no solicitors!

I'm chatting with the office manager, Rhonda, while a couple of strangers dressed in business casual talk outside the office window. I'm wondering who they are, but Rhonda figures them to be salesmen, prepping themselves to come in and make a pitch about our toner needs or whatever it is that people sell to software companies. I hate salesmen, but it's not my job to deflect them, so I want to stay and watch Rhonda tell them what they can do with their toner samples. She bemoans the fact that they're young and cute, and wishes she didn't have to get rid of them, but their goals are clearly at odds with the giant yellow "!!NO SOLICITORS!!" sign in our window. I speculate that they might be Jehovah's Witnesses, at which point, we would run and get my coworker who used to be Mormon to take care of them.

They enter and introduce themselves, Josh and Trevor. My heart immediately softens slightly, but then I remember that this Josh is just a blood-sucking salesman who was too indecisive in college to get anything but a Business degree like the rest of his frat brothers and is of no relation to my sweet and blue-eyed beau, who is, incidentally, much cuter. I will not be weakened. Salesman Josh does all the talking, as if Trevor is just along to learn the ropes of being professionally bothersome. He wants to talk about shipping needs, specifically with our President or CEO. Rhonda explains that we don't allow solicitation. Salesman Josh is persistent.

"Well, could I just have the name of your shipping manager?"

"We don't give out names."

"Oh, well, is he busy?"

"I don't know. He's in the back somewhere."

"Could you give him a ring and see if he's available? It'll take, like, two minutes."

"I'm pretty sure he's busy."

As Rhonda is performing this silly dance, the President of the company comes into the office and makes a copy. She does so quietly, trying to appear to be just another secretary. I snicker. Dramatic irony!

"What do you guys do here anyway?"

"We're a software company."

"Oh, okay. And what's your name?"


"Rhonda. R-O-N-D-A?"

"Yup." More dramatic irony! This is fun.

"Rhonda, it wouldn't take any time to just ring up the shipping manager and see if he's got a minute."

"I'm pretty sure he isn't available."

"Alright, Rhonda. Thanks for your time."

Exit Salesman Josh and Mute Salesman Trevor. Rhonda rolls her eyes at me and complains about how pushy our visitors were. I agree, but feel a bit sorry for them, too. Their jobs must suck. I'd rather be a waitress any day than a salesman (saleslady?). True, the jobs are not that different, but at least there is the understanding that the customer come into the restaurant specifically to be sold something. These guys are just wandering around being annoying and trying to earn commissions. Then again, I'm really glad it's not part of my job to tell them to take a hike. At first I would be meek and confrontation-averse, but after a while, I would just get snippy.

"We don't allow solicitation."

"I just want to talk to someone about your shipping needs."

"Solicitation, noun. The act of seeking to obtain by persuasion, entreaty, or formal application. To petition persistently. Does that cover what you're wanting to do here?"

"What are you current shipping methods?"

"We have a guy."

"A guy?"

"Well, he's got a pony, too. He delivers on Sundays, too, unless the pony gets sick."

"Uh, what's your name then?"


"How is that spelled?"

"Exactly like it sounds."

I think I could learn to like that job.



We're in a development meeting and, as usual, we've veered wildly off topic. Some day, I will post an easy cop-out entry that consists of a list of topics that have come up in these meetings. But as my current running tally is only five items long and has only one reference to transportation modes of zombies*, it won't be today. We're talking about costumes actually. I still don't feel entirely comfortable in this environment. I don't feel like part of the team yet, and so I make my quips, but I make them quietly, as much to myself as to the two or three people who can hear them. Perhaps you can measure how long someone has been at a company by the volume of her voice at company meetings.

So anyway, we're talking about costumes. Before I know what's happening, I hear the words, "Hey, I've got a nun's habit if you want to borrow it." come out of my mouth. I've said it much too loud. Take it back, take it back.

"You have a what? Seriously?" Nope, too late. This reply comes from my boss.

"I, uh, shouldn't have said that."

I do, in fact, have a nun's habit. My mom made it for me on the night before Halloween, 1997. My high school had adopted a policy that students were allowed to wear costumes provided they did not cover the face. For some reason, I got it in my head that I wanted to be a nun more than anyone has ever wanted to be a (fake) nun before. So my mom bought a bunch of black fabric and created a habit. I'm not sure why she loved me enough to do that. Mother Theresa's mom told her to go make her own darn habit.**

I had conned a guy friend who harbored a secret crush on me into dressing as a priest. Nothing like exploiting a secret crush that isn't very secret! And Mama had done a great job, mostly going off a picture of a penguin nun. There was a costume contest at school with a list of multiple winners from which my name was conspicuously absent. I suspect foul play.

I've used the habit a few more times over the years, always in similar circumstances. When you need a good costume, it's handy to have. I added a balloon once to make the pregnant nun costume, and also loaned out the habit once to a friend. I never really established what she needed it for, so perhaps she was doing some spritual searching.

I think now that my habit is languishing away in the back of a closet at my parents' house. I don't have much use for it, though I think I might fetch it so that it can languish away in the back of my closet, just in case I need it. You never know.

So, yes, I seriously own a nun's habit. Maybe I shouldn't have said that.

* This is absolutely true.
** This is probably not true.


the white truck and the urinal analogy.

"Who owns the white truck?"

I get an email with this title. Everyone in my entire company gets an email with this title. There is a white truck parked in Roy's spot, and he won't admit that's why he's pissed, but everyone knows that's why he's pissed. He tries to make it sound like a turf war, because we suspect the white truck is owned by someone who works at the software company next door. Maybe we're the Crips and they're the Bloods, or at the very least, we're the Sharks and they're the Jets. Really, it's just about his space. Various ideas of retaliation are thrown around, including putting nasty notes on the windshield, putting one of our company bumper stickers on the back, and throwing rocks through the back window.

I sort of stare at him uncomprehendingly, because honestly, who gives a crap? He had to park ten feet farther away from the door than usual. Despite those particular ten feet being uphill in the snow and he somehow lost his shoes, he did make it out alive. I wonder if Roy has a lot of stress in his life, and whether any of it could be relieved by not sweating the small stuff.

Roy comes to my cube to enlist my help in the war. As one of the early-morning people, I get here in time to take one of their spaces, which Roy thinks I should do tomorrow morning. To do so would be to park even farther away, but that apparently does not matter now. I cannot conceal my complete lack of concern for his problem.

"What if, well, you're a girl. Okay, what if you went into the women's room and there were no stalls, just toilets. And you sit down, and some girl comes in and sits down on the toilet directly next to you, instead of the one at the other end. Wouldn't that be completely inappropriate?" He is incredulous, as am I, for completely different reasons.

I'm still stuck on the idea of a women's bathroom with no stalls. Forget worrying about where another girl is sitting, WHY AREN'T THERE ANY STALLS? I toured a women's prison once, and that's how it was. It was enough to keep me on the right side of the law for the rest of my life. Finally, I get past that image and realize he's making a reference to some peeing-standing-up thing I don't know about.

"That is a terrible analogy. I don't know about urinal protocol." To me, it's more like you have your favorite urinal (as I have a prefered stall) and someone's already using it when you get there. Do you stand there and look outraged? Do you whine and bitch and moan and send out company emails? Do you go in and plaster a company sticker to the offender's forehead? No, you go pee and then you get on with your life.

"Okay, fine, it doesn't make much sense for you. But it's war!" At this point, I realize he's not going to leave, so I just agree to park next door tomorrow morning. I know I have no intention of doing this, and I sincerely hope my voice is conveying that message. He'll be lucky if I don't park in his stupid spot tomorrow. Maybe I should just pee in it.


captain scarlet.

Netflix makes suggestions to me about which movies I might like to rent next. I think the algorithm mostly compares the things that I like to the things other people like. So if I liked The Full Monty and user Bob liked The Full Monty and also All Creatures Great and Small, then maybe I will like All Creatures Great and Small. It seems to be an imperfect system, as I'm not particularly sure how strip-teasing steelworkers are related to country veterinarians. In any case, it's how I discovered Captain Scarlet.

Captain Scarlet is an old TV show from the late 60s. It's a serial adventure show, like Flash Gordon (not that I've ever seen Flash Gordon, but the description on the Captain Scarlet disc sleeve makes this comparison). And so each show is a half hour segment where our hero must defeat the new plot of the villian, which he does in the TA-DA! nick of time. The thing that differentiates Captain Scarlet from Flash Gordon is this:

It's all puppets.

I am convinced that this reason is what prompted Netflix to suggest it to me. Perhaps there is an overwhelming correlation between liking Captain Scarlet and liking Muppets or Senor Wences or Mystery Science Theatre 3000 or even Team America. That's totally reasonable, because it's true: I really like puppets and ventriloquism. I would give up programming forever to be a professional puppeteer, if I thought that was a viable career option. There. I said it.

In any case, Netflix said "Hey, Sandra! Puppets!" and I looked at it and said, "Hey! Puppets!" I queued up one disc of the four-disc series (the entire span of the show, apparently). Josh and I sat down to watch one half-hour episode. Four hours later, we were hooked, but out of Captain Scarlet.

The premise is pretty goofy. There is a world organization known as Spectrum (not to be confused with SPECTRE) who is forever battling the Mysterons, a group of Martians bent on revenge. The Mysterons can generate anything out of thin air, provided they can destroy it first. On the party trick scale, that's way better than tying a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue. Captain Scarlet is the hero, one of many Captains with Color names (including Captain Magenta, who is terrifically flamboyant). He has the ability to be resurrected. So he dies about once a show, but he comes back to life. Basically, Captain Scarlet's job is to take one for the team, to die so that the good guys can remove his death mask and say, "Ha ha! You didn't kill the generic world leader you were after. You just killed Captain Scarlet...again!" And the Mysterons go, "D'oh!"

And so you have to enjoy convoluted plots and silly premises to enjoy this show. I'm totally down with that. In any case, it's not much more ridiculous than any adventure show or movie. The plots are formulaic. The Mysterons hijack something to achieve some destructive goal, Captain Blue figures it out, Captain Scarlet dies. There are usually two explosions per show, but the effects are well-done.

The puppetry is fantastic. The characters all look like they came from some sort of Barbie expansion pack. However, there is mouth, eye, and facial muscle control in addition to the regular limb and body movement. The mouth control isn't great, though. The intention was to be able to move the mouse without having an obviously hinged and separate mouth piece a la Charlie McCarthy. However, that means they're unable to move the mouths very much, and so everyone looks like they mumble a lot. The slight mouth movement reminds me of watching a bad ventriloquist act (ironic, no?). You can see the strings from time to time in close-up shots of the head. However, it's relatively rare, and usually, you're too interested in what's actually happening in the show to even notice. That is good puppetry.

I was even more impressed with the sets than the puppets. Everything is a scale model, so you know the street or floating air station or highway that you see is actually quite small. But it's all very intricately designed and perfectly put together. Someone spent a lot of time thinking about these things and then putting them together, and it shows. Captain Scarlet is some poor geek's labor of love.

The technique used by the show's creators is called "supermarionation." It involves the puppets being suspended on thin wires which serve as traditional marionette control but also carry electrical signals that control the facial movements. There was even a device within the doll that took in a taped recording of the actor's voice and then synchronized the mouth movements accordingly. It's a long way from a guy sticking his hand in a sock.

Supermarionation aside, creating a good puppet show has little to do with cutting-edge puppet technology. A good puppet show makes you forget that it's a puppet show. You know that there is a hand and a voice controlling Kermit the Frog, but you don't care, because he is Kermit the Frog. Captain Scarlet is an incredible puppet show. You constantly forget that you're actually watching dolls being pulled around a tiny set. You just want to know what happens next. And then you look at our Mattel-like hero and remember all over again.

Hey! Puppets!

*Research Note: Apparently, the people responsible for Captain Scarlet made several similar shows back in the 60s. My Netflix queue is getting quite long.


watch the world die.

I'm listening to Everclear, a band that peaked in the late 90s with that song about the dad walking out on his family. They had some songs before and after that, including the only one that I really liked ("Santa Monica"), all of them finding a comfortable amount of airplay on both radio and MTV. And so I knew all the words to the radio hits, just like everyone else in high school at the time. And here I am, enthusiastically singing along to that song about the deadbeat dad and raising my hands in the air as if I have any idea what it's like to be abandoned by a father. Is it 1998 again? No, not at all, because there's a stamp on my hand that says "21 + up" and my driver's license circa 1998 had a big yellow banner declaring that I wasn't even eighteen yet. Fake ID? I wasn't that kind of kid.

No, my driver's license tells the truth when it says I'm twenty-four, and the guy in Everclear could tell you that it's several years past his last big radio hit. He doesn't know that I never bought any of his albums. He has no idea that I always found his songs sorta catchy and enjoyable, but not interesting enough to drop $12 for a whole album of them. And since we're talking about the late 90s, I should add that I never even saw fit to download the songs for free. There's no reason why that dude from Everclear should ever know that. If he could see me from his perch onstage, he would figure that I was another of his grown-up fans who has been waiting for their comeback all these years.

We clap when he tells us to. We sing out LOUD when we know the words, which is in spurts based on how many times the radio of nine years ago played the song and how good our memories are. And when the mood strikes us (and we see the mood striking most of the people in the crowd around us), we jump up and down as we wave our hands in the air, freely revealing that we just don't care. Josh stands directly behind me with his hands on my hips (wanting to be close to me or protecting me from others who might want to be close to me?) and I am amazed that a mostly-clumsy girl and still-clumsy-but-not-as-much boy can jump straight up and down in such close proximity without breaking at least one ankle out of four. He sings and claps and jumps right along with me, and what I know but that dude from Everclear does not know is that Josh never bought any of their albums either.

So why are we here, having such a good time and being so enthusiastic about a band we only ever thought was okay? The only explanation that I can offer is that I was sixteen once. If you gave me the chance to see 1998 again, I'd ask if I could pick a better vintage, but I'm nostalgic enough to listen to the soundtrack.


rockin' and the wailin' wall.

Myrtle Beach used to be a lot cooler, back before I'd ever been there. It seemed to be the summer beach destination for all my school friends. I attributed the fact that my family never went there to the fact that Myrtle Beach must be a very expensive place to spend time, which only made increased its reputation inside my mind. Now that I'm much older and wiser, I can't help but wonder if my parents never took us to Myrtle Beach because they knew the truth about it: it sucks. It's dirty and overcrowded, and in South Carolina, which means that there are lots of places with signs that feature the letter 'X' multiple times. "The Armpit of America" my sister calls it, but maybe she's just bitter about never getting to go there.

But let's go back to that more innocent time, when I still thought I was deprived for never having had the Myrtle Beach experience, whatever that was. The only reason I even knew Myrtle Beach was so popular was because of the stupid t-shirts. It seems like all the popular girls ( i.e. the cheerleaders) had shirts from the Hard Rock Cafe in Myrtle Beach. Not only had I never been to that South Carolina vacation destination, I'd never been to a Hard Rock Cafe. It's like my parents were trying to keep me from being popular. And while I had developed enough to realize that popularity was a silly and unfair game that has nothing to do with the real merit in people, it was still a game I wanted to win. Outwardly, I scorned Myrtle Beach and the Hard Rock Cafe, but inwardly, I just really wanted one of those t-shirts.

Over Christmas vacation during my sophomore year of high school, my parents took my sister and me to Australia. I don't know how much our readers know about Australia, but it's way more expensive than Myrtle Beach, even when you use Australian dollars, which are worth less. I got it in my head that I wanted a Hard Rock Cafe shirt from Sydney. We went to a lot of trouble to fulfill this wish of mine, first finding the restaurant in that giant and unfamiliar city, then walking in to buy the shirt and walking straight back out again, because we did not come all the way to Australia to eat hamburgers without beets on them. It was my way of giving in to the part of me who secretly thought the cheerleaders were cool but still appeasing the cynical side of me, who would not have been caught dead in a Myrtle Beach Hard Rock Cafe shirt. I was beating them at their own game by wearing one of their precious shirts, but from a far more exotic location. The score was now Sandra - 1, cheerleaders...like 50 billion or something. It was a cool shirt, and I felt redeemed. I did not achieve instant popularity, though, because being popular is not about being exotic or different, but exactly the same.

I got over my secret obsession with the Hard Rock Cafe and Myrtle Beach and developed the healthy level of disdain I have for each now. I still liked my Sydney shirt, but it wasn't the same without all my angst behind it. I also graduated high school and started a new life without cheerleaders.

My parents keep going on these exotic trips. My mother, remembering how we went to all the trouble in Australia to buy the Sydney shirt, brings me back Hard Rock Cafe shirts, first one from Beijing, then one from Jerusalem. I've never been sure how to tell Mama that my desire for a Hard Rock Cafe shirt had been mostly fueled by teenage envy. Eh, it doesn't matter, because they are still pretty cool shirts.

After I received the Jerusalem shirt, I smiled again at my poor, sweet mother trying so hard to bring me back a souvenir that I would like. Then I happened to look at the tag of the shirt. The brand was some generic t-shirt brand, whereas my other shirts had the Hard Rock logo on the tag, just to make sure that no one missed the fact that HELLO! THIS SHIRT CAME FROM THE HARD ROCK CAFE! Perhaps my mother was not as poor and sweet as I had originally thought, but rather conniving and sneaky. Upon a stern cross-examination, she broke down and revealed that she had bought the shirt from a vendor in the street.

Somehow, this fact revived the shirt for me. No longer was it a Jerusalem Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt, it was a fakeHard Rock Cafe shirt from Jerusalem. Man, I bet nobody from my high school had one of those!

This morning, I decided to browse the Hard Rock Cafe website, because I occasionally do research to pad out these entries that are about essentially nothing. I looked at all the locations all over the world where one can eat the same cheeseburger next to the same memorabilia. I had a good chuckle at the comparison of the cafe's decor to the ancient grave mounds found in Bahrain. I wondered how many people in Bahrain listen to The Beatles and tried to come up with a clever analogy about Americanization. I found out something very interesting:

There is no Hard Rock Cafe in Jerusalem.

Hard Rock Cafe shirt from Myrtle Beach? Pshaw. I have a shirt from a Hard Rock Cafe that does not even exist. Take that, cheerleaders!



I have a very distinctive memory of being quite small, maybe four or so, and peeling sunburned skin from my brother's back. His entire torso was very badly burned, and so the whole thing was fertile peeling ground. I even remember my sister and I having a contest to see who could pull off the biggest piece.

Man, that is gross.

Fast-forward several years. I'm at a nerd camp in the summer before my senior year of high school. I am naive and have not yet realized that the experiences I had in my own family and my own small hometown have not necessarily prepared me for living in greater society. I might tell the back-peeling story, but it would never occur to me to append the statement "Man, that is gross." One day, I stay out in the sun too long and get a sunburned scalp along the part of my hair. A few days later, it starts peeling, and I look like I have a really terrible case of dandruff. I ask a friend for help. He did not grow up in my family, and so he thinks this is insanely weird and disgusting. He also likes me for some reason, and so he helps me out. Years later, he will remind me of it and I will have no recollection of the incident. I do concede that it sounds like something I might have done. I mean, who wants to have dandruff?

That is also pretty gross.

Fast-forward another few years, and I am sitting in the same friend's bed. We are snuggling, because we have become snuggle-friends, and watching TV. I've got a bad case of peeling sunburn on my arms. As I found out, the result of a software company taking its employees out for a baseball game in June is a lot of lobster-colored programmers. The peeling is driving me crazy and I can't stop scratching at it. I suddenly realize that little tiny bits of Sandra skin are floating gently down all over the bed. I think to myself that this is probably one of those gross things that I still do even though I mostly know better now. I look at the snuggle/boy/best friend and timidly say, "I'm getting skin bits all in your bed."

"I know."

"And you didn't say anything?"

"It's not that big a deal."

That is love, which is sometimes gross.



Josh and I are talking to Evan, who is a nice enough person, but has a bit of a different view of the world from my own. We're talking about high school, or rather Josh and I are talking about how lame we personally were in high school. I've found that one of the downsides to being a writer is that you leave all this evidence of who you used to be, and I've never been particularly impressed with the girl whose journals are in my closet. She was always focused on the wrong things, and she had some pretty stupid ideas about the world. Basically, she was a silly high school kid, and while she probably wasn't terrible for her age, I don't exactly poll high school kids on the big life questions.

Evan listens to all this and says, "Really? I was pretty cool in high school. I had a bunch of friends."

Josh and I look a little confused, then realize that we're just not explaining ourselves properly. I clarify, "Well, it's not that we didn't have friends, but they were just stupid high school kids, too."

"Oh, no, I had a lot of older friends who were in college and stuff."

"Well, no, I mean that in high school, everybody cared about a lot of petty stuff. And they thought they knew what was going on, but they really didn't."

"Nah, I was cool in high school." Evans assures me with jovial confidence.

At this point, I give up. For me, the concept of being embarrassed by who you used to be is so part of my being that its nonexistence in someone else completely doesn't register. It occurs to me that once again, I might be in a minority on this one. Was I the only dumb kid in high school? Crap.

Later that night, I was still wondering just how weird I was and decided to poll Josh. "Hey, did you think that conversation with Evan was kinda strange today? Like, that he didn't feel sort of embarrassed about what a stupid high school kid that he used to be?"

Thankfully, Josh agrees that Evan's view is totally crazy, at least to him. The good thing about Josh is not that he helps me be less crazy, but that he is crazy with me, which is really what I want in a boyfriend. So maybe Evan is in the majority, but at least I've got a buddy.

To me, Evan's view indicates that he hasn't grown up enough in the years since graduating. If you still have the same value system that you held when you were sixteen (really think hard about the person you were at sixteen, if you can stand it), then something is really, really wrong. If you can't look back at your former self and think about what an idiot you used to be, then chances are, you're still that idiot. Granted, I used to be an idiot, and I continue to be an idiot, but I am a completely different kind of idiot. I make completely different mistakes than the ones I did in high school. That's maturity, folks.

I have a love/hate relationship with my former self. She did and said and thought a bunch of stupid crap, but she was doing the best she could. I try to live up to what she wanted to be (sometimes - she wanted to be some silly stuff, too). I've always been pretty content with who I am, and so if that other girl had to exist to get me here, then I am okay with that. Recognizing and embracing your past shortcomings is part of growing as a person, and it's a cycle that should continue until the day you're too dead to make any new mistakes. In a few years, I'll want to deny ever being the twenty-four-year-old that wrote these words. Man, was she ever a moron at life.

She's still better than that high school chick.


how to sell your crap to me.

I could write a lot of how-tos. I suppose that comes from being somewhat particular and neurotic, though that doesn't sound as nice as it being a result of my being very knowledgeable about a lot of things. I could write about how to buy too many clocks, how to use quotation marks properly on a homemade sign, or how to write how-to blog entries. Today, I am going to write about how to hold a yard sale.

I will preface this by saying that I've never actually held a yard sale. This article will be instructions developed entirely from the point of view from the yard sale shopper. I don't feel that disqualifies me from writing this how-to. If you want, don't take it as a guide to sell your crap, but as one to get me to buy it.

I will also state that I will use the term "yard sale." Others might call them garage sales, or scavenger sales, or tag sales. They're all the same thing, and I prefer the first term. Note also that though an estate sale is technically different from a yard sale (there seems to be a death requirement), I think that the running of them is fairly similar to the traditional yard sale, particularly in the topics that I cover here. Just to avoid litigation, though, I do not guarantee these tips for estate sales. This also only really applies to small, one-home yard sales. The big bonanza events held by churches or civic organizations have other rules.

I consider newspaper ads optional in most cases. Some papers will advertise your sale for free, and if so, by all means, take advantage of that. However, if the newspaper is going to charge you, then maybe do without the ad. The exception here is if you are selling expensive items, including furniture, antiques, and musical instruments. The people who just happen by are less likely to be willing to spend the money for those things, and so you want to make sure you attract the attention of whoever might be trolling the paper looking for that kind of thing.

So, if you don't advertise in the newspaper, how will people know? Signs, signs, signs. People, make sure you have good signs. This is probably my greatest pet peeve, since if I can't find a yard sale, I can't get there to complain about anything else. The reason that you don't need the newspaper ad is because a lot of people are just driving around and swerving suddenly off the road whenever they see a sale. I'm one of them. I rarely check the paper, trusting only to take my car to a few neighborhoods that I know tend to have sales and then following the signs.

Signs can be made of lots of things, but I prefer the neon posterboard ones, simply because they stand out. Also, please make sure that all your signs (yes, multiple) are made of the same material and look generally the same. So if you are using neon posterboard, be a dear, and use all green signs. It just makes it easier to tell your signs from any others. Signs made from cardboard boxes are okay, but they can be hard to read from a distance (use a red crayon for these). I don't much like the store ones that say "Yard Sale" and have a teensy space to write in. Remember, we have to read this as we are driving erratically and trying to frantically change lanes, so please make it easy on us. If a three-car pileup is blocking the entrance to your street, you're not going to get a lot of business.

You need a lot of signs. No, really. You definitely need one at every turn. I recommend making a path of signs from any nearby large thoroughfaires to your house. If there are any long stretches where there are no turns, you might want to throw in a couple of "keep going!" signs along the way to tell the perspective shopper to keep the faith, there is in fact a yard sale ahead. I've often driven slowly down a road, wondering if I should give up and turn back, ever fearful of turning around right before I reach a yard sale that has a grand piano on sale for $5, plus free delivery. Don't neglect to put signs at your house as well, just in case people miss the piles of crap in your yard. Some people have piles of crap in their yards anyway, and you don't want to be confused with them.

There are some neighborhoods which discourage signs, because they can be unattractive. Clemmons, North Carolina is one of them. But Clemmons is a snooty little town that pretends to be a village, but no one is fooled. If you live in such a place, you should move anyway. Then you can have a moving sale!

A sign should contain the following information (all written legibly and as large as possible):
1. Time and Date - That way people will know if they should bother following the signs. If it's the wrong day or outside your time block, they can save themselves the trouble.
2. Address - please, please please. Sometimes, those of us driving around will miss a turn or are just lousy drivers in general, and so putting your address on the sign will assist us in finding you. Theoretically, if you position your signs right, the address won't be needed, but let's not get cocky.
3. A big arrow pointing the direction to turn (or to stay straight).
4. The words "YARD SALE" - nice and big.

Feel free to add attractive modifiers to "YARD SALE" like big, huge, gargantuan, or apocalyptic. However, make sure that you only add these things when you have finished adding the above requirements. Only do it if you have room. I honestly don't pay attention to them. The point of signs is just to provide a dummy-proof method of getting dummies to your house.

One final word on the matter of signs: Be sure to take them down once your sale is over. It's just polite to your community. Also, if you were a jerk and did not put the date on the sign, it keeps future yard salers from driving around your neighborhood cursing.

A lot of people have trouble with this one. Sometimes I can go to a yard sale and tell that the person throwing it has never ever been to one. The yard sale economy is just like any other in that you have to price things at what the market will bear. And frankly, we're cheap. Obviously, the best way to get a feel for pricing is to go to other sales. You might consult a friend who goes. Other than that, I honestly don't know what to tell you.

See, the thing with a yard sale is that the advantage is mostly in the buyer's favor. You're trying to get rid of stuff and you have only a few hours to do it. We, the shoppers, know you are in that position. We know that you don't want to have to bring all that crap back into the house. If you are having trouble getting buyers to bite, you might want to lower your prices as the day goes by.

If you really don't know, I highly recommend doing some research into this problem before you have your sale. You will lose sales from ignorant pricing. If your prices are bad enough, I will just leave without trying to negotiate, because I figure that you are an idiot and don't understand. I can't give you a guide, really, because I suspect that pricing might vary by region. You might go to a thrift store to gauge the rates, but then you have to lower those prices again. You are not running a thrift store. It's more like you're running a thrift store that's going out of business this afternoon. Whatever you decide, be willing to negotiate. That's a good way to make up for bad initial pricing decisions.

As far as putting the prices on the items, I do not have strong opinions. I like it when things are labelled so I don't have to ask. But it's a pain to label every little thing, so if you don't get around to it, that's cool. I would recommend at least having group pricing on items that you have a lot of, such as clothing, books, or glassware. Just put a sign that details how much pants and belts and hardbacks and bowls are. Be sure not to write directly on the product, and use stickers that are easy to remove. I am proud of my yard sale treasures, but I don't want people to be able to immediately tell that I bought them used because they still say $.50 on them.

Get over it, because it's going to happen. Someone is going to want to pay only fifty cents for that Jon Bon Jovi CD, even though you priced it at a dollar. Most people are unused to haggling and so as soon as someone tries to do it, they get a scared look in their eyes and just agree. That's really fine with me, because I just saved fifty cents on a Jon Bon Jovi CD, but in your best interests as the seller, you should probably not do that. If what they propose is reasonable, then go for it. If not, then refuse nicely or perhaps counter with something you are willing to accept. It doesn't have to be an argument or anything tense. Take a deep breath, it's fine.

Running Times
It seems that lately I've noticed yard sales starting and ending earlier in the day. I've seen them starting as early as 6 and ending as early as 10. To me, the perfect block of time is 8 to noon. That's generally the time that I devote on Saturday mornings to shopping the sales. Of course, you can start earlier or go until later, but I feel like those four hours are the core ones. If you don't include them, you're missing the times when most shoppers will be out. Or me, anyway.

Whatever your time may be, don't start earlier. If your sign says 8 AM, don't sell a thing before then. Cover up your tables. You will get people who come at 6 AM and try to get you to sell them stuff. Shoo them away with a newspaper. Offer to sell the stuff to them at double price if they're so antsy. I don't like people who do the early bird thing and try to get all the stuff before the sales even start. And if you encourage them, you're just encouraging bad yard sale etiquette. That's also why I don't like sales to start before 8 AM. I just see that as a trend started by those early people.

Also, I prefer Saturday morning sales. In this region, some people have them on Friday and Saturday mornings. Most people work on Friday mornings, and so I don't see this as being particularly helpful. However, when I was in Michigan, people were holding sales from Wednesday to Sunday. I thought that was craziness. All in all, I feel like it makes sense to hold sales when the most people are going to be buying, which is also probably when most of the other sales are held.

Try and avoid holiday weekends, if possible. Forget the "if possible," just do it. Less people will be holding sales and less people will be out shopping. If you can arrange to have a sale the same day as other people in your neighborhood, that's excellent. You'll attract more traffic.

Don't sell me stuff. People come to yard sales to buy things, so it's not as if you have to convince them. Be available to answer questions, but that's about it. Don't give any extra sales pitch, just the facts, ma'am. Trust them to wander around and look at stuff themselves without you leading them to the stirrup pants. We probably don't want any stirrup pants.

You won't sell every little thing, so if you still don't want it, take it to the thrift store. Some stores are reluctant to take things that they know are yard sale leftovers, so maybe try to disguise it a bit if possible. Take off your price stickers or whatever. Please, please, please do not throw it away. I hate waste. Plus, you can write the donation off your taxes.

Lemonade Stands
A lot of sales will feature a table to the side where little kids will sell lemonade or soda along with some baked goods. I am in favor of this sort of enterprise and I will frequently buy a brownie, even if I'm not hungry. Without going too much into a parenting how-to (which I am ridiculously unqualified to write), I think it's a good idea to give kids a project and teach them a little entrepreneurial spirit. It's the American way. Don't charge more than fifty cents for anything, though. Also, cuter kids sell things better, so if yours are funny-looking, maybe borrow a neighbor's.

Congratulations, you're now ready to sell me some of your old, unwanted crap. Now you've got good signs and prices and know how to handle the haggling. Of course, you may have a bunch of stirrup pants and not any Jon Bon Jovi CDs, so I might just browse for a minute, then wish you a pleasant day. That'll happen. Hopefully, though, you're prepared to sell stuff to anybody and you'll make lots of money. Then you can buy more crap.


not david.

To tell this story would force me to admit that I drank a cup of coffee, after I'd gone to the trouble of documenting that I quit drinking coffee. And of course all my problems with coffee were really just problems with caffeine, a habit I think that I could really quit if not for the presence of it in tea. To give up tea would be to deny my redneck past, and while I'm ready to do that in a lot of ways, none of them are gastronomical.

One morning this week, I was Dragging. I hadn't gotten much high-quality sleep the night before and I stared at my monitor as if it were displaying a foreign language. I mean, I was looking at some really convoluted code at the time, but it was still me a long time to register that I was looking at the wrong thing. So I went to the breakroom and got a cup of coffee. Then I came to the problem of creamer.

Here I'll take a brief paragraph to explain that I am a firm supporter of cows. In that I mean that I hate fake dairy products. I think you could cure my caffeine habit completely if you told me I had to put non-dairy creamer in every caffeinated beverage I drank (which would make Mountain Dew really nasty). I don't even really trust soy milk, because I'm just not sure how one would go about milking a bean.

So I've got my cup of coffee and I'm looking at the non-dairy creamer provided for public use. It's even the fancy brand and it just looks gross. "You are not creamer! I don't believe in you! I don't believe in you!" I want to yell at it as if it's my own personal dairy Jabberwocky. I take a look in the fridge and see about three containers of real, wonderful, needs-to-be-refrigerated half and half. They look cool and refreshing. I pick up each one and give it a little shake to see how much is in each - very little. One of them is labelled "David." Crap. Never in my life have I been so sorry that my name is Not David. I look around furtively as if I'm about to tell an off-color joke and pour a little creamer in my coffee from each container. I have become a creamer thief, and it tastes so good.

Fast-forward a few days, when I'm in the break room again and a fellow is getting his own cup of joe. He reaches into the fridge and pulls out one of the half and half containers while I watch out my peripheral vision. His name is Not David. Creamer Thief! Creamer Thief! I casually question him.

"Oh, is that communal creamer?"
"Doesn't it say 'David?'"
"Well, yeah. One time David brought in some half and half. And we all asked if we could use it and he said we could, but then we used it all. So we felt bad and bought him a new one and labelled it 'David.' We've been doing that ever since."

Wonderful, beautiful real dairy creamer for all the Not Davids. It's too bad I gave up coffee.