Laughing all the way: Olympus garage sale mania

June 3, 2011

By Pat Detmer

We have managed yet again to survive the onslaught of garage sale aficionados who annually take over our hill. For those unfamiliar with the yearly rite, the sale occurs on a Saturday in May and involves up to 50 homes, not including those from surrounding neighborhoods who put out signs and goods to cash in on the drive-throughs.

We learned long ago not to leave our garage doors open that day in fear that we might inadvertently sell something we may need later. We’ve also learned to drive very, very carefully when leaving the hill, because shoppers criss-crossing the streets don’t always look both ways when their arms are laden with juicers, bread-makers, and other goods that they simply could not live without.

We’ve never participated in the sale. We don’t have the patience or the storage space to hang on to stuff past its usefulness. The people at Goodwill drop-off sites know us by name, and my sister’s cabin and the homes of the youngsters in our family look very much like ours did about 10 years ago, since they’ve put our old furniture, rugs, curtains and lamps to good use.

Here’s another reason why we don’t participate: I suck at negotiating. I find that fact humorous and a little alarming, because I make my living as a sales and marketing consultant, and have been a sales representative or sales manager for more than 20 years.

Case in point: I sold my first car — a used ‘65 Comet Caliente with enough power to participate in the Monster Truck Rally circuit — to a pimply-faced young man whose anxious parents stood about 20 feet behind him as he negotiated with me. My father had told me ahead of time that I could get at least $250 for the car, and I should take no less than that.

Here is an actual transcript of that negotiation:

Boy: I’ll give you a hundred for it.

Me: All right.

Was I a rube? Did I feel cheated? No. Because when I’m done with something, I’m done with it. When it’s outlived its usefulness to me, it’s like it doesn’t even exist anymore. He clearly wanted it, and I didn’t. Deal.

Given that attitude, I have a hard time justifying the existence of a small box that I have sitting on my desk as I type this. We uncovered it during the archeological dig that occurred in our kitchen pantry prior to having it remodeled. It’s a box of Sure-Jell. We haven’t made jelly since we lived in our old house, which means that we carefully packed it up and brought it with us when we moved. The “use by” is January 1989. I’m surprised the date wasn’t scratched on the box with a charcoal stick or a Clovis spear point — it’s that old.

I should have made an “Antique Sure-Jell” sign and sold it at the garage sale.

You can reach Pat Detmer, who has a sudden and overwhelming urge to make jelly, at

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One Response to “Laughing all the way: Olympus garage sale mania”

  1. Maisyn on June 30th, 2011 10:27 pm

    Super ionfmrative writing; keep it up.

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