditation. I attribute my newfound passion of writing to that practice, meditation gave me a clear and open mind. No better friend than the soul of my pen." Contact Tina.