Having spent the entire weekend with some of the accumulated detritus of our lives splayed on the driveway as if it had had too much to drink and hadn’t any cab fare, I have a new theory about yard sales.
But first, let me tell you a story. Back in the day, before children and Netflix turned us into people who can’t even bothered to go out to get the movies we are going to watch from the sofa, TGeek and I frequented a store called The Maltese Falcon: the 1,000 Greatest Movies Ever Made. The owner, a man who always wore a white fedora, was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. If I went in and asked if he had a movie about British monarchs, he’d say “Tudors or Plantagenets?”
The store also carried old tv series’ of just the type we enjoyed. I rented The Prisoner, one or two tapes at a time. If you’ve never watched The Prisoner, you should, Number Six, you should. We ran to the store one evening to pick up the next tape (pre-dvd, that’s how far I’m going back), and we found the man in the white fedora outside, locking up the shop.
I leapt out of the car, placed my hands together, and beseeched. “Please, can I just grab the next tape? I really really want to watch it tonight.”
Any Blockbuster dork would’ve sent me off empty handed, but not White Fedora. He ran in, grabbed the tape, and handed it to me. His register was shut down for the night, but he wasn’t worried about it. He’d enter it into my account in the morning. He knew I was good for it.
It was a small favor, but you just don’t get that kind of service anymore, except perhaps at a yard sale. TGeek had crates upon crates of wires and cables and whizbits, and spent a good part of the weekend helping men sift through them to find exactly the wangdoodle they were searching for.
I was sitting on the front stoop, swigging a Mike’s Lemonade, thinking about how every customer who came to our sale looked familiar. I figured I was wrong, though, because where would I meet the kind of guy who sifts through crates for wangdoodles?
One such guy, dressed in Seattle style (slouchy pants and a wrinkled t-shirt) and sporting a hat with a snap-down brim, browsed and poked extensively, occasionally chatting with TGeek about whizbits and whatnots.
I sucked down my Mike’s and wondered if I really did know him from someplace, until finally he asked TGeek if we’d ever visited a store called The Maltese Falcon. Yes, it was him, White Fedora, now apparently Snapped Brim.
The store is gone, of course, and he does his business online, like everyone else. We chatted about movies and mystery novels and the good old days, and finally he bought a few gizmos and left. I felt so pleased to have told him about The Prisoner incident, and how he was so cool about it that I remembered it all this time. Wouldn’t you want someone to tell you, if they remembered you being especially great in some way?
Which brings me to my theory about yard sales. The people who show up are all connected to your past, even if you don’t know how. That’s why they all look familiar. They come to tell you something, or to be told something, or to settle some unfinished business, IF you can find the connection between you. If not, they buy their whizbits and depart. Maybe you’ll find out what they were supposed to tell you some other time. There’s a laser-thin line that runs between you, it’s green, I think, and it never gets severed. All the green lines between all the people form a dense and immense and tangled web in which all the critical check points are there, if you only know which threads to follow.