Column: Want to test your mettle? Host a yard sale

Herald Enterprise Editor

When I picked up the phone, the woman on the other end spoke in a tone of voice that convinced me her rambling monologue would one day be used as court evidence. It seeped urgency and despair, like one of those haunting airline black box conversations played back with subtitles during a much-promoted episode of “Dateline.”

Let me be clear: This was far less tragic. Unless, of course, you were me.

It was the opening day of a three-family yard sale at my house that, technically, hadn’t even started. First pitch was set for 4 p.m. The team had barely taken the field to warm up. But yard sale enthusiasts don’t care about your advertised hours. They follow one schedule: theirs. They want the old couch for 10 bucks and if they have to break down the garage door and hold your dog hostage to get it, well, then big whoopy.

I’d heard rumors about their fearless fury. Then I lived it in a really weird storm that unloaded without warning.

The phone buzzed. My wife had spent the previous few evenings sifting through our children’s musty clothes. She, her sister and her aunt turned our living room into a maze of sleepers and T-shirts and bibs and shoes and toys that sing and ding and ping and price tags and boxes and boxes and boxes. It was like the lost-and-found puked. There was indecision and anxiety and absolutely zero patience. So I knew that by merely answering the phone, I would be annexed into something I would not enjoy.

Because I was obligated by marriage, I answered.

Before I even said, “What now?” she belched a 76-word flurry that included no pauses but many problems.

It began with a simple plea.

I could use your help here.

When random people are wandering into your garage without your permission, you don’t have time for rationale. I have a job, as you might have guessed, at a newspaper. We have deadlines. So unless some stranger was making bids on things inside our house, I wasn’t exactly authorized to leave my desk. So I just mumbled something and let her keep rolling.

Our kids are sitting in Jamie and Phil’s van.

My wife’s sister is named Jamie. Phil is Jamie’s husband. And, for reasons beyond my comprehension, my two oldest children were inside their van. Was the van running? Was the van moving? Had they locked themselves inside? Had Jamie and Phil kidnapped them? Had some wayward bargain hunter purchased himself a mega-deal — Jamie and Phil’s van and my children? I was provided no further details.

There’s a gabillion people here. I don’t have all the stuff out yet. I don’t have the yard marked. I don’t have the money.

I pictured my wife knocked from her folding chair by stampeding customers, our yard cluttered with haphazardly parked moving trucks and yard sale professionals cackling as they sprinted away with mounds of 2T girls pants they’d swindled for a mere 50 cents. I laughed. But only a little.

Emilie is acting like she’s going to puke — she’s burping all the time — and I don’t know what to do.

This unexpected tangent assured me that my wife had lost her mind. I felt sorry for her. And a little guilty about not taking the day off to work crowd control (and dabble in psychiatry). But I had taken a day off to prep for this discount extravaganza. Just so happened to be the first day of the NCAA Tournament, but hey, a man can empty boxes and watch basketball at the same time. And I had no idea how to fix a 1-year-old’s repeated burping. Give her a drink? Pat her back? Put her in Jamie and Phil’s van?

I don’t know what to do.

I know this: Never again. I have not been to a yard sale — as a patron or a host — since the last time we did this about seven years ago. At the conclusion of that mess, we declared “never again.” Yet we kept a box of clothes marked “yard sale” in the basement just in case. This time, we saved only the memories. We sold things for a quarter of what we probably could have earned, but when people are willing to give you money for a pair of toddler’s socks, you accept their offering and hand over the footwear. I advised my wife to welcome the flood of strangers and take whatever they’d give her.

Just get your paper done and come home.

Two of our children were in somebody else’s van, and the third was burping every 20 seconds. As if I would miss that.

I gotta go. (Click).

Thank God. Never again.

Jason Recker is the enterprise editor at The Herald. He wants to spend all the yard sale earnings on ice cream. His email is

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