Thursday, March 4, 2010

Car Booty

Growing up in suburban, middle-class America, it was inevitable: we'd be driving through a housing development or a main street on our way home and my mom's foot would tap the brake.  I'd look up from whatever book was I reading behind my coke bottle glasses and see the hand written sign on the telephone pole in front of us - always in caps:  GARAGE SALE, 132nd AND MERIDIAN, CLOTHES, TOYS, YOU NAME IT and a shaky arrow pointing to nowhere.  "Let's take a look!" my mom would say, probably more out of boredom than curiosity.  And driving a few minutes down a gravel road, we'd see the house in question, with the garage door up and a man or a woman sitting at a table with a makeshift cash box open, always - and this is key - with the radio on.  Tables and tables of junk would line their driveway, everything from broken Barbie heads to rusted saws.  "Ooh, I could use this!" my mom would say, picking up a glass vase, her keys jangling in her hands.  All I wanted to do was go home.  "How much is this vase?" she'd ask.  "Two dollars," the man would answer back sourly.  "How about 50 cents?" she'd reply.  "Whatever," he'd say, waving his hand.  My mom wasn't (isn't) cheap or stingy - not in the slightest, but the whole point in going to such sales was paying as little as possible for junk. 

So I had a bit of a trip down memory lane a few months ago when I visited John's mum, Alison, in Leicester.  "Ooh, those are nice trousers!" I said, looking at her pants (yeah, I still say "trousers" to Alison, even though she'd probably know what I meant by "pants").  "Car boot sale!" she exclaimed proudly.  "I think they might even be Marks & Spencer!"  For those of you who have never experienced a car boot ("boot" = "trunk" for  my fellow Americans) sale, it's like a garage sale fan's heaven:  huge fields in the wonderful green countryside wrecked by some 50-odd cars with their trunks open, spilling their guts full of used clothes, garden tools, bric-a-brac and ... strangely, just-in-date chocolate.  You know you've been to a car boot sale when you've come back with sheep poo on your boots (never came out in the end) and a wall-to-wall calendar complete with dry-erase pen.  It's good fun though, bantering with the locals (Alison did that, not me), looking for frames and vases to complement your country home (again, her, not me) and driving away with a good deal. 

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