Monday, September 3, 2012


It’s Labor Day. Or Labour Day if you’re in Canada. I prefer the Canadian spelling—it just has a little more flourish. Probably because Canadians themselves have more flourish than Americans. And supposedly a better health care system.

But that’s not the point. My unease today is that I wonder if I need a handler, someone who can tell me to stop, keep me from doing some of the crazy things I do. Today’s event really was due to the fact that I didn’t do what I was going to do on Saturday. On Saturday I had been invited to a special, by invitation only, 4-hour only, cash only, leftover junk sale sponsored by the American Rescue Mission at a warehouse in Capitol Heights. Nothing held back, nothing over $35. It was miles away from home, in an area I am unfamiliar with. I chickened out. I just pictured myself lost in the rain, driving around the beltway with an antique chifforobe tied to the roof of my car. The chifforobe would start slipping off the back of the car just as I realized I was heading toward Front Royal with no way to turn around. The chifforobe would fall off in a thousand pieces just as the state trooper turned on his siren to pull me over. That was my idea of an adventure and I really wanted to do it on Saturday, but as I said, I chickened out.

So today I was headed for the nursery to buy a flat of mondo grass. That was innocent enough—for that I didn’t need the handler. But on the way to the nursery I decided to stop at Unique, an enormous thrift store in a sorry old strip mall near the Asian supermarket. I did not know that Unique has a 50 percent off everything sale on Labor Day. Everyone else knows about it. The insane situation in the parking lot did not deter me. The fact that I couldn’t find a shopping cart did not deter me. The jumble of things on the floors—hangers and discarded clothing and frying pans with scratched Teflon surfaces and figurines of ducks carrying umbrellas—did not deter me. A bearded woman wearing a sequined skirt looked at me, chuckled, and threw up her hands in mock horror. Did I mention I could not understand a single language being spoken in the store? At least half of the people shopping were speaking to someone else on a cell phone. I’m not exaggerating. I loved it for the sheer insanity of the moment.

Just as I walked into the furniture “department” (it seems so pretentious to call it a “department”) an employee was wheeling a large wooden chest onto the floor. The price sticker said $12.99, but it was half-price day. I couldn’t leave it in the store. I figured the men at the loading dock could help me get it into the car but what was I going to do after that? It will be good to have extra weight in the back of my car this winter.

There were long, long lines at the check-out counters. The woman in front of me had her entire right arm wrapped in assorted elastic bandages. The bandages were tied in knots that did not appear to have been assembled by a medical professional. This bandaged woman had a huge basket of whatever—t-shirts, stereo speakers, plastic Easter lilies, a pink chenille bedspread with pompons, and a carton of maxipads. The cashier totaled the items but the bandaged woman protested and ended up spending 10 minutes haggling with the cashier. By the way, the air conditioning in the building was not working. I paid for the chest, got it loaded into the car, and now what? I really need a handler.

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