My friend H asked if I wanted to go to the flea market yesterday and I was all, “Hells yeah, I loves me some crazy flea market booty.” (I use the word ‘booty’ here in it’s piratical sense, not the ‘jiggly bottom’ sense.) We met for lunch and off we went to the fairgrounds and to meet our other friend M.
I had three items on my Flea Market Procurement List: Clinique products, vintage paste jewelry including a cocktail ring, and old photographs. H’s list involved jewelry and Fiestaware.
Halfway down the second aisle there was a man pacing in front of three booth space’s worth of Estate Sale Flotsam. Stuff was piled a foot deep – there was a half-finished quilt made of polyester squares, a baby book that had seen better days but was heartbreaking nonetheless, old letters, magazines from the 70’s, record albums including one that had wrestlers all over the cover.
As he paced, the Lord of the Flotsam would periodically holler, “THIS IS ALL FROM AN ESTATE IN THE MOUNTAINS OF TENNESSEE, FOLKS. THE MORE YOU BUY THE BETTER DEAL I CAN MAKE FOR YOU TODAY, FOLKS. WE’RE MAKING DEALS HERE.” I waded in and picked up a silver tray the size of a car tire and he zeroed in on me. “THAT PIECE IS DATED 1887 AND WE’D SELL IT FOR $75 BUT TODAY YOU CAN HAVE IT FOR $20.” I’d pay $20 for it, and I do love silver trays but I can’t imagine myself ever saying to myself, “Gosh, I wish I had a tray the size of my car tire to serve from…” I put it down and kept looking.
Soon I unearthed a pile of old black and white photos. They were apparently torn from scrapbooks, they were all faded, a couple were ripped. But I make collages and I wanted to use these for collages. I picked up three photos and a couple of postcards, including something that looked like the acknowledgment of a radio transmission to Japan.
A note about me and haggling: I believe in offering what I’d like to pay for something. I know Americans get all offended at the notion of haggling but if you can’t negotiate in a flea market, where CAN you haggle? I don’t mind people saying no and I don’t mind them saying, “I can’t go lower than x.” Or what have you. It’s all part of the game right?
I walked over to Lord Flotsam. “Will you take a dollar for these old photos?” Without looking at me he says, “WE DON’T SELL ANYTHING FOR A DOLLAR HERE.” And then walked about five feet away. Ok, so I’ve lowballed him. I’m willing to negotiate up, no problem. He was going to give me a silver platter for $20, surely a pile of paper couldn’t run me much.
A bit stunned, I turned to say, “Well, how much would you take?” He stomped over, glanced at the pile of old papers in my hand and says, “THIRTY DOLLARS.” Then he turned to the side so that he is still not looking at me.
I am not paying $30 for old useless paper that I had to dig out of his mounds of crap.
I handed them back and said, “No, thank you.” Which he doesn’t hear because he’s too busy saying, “PUT ‘EM BACK WHERE YOU GOT ‘EM. YOU PUT ‘EM BACK. EVERTHING HAS A HOME HERE.”
Wordlessly, I walked to the end of the table where some of the pieces had been collected and dropped them on the table from a height of approximately four inches, which he then apparently interpreted as me
FLINGING HIS PRECIOUS MEMENTOS WITH ANGER AND MALICE WILLY-NILLY INTO THE NEATLY ARRANGED PILES OF ARTIFACTS
As I walked toward the next booth where H is looking at jewelry, Lord Flotsam Asshat said to my retreating figure, “OH, VERY NICE, THANK YOU. GOD BLESS YOU. THANK YOU. THAT’S GREAT.” If I had a sarcasm font, I’d be using it right now.
I found H among some very sparkly jewelry and told her the story. Two women came up to me and asked, “How much did he want you to pay for that stuff?” When I told them they laughed. I said, “Then he was rude about it.” They nodded. “We know, we saw. We’re on your side.”
And the worst part is I really wanted those pictures. One was a black and white of a geisha, one was a baby picture. The other crappy part is that I felt a little crappy about it for the rest of the day. I kept wondering what I’d done wrong, but I think the guy was just an asshole.
In the end, I came home with three t-shirts, a silver necklace, a flower cocktail ring, and a green freshwater pearl necklace. H ended up with a Shake Weight which was the conversation starter of the day.
If he’s there the next time I go, I’m taking a picture of him.