Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Short Note: Rules of Engagement, Vol. 1

"Is there a list?"

That's the first thing almost anyone says when they arrive at an estate sale in my town.  People who frequent estate sales know that they are popular (especially in this economy) and  that getting into the sale as early as possible ensures you have a good chance at scoring a bargain.   People who resell antiques and collectibles, as well as amateur Estate Sale Junkies (as they call themselves), can be quite passionate about Who Gets To Go Inside the House First.  So the practice of making a numbered list for orderly entry to an estate sale has evolved.

Usually only a few people at a time are allowed into an estate sale.  But not always.  I remember standing patiently in line at an estate sale in a very large house last year.  The seller came to the front door promptly at 8 a.m., squared her shoulders, and looked over the list and the crowd of two dozen adults waiting their turn to go in.  When they saw her, the buyers fell silent.  When the seller spoke, her voice carried for half a block down the street in the cool morning air:

"ALL RIGHT, PEOPLE.  This house is big enough, and I have enough staff to supervise you, that you can all come in.  I want to see TWO STRAIGHT LINES.  YOU ARE WALKING IN.  NO SHOVING. NO SHOUTING. NO RUNNING.  IF YOU BREAK THE RULES, YOU'RE OUT OF HERE.  UNDERSTOOD?" 

It worked like a charm; two quiet orderly lines of grownups were formed and we entered the house meekly.  As I passed the seller at the door, I asked, "Are you, by any chance, a retired schoolteacher?"

"First grade," she said firmly, with a twinkle in her eye.

Remembering this former teacher in action reminded me that I often see teaching supplies at estate sales.  Some of the most colorful were these beads made by the Ideal Toy Company.   The address on the side of the box "Chicago 20, Illinois" indicates they were made prior to 1963, when ZIP codes came into use.

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