Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Swap Meet

Despite the fact that the weather in these parts has been quite lovely, there hasn't been a whole lot to report on the yard clean-up effort the last couple of weeks. Mostly that's because Tara's schedule is ridiculously full this month; as for myself, most of my outdoor efforts have been focussed on the more ordinary yard tasks of edging and weeding gardens, digging new ones (as if there aren't enough already!) and planting new stuff. Which is, it is true, refreshingly normal for yard work, and very satisfying; or well it will be if I can keep up with it. May, you know. If the gardens get ahead of you in May, you're doomed—doomed!—for the rest of the season.

But we did make it to this swap meet thing yesterday.

This gigantic swap meet thing.

Now, understand: when I say gigantic, I mean you can see it from the surface of the Moon.

There were literally acres of vendors, spread out over at least nine lots, though there may have been more. We were stationed at number nine ourselves; we kind of lost count after that.

Acres of vendors selling all kinds of stuff; my understanding was that it likely started out as a car-parts swap, but branched out from there. It was advertised as a flea market/antiques fair, but I didn't see any genuine antiques.

Most of it was frankly junk. Old lawnmowers, beat-up fiberglass dinghies, rusty go-carts, old bikes, entire old rusty cars on trailers, old shelves that had been sitting in someone's barn, giant used Barbie dolls in not very good condition, old crappy books from the 70s on useless subjects, all this junk, this random junk. Some of the vendors did seem to have a theme going, and a few (like the guy across from us selling fancy truck hoods) did seem to be selling actual new stuff, but for the most part, it was filled with pure, and purely random, crap.

I even saw, with my own eyes, one of those lady's leg in a fishnet stocking lamps, holy fuck. Alas, (or hurray) I forgot to bring my camera, so you'll have to take my word for it.

We went to try to sell some old VW car parts, of course. I had never heard of the thing, though it was pretty local; the way it had been described to us I'd thought it was more a car part thing. Still, we did sell a few parts, though how anyone found us among all the pure chaos of it was beyond me.

Now, I grew up poor. I am no longer convinced that this was entirely the hand of fate, as it was drummed into us as children by our parents; I'm quite sure that my parents actually, well, made sure that's how it was. I really think they (yes, both of them) were so in love with the idea that life was hard, impossibly hard, that they did everything in their power to make that come true. Especially my father, with his hoarding and his extreme miserliness; with him anything good that happened was always negated by something bad.

Here is an example. It's more recent, from after I moved back in with them a while back, not from when I was a child; but it's pretty characteristic of how he thought.

One day, out of the blue, he got a check for $200. I don't know why, but it was, as far as I know, a legitimate thing and not some kind of mistake, so to my father it was $200 out of thin air. A good thing, in other words.

The next day he broke his glasses. It cost, guess what, about $200 to fix.

Now, the way I see something like that, is that, Oh wow, I broke my glasses but look! Money out of the sky to fix them! Isn't that amazing, and wonderful? The Universe is looking out for me!

How did he see it? Those glasses, or the fate that made them break, took away that $200. His rightful $200, that good good $200! That's always how it works and it's so unfair! That was my money and it was just taken away like that! Stolen!! UNFAIR!!!!!

He ranted about that for ages, about the unfairness of it all, and how everything everywhere was always trying to take his money from him. His rightful money, that was his. He'd still be ranting about it now, I imagine, except his brain is very damaged after the stroke.

So anyway. I grew up poor. I know what it is like, and I know there are plenty of circumstances that contribute; many, if not most, of which being out of the control of the average poor person. I understand that, and I do not blame poor people for being poor, not one bit. I get it.

But there are unhealthy attitudes about things, too. My father was so wedded to the idea of being poor that I swear he would deliberately sabotage things rather than risk having things change. Because change was bad, always bad, to him. Everything with him was about making sure nothing had any ease to it. Keeping the heat at 55° in the winter? Making sure it is a big production to take a bath? If you make things as near to impossible as you can, then you get to gripe about how hard life is.

I know, that doesn't make sense. But I swear that was part of it. Maybe because then he got his beliefs confirmed, and in some grim way that was comforting to him. Or maybe it was simply about control. That was at the root of just about everything with him, I think. He had to have that control. Hoarders give all kinds of excuses as to why they absolutely must keep things, but I think in my father's case anyway it did come down to that fear, that abject terror, of change, any kind of change.

But back to the swap meet.

I'm sure some reporter who hasn't lived it would probably have found it all quite charming and fascinating, a real human interest story, in its kitschy Americana way. But for us it was a hoarder's paradise, filled with people thrilled to be buying pure useless shit after having probably talked the vendor down to next to nothing. I mean I suppose I shouldn't complain; we did make some money, after all. But it really squicked us out.

We were supposed to go today, Sunday, for another day of it. But late last night Tara decided she just couldn't, and I agreed. I mean, the rain predicted for today was a factor, of course; the idea of sitting out in it all day was decidedly unappealing. But beyond that was the thought that the event was enabling other hoarders. I suppose I shouldn't judge; I don't know that all (or any, for that matter) of them were hoarders. But it had that vibe, of unhealth, of deliberate poverty, of getting something for nothing, of miserliness, of the thrill of accumulating useless, broken, dirty, rusted-out crap; and we just couldn't.

That is probably unfairly judgmental; but I am glad we didn't have to go back.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

There's a big weekend flea market in our city that is staggeringly popular as well. It sounds remarkably similar to the one you describe. Weird vibes there too. Glad you stayed away for the second day.

Anonymous said...

Nah, I go with your radar being spot on the money. It probably was exactly what you perceived, even allowing for the radar being set to, you know, eleven. It's kinda mind-bending to realize that our parents' problems, even severe problems, are shared by others - whose depth of suffering (experienced and inflicted) may be even deeper than our parents'!

Lisame said...

I used to enjoy those flea market events. I treated them more as a meet and greet event and just walked around looking at all the crap.

Then I lived with a hoarder and I can no longer abide those events! I can not. I will not. I am not a part of that freak show (yea, I said it) and I avoid them at all costs.
Our events change our perceptions.

The Writing Goddess said...

People who have an attitude of abundance, the idea that life/God/Goddess will provide bountifully and continually for us and look, isn't this wonderful, aren't poor even if they are poor, if that makes sense.

Living with OCPD ex, he had such a horrible, hoarding, miserly attitude, it really began to poison me and spoil my joy in living.

I hate haggling and bargaining. Offer me a fair price for something I want, I will buy it, but don't waste my time. I don't know how many minutes I will have on this earth, but I don't want to spend them haggling over something I am buying or selling. There are hundreds of activities I enjoy more.

Sidney said...

Dammit, Thalia. You always say what I can't.

You were right not to return to that sick hotbed of hoarding. Greg called me from San Diego yesterday and boasted how he had gone to the swap meet. He even has a phone call scheduled for later to discuss. Sigh.

"Squicked." I like it. I don't know what it means, but I like it. And I think I'm squicked out, too.

Martha Joy said...

I found something relevant, but I'm not able to articulate it right now. Please have a look:

Elaine said...

I get these same feelings in the "W" big box store, but even more in thrift stores (which is where I started shopping a while back). I go and get what I want/need, but I never buy anything just because it's a "bargain". Just creepy.

I agree with your post, too. Once people have an idea that life is good, bad, easy, hard - they do everything in their power to support their stand, including self-sabotage (in the case of "hard" and "bad"). Every time I start to do that, I imagine giving myself a good hard slap.

I'm glad that you and Tara are trusting your instincts about this stuff.