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.