The Toaster May Be $5.00, but the Insight is Free

Lessons from a successful yard sale

My absence yesterday can be directly attributed to a street-wide yard sale organized by some of our neighbors down the block. I’ve never been a big yard sale guy — I haven’t really shopped at any, nor had we ever put anything out for sale ourselves.

Now, however, I’m hooked.

The money on Saturday–just over $150–certainly wasn’t anything to write home about, but there is definitely something about seeing someone who apparently is in dire need of a battery-powered salad spinner, or even better watching a kid who might not have as much as some of the other kids on this block light up when his father says “I’ll take it” to the prospect of a wickedly underpriced mountain bike which, given my increasing girth, I’ve obviously not been using anymore.

There’s also something about us, staring down a pending 700-mile move, being able to clear out unused kitchen appliances, books, exercise equipment, housewares and such and actually be compensated for doing so. But by a long shot, however, the greatest part about today was the cross-section of Americana which found their way onto our driveway and front yard.

Rich and poor. Black, white, Asian, Arab and Pacific Islander. People who would be welcome at our house for dinner, and people who scared the bejeezus out of me and made me thankful for my Second Amendment rights and carry permit. People who were looking for something very specific–Do you have any seashells? Please? Any seashells?–and people who, from the looks of what was in the trunk of their cars, had been to every single yard sale in the Philadelphia metro area.

By far the funniest and saddest part of the day was a conversation I had with a very nice middle-aged woman as she looked curiously at a 19-inch Zenith television set I had purchased at least a dozen years ago in college.

“Do you have any digital LSD TVs?” She asked, her head cocked to the side like a labrador retriever processing a funny sound.

I gave her the bad news, and without me even needing to ask, she offered that her television quit working the day before, and that she had made a few phone calls and was told that she needed “some sort of box thing” or “one of them digital LSD TVs.” Obviously, she wasn’t quite prepared for the transition to digital television signals which took place on Friday.

And it turns out she wasn’t nearly alone. According to the Associated Press, almost 700,000 people called a federal hot line over the past week regarding the transition, including 317,450 yesterday alone.

The conversion, of course, was at first supposed to happen in February. Then, it was pushed back to June 12. In advance of both dates, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were spent by Congress to facilitate a smooth transition, mostly through the distribution of $40 coupons with which people still dependent upon rabbit-ear-style antennae could purchase a digital converter box. In fact, when Barack Obama’s so-called “stimulus” package was passed on January 28, it contained a second dose of $650 million for transition-related outreach.

In other words, taxpayers like you and me, people who were not affected by the transition because we choose to maintain cable or satellite or the right kind of box, were forced to pay money so that people across the country could watch television. Television, it seems, has joined speech and due process as an absolute American right. And yet, regardless of all the public service advertisements, regardless of every segment on the local news broadcasts, I still had a woman standing in my driveway, asking about “digital LSD TVs.”

What struck me is that these 700,000 people are people who largely rely upon the network news broadcasts for their news, and many of them probably vote. Also, I think it’s important to understand that regardless of how much money was spent and how much effort was taken and how many different means and measures were used by our federal government, it wasn’t enough, and people were still calling the federal government and asking for a solution.

We are a nation addicted to the government teat. And it’s up to those of us who are awake to slowly but surely awaken the rest and start the weaning process. I know it can happen. I know we can do it. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’m re-reading Atlas Shrugged; well, at least six or seven different people spotted it on my chair yesterday and wanted to talk about it. Two were liberals, one of them even drove up in a Prius and–I kid you not–was wearing a baseball cap with an integrated solar-powered fan. All of them agreed on something — that they were feeling the “government pinch,” that they were seeing an America that was increasingly looking down its nose at success and prosperity.

So, yes, it was our first yard sale yesterday. But it certainly will not be our last. As I packed up the stuff that didn’t sell, I did so with a smile on my face. We rid ourselves of rarely-used junk, gained an optimistic perspective on the future of America, educated a woman about “digital LSD TVs,” and made some money in the process. How capitalist of us.



  1. Anonymous says:

    I bought an "LSD TV" about 10 years ago.

    It was an educational experience.

    Worked great for about 9 months and has improved reception since then.

  2. tm says:

    Jeff, Too funny. My wife forced me to do that "yard sale" thing about a year ago and stressed herself out so much – she refuses to do it again.
    Don't even get me started about:

    That Damned box

    I had so much fun with my 77 yr old father (retired marine) trying to hookup that "box" it didn't help that I had to hear how he never," ever" had to pay for tv and that the $20 battery operated one he keeps in his car for baseball is now "USELESS". He told me he will stay alive just to vote this fool out of office over his battery tv. Everyone was right – the BOX – it didn't work right from the start – After an hour of downloading and setting up the antenna/ tv ears – I offered at least 50 times to buy him cable – and he insisted "HE WILL NEVER PAY FOR TV".
    I needed to call in my daughter the computer genius and she even said the box is awful.

    WHY did they need to do this again?

    Even when I came home after spending the whole day with him – he called and said he lost channels and did not want to talk to me "at all" – he wanted to talk to my daughter.

    For father's day he is "GETTING CABLE", and he will like it.

  3. Malcolm says:


    Good article, I completely agree with you on the nation's reliance on government. I hope as well that will change soon.

    By the way I think you meant $650 "MILLION", not "billion", for the transition outreach in the stimulus bill. Still a huge amount of taxpayer money though.

  4. Gail B says:

    Two immediate thoughts:

    (1) Wonder how long it will be before Jeff moves south?!

    (2) Hot dig! There are almost 700,000 people who will NOT receive the regime's propaganda!

    Yard sale–A friend who does NOT like to drive more than 10 miles shopped Saturday at a yard sale 250 miles away. She did it by telephone; and when the yard sale cousin comes up next month, they will complete the transaction!

    Uh, isn't it LCD instead of LSD? (I'm still on my first cup of coffee.)

  5. Celia in TX says:

    Gail, I hear ya!

    We got rid of our TV service for financial reasons, but in many ways, especially for how mad I would get watching certain channels, I really don't miss it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    not your last yard sale?

    that is until obama hires the YARD SALE CZAR??????????

    and all that free advice you gave? that might be taxable even though you didnt charge! :-)

    (nice Sunday article…)

  7. Anonymous says:

    In the Fort Worth area the local news was giving out an 800 number for the FCC that would provide "free" assistance with installation. Someone would come to your house and actually install it. I'm not kidding, the news had an installation guy at a guy's house plugging the two wires in.

    So not only did we pay for the box but we are paying for installation.

    They are acting like having television is some god-given right.

  8. Gail B says:

    Goodness, Jeff! A profit of $150?! Don't be giving the O-man any ideas. He's already talking about taxing personal calls made on an employer's cell phone as income.

    Anonymous at 2:58 might have been joking, but then…. I hesitate to count out a Yard Sale Czar.

  9. goddessdivine says:

    …..many of them probably vote.

    Now that's a depressing thought. Thanks for reminding us of the vast number of idiots casting ballots. ;-)

    Maybe she was smoking LSD…..

  10. Ladalang says:

    People like you and me Jeff, don't all care anymore what's on the propaganda box. As soon as, I heard I shut the damn things off. You may want to look into something called Silent Sound Spread Spectrum and move as quickly to that TV set as possible and shut it off. If you don't think they have and use that technology by all means stay plugged into the Matrix.

    The government is very interested in keeping people plugged in for a reason. Think about who has to benefit. I'm against the handout and did not take the coupons… I'm off the grid!

  11. Amy says:

    I took my 4 year old daughter to a yard sale Saturday. We bought a few cheap toys that she really likes. It was fun.

    What was not fun, however, was the number of illegal immigrants there with trucks and trailers. They bought all sorts of baby items, clothing, appliances and electronics. So much for illegals helping the local economy by paying any kind of taxes!

    I'm sick and tired of paying so many taxes so everyone else can have what they did not earn. My 4 year old daughter can not attend 4 year old public kindergarten here because she is not an illegal who speaks Spanish nor is she mentally disabled. I'm paying taxes to support a public school class she's not even allowed to attend.

    Worst yet, is the government's solution to any problem is for more of what caused the problem. Too many illegals and foreign workers—just give them amnesty and allow more visas! It's not like we have high unemployment that keeps rising. Public schools failing our kids—make them go longer each day and take away summer vacation! Everyone knows spending more time in a useless public school that is incapable of teaching will certainly solve the problem.

  12. Anonymous says:

    WOW…700,000 more people for ACORN to provide voter registration assistance and all of us tax payors paid for this new list.

  13. 1776 REDO says:

    Can we start our own SMART country?

  14. ENTROPY SUCKS says:

    Looks like the second law of thermodynamics also applies to countries and their popului.

Speak Your Mind