Yard sales and supply chains

People-watching is one of my favorite pastimes. I do not consider myself to have autistic “super powers”— but perhaps my ability to draw joy and happiness from watching other people go about their lives is not to be dismissed. And it has probably saved me a lot of money over the course of my life.

Covid-19 restrictions rather got in the way at the beginning of the pandemic, but I have people-watched in all kinds of circumstances and I quickly adjusted my habits to accommodate it. And for the last few months, I have been able to sit in a pub once again and enjoy overhearing conversations and watching people from my favorite seat.

Now the darkness and rain of autumn has landed. It does not really bother me, but I do become more of a homebody once we get into October. When it is windy and pouring with rain, I tend to just go to the grocery store and come straight home without stopping for coffee or beer. But there is no people-watching to be done from my apartment, so I depend on doing it virtually. And I recently found a gem!

I have not watched Antiques Roadshow for around twenty years, but it once was on my list. I liked both British and American versions — but I must confess a preference for the American show. Americans just seem to have a more interesting relationship with their stuff. American homes and garages are typically much larger and many have full basements — so Americans are able to collect a lot more stuff. And once the home/garage/basement gets impossibly full, they have a yard sale and drag a lot of the stuff out onto the front lawn. And there are people who are yard-sale junkies, driving around town on weekends looking for yard sales to poke around in. And it is at yard sales that many Americans acquire the treasures that end up on the Antiques Roadshow.

Not surprisingly, the current season is a compilation of footage from pre-Covid events. But they have done something rather interesting. Each episode features items from events held around fifteen years ago (2006/7). And the valuation has been reassessed to see if the item gained or lost value in the meantime. Ugly vases, large pieces of porcelain and folk art have not fared well!

It is fun to hear people tell their stories — and see their reaction when they learn that the watercolor painting they bought at a yard sale for $10 could be worth $25,000 at auction. But I also love watching the people hovering in the background, most of who are waiting in line to have their items assessed. And every now and them, I glimpse one of the Keno brothers getting animated with a piece of furniture.

I must digress to mention the Keno brothers, Leigh and Leslie, identical twins with rockstar blond-haired good looks. When I was a regular viewer, Leigh and Leslie appeared together, but by 2006, each seemed to have started in business for himself and appeared alone. Both are equally passionate about antique furniture and are not at all shy about exploring every nook and cranny, even if it means enlisting the help of production staff to turn over a large heavy desk so that they can look for tell-tale marks and fittings — or climbing inside an armoire to inspect the heads on the screws.

Fashions do not seemed to have changed much. The crowds of 2007 are indistinguishable from crowds of today. The only noticeable difference is that no one is looking at a phone. Many people undoubtedly have a mobile phone, but not a smartphone to be staring at.

Anyway, this has been a fun TV show to dip into again and binge-watch. And it has been interesting to consider as I read about global supply-chain problems. Many people are fretting about Christmas merchandise possibly not making it to stores in time for Christmas shopping. I worked several years in Christmas-dependent retail — and I have to confess I always get excited at the prospect of Christmas shopping being disrupted. Not Christmas. Just the shopping.

Our local antiques mall has been shuttered since March 2020. I can assure you that place is filled to the rafters (on all three floors) with stuff. Over the years that I was visiting, more stuff seemed to come in than go out. Each time I went in, it was harder to move around. Right now, I do not think you could get more than a few feet inside the front door (from what I see through the glass.) If local retailers run out of stuff to sell as Christmas presents, perhaps the owners of the antiques mall could open a temporary wholesale operation — or even get a permit from the city to close the street outside for a day to put up tents and have a giant sale for the public. This could be an unexpected bonanza for thrift stores, charity shops, flea markets and car-boot sales if people are forced to buy second-hand goods for Christmas because all the new stuff is stuck in containers on ships anchored at sea. And if the weather forecast is good for the weekend, people might want to hold an impromptu yard sale.

This is a golden opportunity to get rid of your stuff!

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