My sister and I are in the process of cleaning out our bedrooms and our stuff in the shed. Sometimes it seems like there is so much stuff, and other times I can’t believe how much we’ve already gotten rid of. I find that I am almost down to the “essentials,” the things I’m not quite ready to give up. Most of it fits into my room, and yet I could easily imagine filling an entire house with all of it. Anyway, Kat and I decided to sell our “non-essentials,” the stuff we were willing to part with. At first I was going to sell it on e-Bay or Craigslist, but so much of the stuff was so small and not worth very much. Buyers would end up spending more on shipping than on the actual item. A garage sale was out, so I did some research on flea markets.
I’d never been to a flea market, so I was kind of surprised to find out just how many there were in the Bay Area and how often they were held. We found the Ohlone College Super Flea Market (which apparently makes an appearance in The Kite Runner). It was three weeks away and I had already done a lot of the work, so we decided to go for it. We rounded up a few more items, registered, bought a card table, loaded up the car early Saturday morning and were ready to go.
I was a little nervous about what we were selling because, when Mom signed up for the flea market, she was warned not to make it look like a garage sale (hence the card table). The guy who told her this must not have had his morning coffee because most everyone at the market was doing what we were doing – cleaning out their sheds and garages. Our lot was in between a woman selling jewelry and knick-knacks and a guy selling antique gizmos and furniture.
People who shop at flea markets are real pros. Before we had even set up, a man came and bought all our electronics and the woman next to us bought some jewelry. All morning people came by with their wheely baskets and giant canvass bags talking you down from $3 to $2. That was the other thing I quickly learned – I had raised the prices of everything we were selling after the garage sale warning (for some reason I decided that raised prices would be more classy), but just about everything at a flea market goes for $5 or less. It took us forever to sell a package of unused outdoor lights at $5 and when we finally did, the buyer bargained us down to $4. The jewelry (the stuff my sister and I bought at Claire’s for proms and winter formals) sold well, but our clothes, which most people deemed too small, didn’t sell at all. At one point in the morning, a woman came by who bought an astonishing amount – the rest of the jewelry, a jewelry box, a scarf, two lamps, a candle and a candle holder. She was looking for Easter presents. We had another customer – a little girl who wanted one of our board games, but was having trouble gaining support from her parents. She finally came back and bought it, but a few moments later she returned to tell us that the play-doh in the game was dry. We gave her a refund, but to me it seemed like she was hoping for another alternative, though none of us were sure what a good one might be. Another woman took a look at the dresses I was selling. The wine-colored one, the one I wore to my first formal with Justin, the one I’ve been hoping to fit back into for years (but finally accepted that I never will), caught her eye. She commented on how beautiful it was, but said she wasn’t that small. She asked if it was mine. “At one point,” I answered.
It was freezing in the morning and the coffee was so strong that even Mom might not have been able to handle it (Mom was working in the morning, so she came later that afternoon, whereas I was there in the morning because I had class in the afternoon), but it was fun. There was a festiveness and camaraderie about the place and I found myself enjoying it. It was AB, though, who was in her element. She engaged everyone who walked by, made friends with our neighbors and flirted her way into making a sale. Yes, flirted. AB gots game and she totally knows how to work it. She claimed it was luck that she was able to talk a guy into buying a pair of sunglasses for $10 when someone two lots down was selling them for $5, but I think it was the winking and smiling. She stayed the whole day and ended up with some pretty sore feet because of it, but I was glad to hear today that she really enjoyed herself.
I’m not sure if/when I’ll ever participate in a flea market again, but I am glad to have had this experience. It’s a unique atmosphere, one I think is fueled by the things being sold. While they no longer have any use to the seller, they still have a history – snippets of the stories of their one-time owners’ lives.