Saturday, March 15, 2008

White Elephants

Garage sales are places of learning. If you pay attention you'll learn that items, if not sold at ticket price in the first hour, become prime candidates for even bigger bargains. For instance, a pleasant, mannish woman will kindly take 17 DVDs off your hands for a generous $1 a piece after waiting for an hour and a half. After glancing over the stack featuring Godzilla and the first installment of the Spiderman trilogy, I'm not sure who's getting the better end of that deal.

You may also learn that the rummage salers that darken the doorstep of any garage, yard, or estate sale 15 minutes before it is supposed to begin are quite confident in what they think items should be priced at. I watched one man mark down himself a ceramic bowl he wished to purchase by pointing out each nick, chip and scuff. You can't take your eyes off them. Not even for a paper-cut. Not even if you break the skin. Given the opportunity, I think that breed of person might try to talk down the price of blood transfusion while in critical condition.


There was a blood drive held in what looked like a RV converted into a small clinic on campus yesterday in Red Square. I didn't go, but not because of any sort of needle phobia--my freshman year at Western I used to drive out to Meridian to give plasma. Yes, I did receive money for this. No, I do not consider it prostitution. No, I am not allowed back--I have been permanently deferred from donating plasma. Something about my liver. I don't want to talk about it.

I don't donate blood anymore either. Chalk it up under Things I Can No Longer Bear, right below Lunchables and DuranDuran. But I think it's a good cause. When I was a senior, my high school was doing a blood drive. I had donated a couple times before, so I was familiar with the rundown: paperwork, pin-prick, needle, relax, cookies, juice, etc. I was looking forward to doing my part. You know, giving of myself for the greater good of mankind...


Almost stranger than what's bought is what is donated to garage sales. I would never expect to find packages of disposable razors or facial tissues. A water-pick, maybe. I'd be skeptical of the obviously used electric razors. And the unmentionables...well, I'll leave them unmentioned. The books/movies section usually has some gems like the cult film Ghost World in the midst of lutefisk cookbooks and pulp fiction.


In ancient times, physicians often practiced bloodletting, thinking that to drain one's blood would heal and prevent illness. By the 19th Century they used leeches for this practice. Now it's been proven that bloodletting doesn't work out so well for the patient losing blood. However, we also know that putting a person's healthy blood into someone else's unhealthy system (in certain cases, of course; I'm no doctor) can be quite beneficial.


As someone with a wider foundation in the rummage sale scene, Seth has some philosophies on garage sales, pricing, etc. "I like to aim high," he says, the profits from the garage sale helping subsidize the cost of mission trips for a goodly sum of INN students. He also likes to draw attention to the bigger items. You know, show the buyers what they'd be missing out on if they don't buy now, Now, NOW! "This couch is so comfortable," he sighs and leans back with a book and his coffee mug, really driving home the relaxing luxury of the well-worn loveseat.


Things went really smoothly as I filled out my paperwork while waiting to see the nurse. I don't even think I flinched at the pin-prick. I probably made some sort of face as the nurse squeezed the life out of my index finger, leaving it with a stiff, pale complexion usually reserved for bitterly cold days. And I bet I tensed up as the needle burrowed into the bend of my elbow, but everything was cool. I was cool. I was giving my A-positive blood and making a difference by the pint.


At a garage sale, you may also have epiphanies. You may realize that you are painfully ungifted at haggling. You may hear the word "shafted" a lot. It may be revealed to you that you often require a calculator for simple math. That patrons with cash suddenly add mounds of unnecessary pressure on the critical thinking skills you had once been proud of.


Maybe I didn't eat a hearty enough breakfast earlier that morning. Maybe I didn't drink enough water throughout the day. For whatever reason, when the nurse pointed me in the direction of the cookies and juice (across the width of the gym) I managed about halfway there before I realized I was losing my vision. Everything was getting darker. I had no peripheral. Then most of my visual field was black and cloudy. I'd had this experience before. It's like when I stood up just after the anesthesia wore off when I had my wisdom teeth removed. Or trying to get out of bed after having the stomach flu, feeling sweaty, cold, dizzy, and simply disoriented. I usually end up on the floor, though with no idea how; I just know that my shoulder hurts and my headaches.

I didn't end up on the floor that time. I focused on keeping my hands in front of me, my feet one step in front of another until I felt the refreshment table. After I regained my vision, I grabbed a handful of cookies and a Styrofoam cup of apple juice and found a chair.

"Dave, you're really pale. Are you okay?" someone else asked.

No would have been the right answer. "Yeah, I'm fine," I said, and smiled because a smile means everything is okay. Always. No exceptions. "I just need to sit for a little while."


The beauty of a garage sale is cleaning out. People can donate all the things they don't want or use anymore, like old T-shirts from the Thomas family weekend or a tea set still containing a used teabag. They can get rid of their Dance, Dance Revolution floor pads (though they may never be completely healed of the disease). All of this so others can find enjoyment in the many, many, many items strewn over tables and shelves. To find new purpose. To rediscover everything, in shame of nothing.

I enjoyed the movie Ghost World once. I read the graphic novel for my comics literature course last spring. Lisa just shook her head when I bought the VHS. I didn't care.


Chances are I'm fine to donate blood. I just need to make sure to eat and drink properly beforehand. So maybe I will eventually donate blood again. Maybe. Someday. But not in Red Square. Not in an RV converted into a clinic about the size of my body.


Jake Tucker said...

Bad ass piece man. Ghost World is pretty awesome. Your voice was consistent and entertaining. I liked the lacing a piece about garage sales with donating blood. Kudos.

Lisa said...

thank you, david.