This was originally published in The Athletic.
We held a yard sale a few years ago. To be more specific, my wife held a yard sale and I was there for it, with my reluctance to have total strangers milling around my porch and rifling through my stuff greatly limiting my participation in what is one of the most miserable things an adult can do.
The purpose of the yard sale was to purge 10 years or so worth of crap we’d accumulated. There were lots of old clothes. I remember there being a whole bunch of kitchen ware. There were piles of CDs from bands that I swore would be the next big thing in the ’90s. Some tools that had been given to me that I had no idea how to use. Junk.
And there was this bow and arrow.
Many years prior, someone had given me a really expensive bow and arrow. To this day, I’m not sure why. I don’t hunt. I’m not an archery enthusiast. And when it comes to self-defense, there are more efficient ways to fend off intruders than scurrying for a bow and arrow case, lining up an arrow, sizing up my target, pulling back and letting loose. It was a nice bow and arrow, and from what I understand, not cheap, but I literally never used it.
So we put it up for sale, setting the price low – at $20 for what I’m guessing retailed for more than 10 times more – in an effort to rid myself of one of the most misguided gifts anyone has ever given to another person. I featured the bow and arrow prominently, right next to a pile of jeans guys buy when they’re in their early 20s and can’t pull off when they’ve crossed over into their 30s, and leaning next to some car stereo equipment that I’d spent way too much money on back when having a killer sound system in my car seemed like something I needed to prioritize.
The yard sale ended up being as agonizing of an experience as I’d feared. Actually, worse. I’d underestimated the market of people who hunt down yard sales, show up early, and come ready to haggle. The proliferation of shows like Pawn Stars and American Pickers had just started to become a thing, so people arrived less ready to buy than they were to bargain. One guy questioned our asking price for a bathroom scale, which was priced at $2.50. Another wondered if we’d be setting up shop again the next day, liquidating the stuff we couldn’t sell the first time around.
I doubt my editor will allow me to share with you the words I used to answer him with.
Near the end of this truly brutal experience, which came at the expense of a perfectly beautiful May Saturday that would’ve been perfect for doing nearly anything else, a guy and his wife showed up. They began perusing what was left as I looked at them wondering what stage in the deterioration of a marriage is reached when the go-to weekend activity is yard sale-hopping. The man ambled up the stairs to my porch, where I sat wondering how much trouble I’d get in if I started drinking heavily, and pointed at the big, camouflaged case that – since someone had bought the car stereo stuff – was now lying flat on the floor.
I told him about the bow and arrow, how it had never been used, and how I couldn’t tell him anything else about it since I knew absolutely nothing about bow and arrows. I briefly wondered if it was even legal to sell a bow and arrow, and thought that maybe such a transaction should involve a background check. Then I decided that since there were no receipts, I could deny all responsibility if this man went on a bow-shooting rampage. I told him he could have it for $20. He offered $15. Happy to get rid of the only piece of hunting equipment I’d ever own, very unwilling to spend any more time negotiating, finished with random strangers milling around my front yard and thinking that this man was doing me a favor by taking such an unwanted item that I had no use for, I told him that if he took it and left right now, he could have it for 10.
He quickly took the bow and arrow, paid me my money, pulled his wife away from a box of old VHS tapes, loaded his new item into the back of his car, and left. I did not chase after him, offering to let him walk into my house to see the stuff that I actually valued, giving him the chance to take stuff that I actually had use for and wanted. Nor did he, upon agreement to terms on the bow and arrow, ask if he could have my brand new TV, or the new golf clubs I had just purchased that were in my garage. We didn’t discuss throwing in some prized sports memorabilia, and to reward him for taking something I no longer wanted off my hands, I didn’t offer to let him have some of the new, updated stuff that made what we were selling expendable. He was taking my trash, he wasn’t getting close to anything I treasure.
In fact, right before he handed over two five-dollar bills, I told him that if he felt like coming back early on Monday morning, he’d find it right next to an overflowing garbage can, there for the taking. His only competition would be a guy in a Rumpke uniform.
This takes us, finally, to Homer Bailey.
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(Photo: Getty Images)