I have a deep need to thrift. I do it at least once a week, even on vacations. I’m not talking consignment stores where people bring in items, hoping to get some money back. I’m talking about stores that take donations and sell things on the cheap because they got them for free.
Last week I went to three thrift stores, the biggest one being the White Elephant Sale in Oakland. Once a year the Friends of the Oakland Museum open up their paid-for warehouse in Fruitvale on the Oakland Estuary and allow people to come shop. There are fifteen organized departments, and I hit ten of them on Friday.
First, we went to the garden department where everything was overpriced. Then my girlfriend wandered to the housewares department while I started off in sewing. We kept texting one another so we knew where we were at all times. I hit children’s, then linens, toys, bric a brac, art, hardware, and finally met up in electrical and swung though books on our way out. She bought two things, I bought stuff from ten departments.
In Housewares, we had to wait in a long line as people queued up to buy anything useful. My girlfriend commented on a woman’s colorful blouse.
“It’s from Guatemala,” she said, “so warm.”
Which was good, since the warehouse is unheated, and the cold floor comes up through your shoes ten minutes into the shopping spree.
“Why are they charging a dollar for masks?” the woman asked.
True, masks are required for all shoppers.
“Why aren’t they just giving them away for free?” the woman continued.
She complained about the price of opening day – forty dollars. That’s when the serious shoppers come, the dealers. What’s forty dollars when you’re spending hundreds?
The woman continued to bitch until my girlfriend was called to a check-out person, then I was called, and then the woman in the colorful shirt could be heard scolding the VOLUNTEERS about the cost of everything.
She doesn’t appreciate the amount of work that goes into the sale. With a limit of 1500 people a day, it’s never too crowded, and I don’t mind the $5.00 entry fee.
On another day I popped into my local thrift store, and I spotted right away a huge teal ceramic bowl, the size of a bird bath. Hey, it would make a good bird bath! I picked it up, heavy.
I walked over to the line and got behind two guys, which made me happy, because guys usually only buy a couple of things and they are fast. As I was standing there, waiting my turn, a woman pushed her walker, laden with clothes still on the hangers and came over to admire the bowl. She got in line in front of me as we talked. I couldn’t believe I’d have to wait behind her with my prize.
“You know, I was ahead of you in line,” I said, “and this is heavy.”
“Oh, that’s my husband,” the woman said, pointing to the man I had just been standing behind.
“Go ahead,” her husband said. “We’re not in any hurry.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I will, this is heavy.”
The two volunteers struggled with ringing up my bowl. They told me they didn’t have a bag big enough to wrap it.
“Are you making paella?” one of them asked.
“It’s for the birds,” I said through my mask.
“What?” she asked.
“The birds,” I said. “I’ll carry it out like this.”
“Thank you,” I said to the husband and wife with the walker, and out the door I went.