Tuesday, July 17, 2012

How I Almost Got Beaten by the Salvation Army Guy

photo: The Salvation Army shield, from its Wikipedia page

I had a successful yard sale this past Saturday.  I very impulsively decided to have one for many reasons psychological and emotional, but in the end it came down to needing more space in here.  I'm fortunate to live in an area that is inundated every weekend with yard sale fanatics, so all I have to do is post a few signs on the major roads that lead to the peninsula I live on, and then on the side streets to lead them to me.  I don't even have to advertise on Craig's List or anything.  A neighbor was coincidentally having one at the same time, so we told our customers to check the other sale out.  So a few interesting tidbits from this:

--If you're more interested in getting rid of the things, and less interested on making a huge profit, the best thing to do, from my experience, is to not put a price on anything (it's okay to price any huge, expensive items you might have)--but also don't let anything go for free.  If it's free, people will think it's junk.  If it's twenty-five cents, people think they're frugal and getting a bargain.  This is what I did, with most items selling for between $.25 and $2, and at the end I just had one SUV trip to the local Salvation Army store.  This was a unique experience in of itself, which I'll get into later.

--My friend was amazed at the things people bought.  He kept saying: "I would have just thrown that away."  But it's true: People will buy anything.  Never underestimate the hoarding tendencies of many people.

--If you have a yard sale, take down your damn signs.  They litter up the telephone poles and trees, look like an eyesore, and make wary yard sale customers drive aimlessly around a neighborhood that had a yard sale a week or two ago.  I can't tell you how many times I drive around following old, undated signs.

--Speaking of old, undated signs, do not make a sign that says: "Yard sale today."  When you're looking at it, "today" could mean any day, not just today.  Of course, this wouldn't be a problem if people took down their damn signs.

--And take down the nails you use, too.  I almost couldn't nail up my signs because there were so many nails on the poles already, my nails couldn't dig into the wood.  In fact, I told my friend that I wouldn't need any nails because I knew there would be so many there already.  I was pressed for time, so I didn't have the time to re-use all of the nails there, but I did re-use many of them.

--Someone's complete Community Service Hours could be spent taking down yard sale signs and removing nails from telephone poles.

--Speaking of that, awhile ago, when I volunteered for my local Historical Cemetery Association, the woman asked me how many community service hours I needed to do.  Apparently it's kinda creepy that I'm interested in re-finding my city's many lost historical cemeteries.  (I do have one re-find to my credit.)

--For the second time in a year, I decided very impulsively to have a yard sale the next morning, and it turned out very well.  Last year, I decided firmly at 2 a.m. to have one.  So I put up the signs by 8, for a 9-2 yard sale, and was still bringing out stuff from my garage when I got mobbed at 8:30.  I had to shoo people out of my garage; I even had to raise my voice at one lady.  When I had to put up another sign that fell down, someone watching the sale called and said that people were rifling through boxes in my garage.

--This year I had the signs up and I was back at 8:58 and kept everything in the garage until I got back, and still managed to bring most things out before people came.  But I forgot things in the attic, garage and washroom that I meant to put out, so it looks like I can combine that stuff, with even more stuff, and have another one this coming Saturday.  It's too late to reserve tickets for the newest Batman movie, anyway.  And who wants to see that with a ton of loud teenagers and mobs of other people?  I'll see it in a few weeks.

--Okay, so the surreal Salvation Army story.  My friend and I took my SUV full of my unsold yard sale things to the local Salvation Army, where I donated literally thousands of dollars of things last year.  Now, I know these guys have had a tough time, and I believe everyone deserves a second (and third, and fourth, and...) chance.  I've certainly needed several dozen.  And I've always had a good experience here.  These guys are usually very helpful, and normally sociable.  Sometimes they seem a bit morose and downtrodden, but that's expected of an ex-addict having a bad day.  (You should see me early in the morning when I haven't had my iced coffee.)  But this guy was just plain mean.  Not even rude.  Mean.  And he simmered with bitterness and anger.  His face was a bit pock-marked, round, and with scruffy facial hair that unfortunately made him look even more bothered.  So I back up the car and open the trunk door, and instantly the guy says, "We can't just take everyone's junk."  And he said it meanly, threateningly.  I was a bit taken aback, but I said that was fine.  How about I unload the car, and whatever he doesn't want, I just load back in?  He shrugs.  So I unload the car, and he says, "We won't take that," to many things, but with a bite of control.  Whatever.  No problem.  I wondered about a few things, like Christmas Tree tinsel, unused, still in the unopened box.  Nope.  "We won't take that."  Gruff.  Angry.  Fine.  I'm able to unload about 75% of the stuff I brought--first time it wasn't 100%--and I go into the store to fill out the form as my friend puts the other 25% of the stuff back in the car.  My friend told me later that they had this conversation:

Salvation Army guy: "You guys from around here?"
My friend: "My friend lives around here.  I spent some time here, but I grew up in Providence.  Now I live in Pawtucket."
Salvation Army guy: "I grew up here.  But I lost everything.  Now I have to live in Providence."

My friend tells me that he said this last part so angry and bitterly that my friend just shut up on a dime and put the stuff in the car.  So I return and the guy's just glaring at me.  I close the door and head to my side of the car when this woman approaches the guy and says she needs help unloading things.  He sort of glares at her.  She goes back to her car, a little gingerly, then walks back towards us with a box in her hands while her son backs up the car.  In her hands I see an Ionizer.  With zero intent whatsoever (Seriously.  I was in the midst of yet another sinus infection and my neighbor and I had spoken about our many infections the same day), I say to my friend, "I get around twelve sinus infections a year.  I should get one of those."  The woman immediately says to me, "Do you want it?  It's just been in storage for five years."  I'm flabbergasted.  I know the rule: Once it's on the property, it belongs to the Army.  As it should be: You can't have cars of people picking through things near the receptacles and just taking what they want for free.  And knowing how pissy this guy was already, I said, "I don't know.  I don't want to create any problems."  She said, "It's no problem.  I haven't brought it over there yet.  [We were about twenty feet from the receptacle at that point, and the thing was clearly in her hands.]  And I'm offering it to you.  I'd feel better knowing it's going to someone specific I know will use it."  (She says this like the thing had been her husband's, or someone, who had just died; she was emotional about it.)  I ask her if she's sure.  She says Yes.  As she's handing it to me, the guy twenty feet behind us bellows: "Once it's on the property, it's ours!  You can't take it!"  The thing's in my hands now as I look at the guy.  He is simmering with rage, and red in the face.  Before I can say anything, he said to the woman, "Did he take that from you?"  She said, "No.  I gave it to him.  It's fine; I want him to have it."  I felt terrible, and said to the guy, "Seriously.  She gave it to me.  I'm a good guy, really.  I wouldn't steal from the Salvation Army!"  I'm mortified and babbling at this point.

Now here's the worst part.  In the meanest voice I've ever heard (and I've heard many), and I mean the meanest--not sarcastic; not angry; not frustrated; but almost erupting with a flatlining monotone voice, I mean seething, like Tom's early male owner in the Tom & Jerry cartoons--this guy says to me: "Okay, you can take it.  You can take all your stuff back, too."  This is way out of control, so I put the thing on the ground near my stuff and say, "Hey, no problem.  Take it.  There's no problem here."

But the woman is so upset at the guy that she says to us: "Meet me over there in the Benny's parking lot," and picks the ionizer up off the ground, right in front of the guy (and maybe had a few words with him), as we drove away.  My friend's astonished.  So we park where she said, far away from the guy, and she gives it to me, after I asked her if she was sure she wanted to, and she said the thing was hers and she could give it to whoever she wants.

And that's how I almost got assaulted by an embittered Salvation Army guy.


  1. Wow! Wonder what's his beef?

    Sorry, I read this post Batman-shooting and it's so strange how weirdly psychotic people can be. You just never know, huh? And why do I get a feeling he's going to show up in one of your works someday...

    1. Hey, good call!!! Actually, the whole day, including him, is making its way into a short story, imaginatively titled "The Yard Sale." I am eight handwritten pages in, finishing Part One.

      Speaking of the latest Batman movie, I saw that today. A blog entry about it, and possibly the horrible shooting, to come soon.