Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mine Enemy

I have a nemesis.
I often think of myself as a likable person, but over the years, I know I have rubbed a few people the wrong way. More annoying or incompatible than anything else.
But this is different.
She is out there, waiting in the dark.

She has a name, but I probably should not use it, so I will call her Crayfish instead.
Crayfish knows of me, and I of her.
Oh yes, I knows her very well.

You see, financial strappedness has forced me to be one of those entities despised by many an attendee of garage sales and thrift shops: The Ebay Dealer.

I hustle daily to find anything of value I can flip on ebay in time to pay my electric bill.

I sell Legos to get gas.

I sell Nintendos for grocery money.

I convince your nice granny to let me into her yard sale "a little early", just to pilfer her Liddle Kiddles she should have been saving for you. Then I sell those creepy little midgets for razors, so my head can stay smooth and beautiful.

I hate what I have become.

I long for the days when I could drive past a garage sale sign and not even register what it said in its giant looping script; those words so full of promise, and yet so infuriating when the actual address is written in tiny lettering, and you practically run it over trying to read it.

 I long for the days when I did not have to go to the same three thrift shops every day, five days a week. Each one has its smell; one always smells like skunk, because the former landlord used to grow medical marijuana on the premises. 
Another just smells like cigarette smoke. 
The third is more interesting; when you first walk in, you think you have walked into the rubber sole of someone's sandal on a hot summer day, but as you walk to the back, its just mildew.

But I have no choice. For now, as a Master of Libraries is most often destined to do, I have to sell things on ebay.

And that brings me back to Crayfish.
 I met her early in my career. Both of us were first in line at an estate sale. 
We were the only ones in line actually, because the sale did not start for another hour. The sun had just come up. That is how pathetic the life of a dealer can be.

We spoke for awhile, and I learned that Crayfish was not just any old dealer, but a master of the dark art.

She was pushy and aggressive; knocking on doors, waking people up, sleeping in their driveways, anything she needed to do to get the treasure first. When people around here think of ebay dealers, they think of asshole early birds, and Crayfish was the Queen Asshole of early birds.
 I had much to learn from her.

At first our exchanges were pleasant enough; I would question her about the value of this or that, ask her about her business model and other types of chitchat that dealers make.

But each subsequent sale we saw each other at, it became clear that we were searching for the same kinds of things. She did toys, I did toys. We were no longer parallel lines with pleasantries between us; we were perpendicular rhombuses of competition and dislike.
I remember one Saturday in particular. I had chosen a random neighborhood sale as a starting off point. 

Just as I climbed out of my car, Crayfish roared up, left her car running right in front of the first driveway, bolted up to the sale, looked it over with eyes like bar code readers, mentally logging the potential resale price on everything around her, and then was gone, back into the car, and driving three feet to sprint to the next sale. She worked the whole neighborhood like this.

I tried skipping several houses ahead of her, but Crayfish was always there, breathing down my back. We saw each other and only nodded stiffly.

I abandoned that whole subdivision and struck out for a completely random garage sale across town. Crayfish was just pulling away as I pulled up.

Knowing the answer already, I still lamely asked the people, "Are you guys selling any legos?"
Three arms pointed in unison, off in the direction Crayfish was driving.
"That lady just bought all we had."

 It went on like this, endlessly, sale after sale.

One day there was a mammoth estate sale, advertised as having a sizable vintage toy collection. I got there forty-five minutes early and there was already a line of fifty or so people. 

At the very front was Crayfish, yucking it up with some of her dealer cronies, booksellers and antiquers, no one that would muscle in on her turf.

I knew the sale was a wash, but needing money, I lingered, hoping to find a sellable trinket or two amidst Crayfish's scraps.

In the room with all the toys, she hefted her garbage bags full of stuff and gave one last sweep. I had only gotten in the house and she was all ready to leave. 

I tried to strike up a conversation with her, but she must have been giddy from her success, as she cracked a few jokes at my expense, and then gave me one of her beady eyed glares.

It was all over.

Crayfish was officially my nemesis.

A strange and supernatural pattern has emerged: I find something rare and go to sell it on ebay; when I check Crayfish's auctions, she has a similar item already up for sale, but it is in much better condition, or even rarer but from the same series.

I find a vintage lego set in a ziploc bag and put it up for auction; the same week, she lists the same lego set in its original box, in immaculate condition. 

This has happened a creepy amount of times.

My Ladyfriend kindly asked that I stop checking Crayfish auctions, because the effect on my emotional well-being was so detrimental.

So I do not obsess about her as much as I did, but I know she is still out there.

I know she is selling what I'm selling, only better.

I know she has come and gone from a garage sale long before I roll up with two screaming kids, take five minutes to get those kids out of their car seats, another three to cross the street, and wearily ask the nice family taking down their signs if they had had any legos to sell when they had first opened their sale.

Inevitably, they point down the hot, dusty street, "a lady, she come and take them already. She come in the night. She take the legos and she go. You no follow her, not with your little ones. You stay here and drink this lemonade. You safe here."

They spit on the ground and make the sign against evil.


  1. This post is amazing. I loved the fighting rhombi, and that your nemesis is a crustacean in an old timey baseball hat.

  2. CharliewintercoatsJuly 15, 2011 at 10:51 AM

    The whole time as I was reading this I was thinking why not list a phony garage sale for Saturday morning (or whatever prime garage sale time is) and list it in a far away suburb with all the right toys in the description:

    Huge Lego and muscle man sale! collector died. 9am at 12345 far from real garage sales avenue.

    Then while she sits in the driveway of some random sleeping citizen you can enjoy one calm day of beating her to the real sales. By the time she figures it out she will be the one watching you drive down the street with the legos.

    I know its dirty but if you do it just once no one has to know... except your blog followers if they read comments.

  3. You have no idea how many times I have fantasized about doing this exact thing. Endlessly have I pored over every detail of what I would write, what tantalizing items I would list in my description offhandedly, implying I had no knowledge of their value. When I do the dishes, especially, my mind floats away to the mother of all fake garage sales I would ensnare crayfish with. That or winning the lottery, which also makes doing the dishes go faster.
    I would say that I will not post the address of the sale until late the night before, to further frustrate her.
    I would strongly suggest that the house would look very empty (or like the residents are sleeping), but to rest assured that the treasures are all inside,waiting for the moment the sale is to start.
    I have weighed the ethical dimensions of this ruse many times, but I have failed to ever put it to bed as either an unquestionably wrong or unquestionably awesome act.
    However, in the end it would be for naught.
    Crayfish has at least one partner, and even if Crayfish fell for the fake listing, she would be sure to send Dogbuttmouth to all the garage sales I would be racing to get to.

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