Stolen grill leads to barter page rage

Photo provided by Scott Saalman

By SCOTT SAALMAN
Guest Columnist

The sudden selling of my house prompted a garage sale. Brynne painted some beautiful signs, complete with colorful flowers. To speed things up, I posted some garage sale items on a local online barter page.

One item was a red charcoal grill. $10.

A guy named _____ showed interest.

“Can I pick it up around 3 or so?” he messaged.

Unsure I would be home, I replied, “It’s in the driveway. Just take it and put money in mailbox.”

“I will put the money in the back end of the mailbox. I’m not a cheapskate like some people,” _____ replied.

“Ha. Ha. Someone will probably take my mailbox now,” I replied.

“With the way things have been going lately that wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit,” he replied.

When I got home later, the grill was gone. I checked the mailbox for cash, but it apparently had been burgled. I felt like a rube. I had bungled my first barter. Still, it meant one less thing to move to where I was moving.

A bit later, the doorbell rang.

A man stood outside, holding out $10. “I’m _____,” he said. “I contacted you about the grill.” He wore a Nirvana T-shirt. “Sorry I’m late.”

“You mean you didn’t already get it?”

He looked confused. “I just got here.”

I inspected the cluttered garage. Maybe I had forgotten to move the grill outside earlier. Still, no grill.

“Oh my god, someone stole it from my driveway.”

_____ laughed. “See what I meant in my message?”

_____ drove a good distance to get here. I invited him inside for a garage sale sneak peek. He was a nice guy. Seemed smart. He talked about his current rough patch. I felt bad for his bad luck — and still do.

Then he referenced COVID, as in “I really don’t understand why people are getting vaccinated.” Nonchalantly, he added, “If you get COVID, you get COVID.” He was mask-free. I back-stepped into open air.

Earlier that day, I visited my mother, who has stage four colon cancer. In the past five years, the cancer has hit most organs, including her brain, and it has left her blind in the right eye. She’s tough, but the constant pain is breaking her spirit. She sleeps a lot and worries about sleeping a lot. Somehow, though, she continues lunching with the ladies, visiting the beauty shop, winning at the slots and laughing at things I say (even when no one else laughs). Recently, Dad chose to move their prepaid burial plots from a heavenly setting way out in the sticks to a cemetery in town, their headstones soon to be placed just a few yards from a trailer court. “My god, Dad. Did you order aluminum caskets too? Are modular coffins cheaper?” Mom laughs at things like that.

I have not written about her for a while. The updates drain me emotionally. They are the toughest words to write. I used to think the writing helped me cope. Lately, I’m not so sure. How is Mom doing? Let’s just say, if lives were equipped with a fuel gauge, her needle is currently in the red, not totally empty, but her last chance Texaco no longer reflects in the rearview mirror as she heads down the highway of the sweet hereafter with one headlight.

Due to her chronic condition, she’s more susceptible to the Delta variant than most. My belief in vaccinations is equally as strong as most people’s disbelief in them. They mitigate death. I don’t admire you for not getting vaccinated (unless there’s a medical reason). But that’s your choice. I do admire the vaccinated. I’m much more comfortable being in the camp of those who want to fight COVID. Go, science. Bring on the booster.

I didn’t respond to _____’s cavalier reaction to COVID. There was no point. I’ve heard the very same words come from the mouths of many acquaintances. “If you get COVID, you get COVID. Pass the mashed potatoes.”

For me, it’s simple: I want Mom to live as long as possible before the cancer finally drains her tank dry without having to experience the added agony of exiting this world with COVID-19.

_____ loaded his rental van with many free items. He wanted to shake my hand. I told him I wasn’t comfortable doing that. He said he understood. I called Brynne to call off our garage sale. I did not want to roll out the red carpet for a bunch of potentially unvaccinated people not wearing face masks, no matter how nice, intelligent, or down-and-out they were. She totally understood. Brynne is a speech therapist in a nursing home setting. She has lost patients during the pandemic. She has a tough time shaking the terrible things she’s experienced.

Just as I admire my wife for earning a master’s degree and choosing an occupation that helps the lives of others, I also admire my cousin Cassie Karney, an ICU ER nurse up north, who has experienced her fair share of on-the-job COVID hell. This passage from her latest Facebook post is the equivalent of a line drive baseball to a pitcher’s gut: “You know what our patient fighting for their life on a ventilator with COVID asked before being intubated, ‘Can I have the vaccine?’ THE SAME QUESTION EVERYONE ACROSS THE COUNTRY ASKS BEFORE BEING INTUBATED.” But by then, it’s too late.

You get COVID, you get COVID. No biggie.

I posted our garage sale items on the barter page. To reduce the risk of contact with people carrying the Delta variant, I offered the items for free to those who were double vaccinated, my simple way of honoring people who share my belief that vaccinations are the only real way on this crowded planet to get us out of this pandemical hell.

Nowhere on the barter page did I tell people to get vaccinated. The unvaccinated could still buy the items if they wanted. After all, I did want to get rid of stuff.

I’m sure you already guessed what happened next.

Vile comments unprintable in a family newspaper and one-finger salute memes soon appeared (I consider them badges of honor). One guy seemed fixated on doing things to my, as he called it, “dooker.” Yes, I had to Google it.

Josh wanted my address just “so I can throat pu*** you.” I’m not sure why triple asterisks were used. My guess is he didn’t get a lot of happy faces on spelling tests. Maybe he was stumped on which other vowel to buy by the time he reached the third letter on Wheel of Misfortune.

Vance asked, “Can I lick you for $10?” This is the closest I’ve come to prostitution.

Jacob evoked a repugnant word referred to someone who is less advanced in mental development. I won’t use the word. His two word comment: “Your (insert repugnant word here).” Perhaps I am, Jacob, but at least I know that the “your” in your comment should actually be spelled “you’re.” A classic bumper sticker comes to mind: I MIGHT BE SLOW BUT I’M AHEAD OF YOU.

A white woman called me a “racist” because she couldn’t get a $5 item for free when others could. I bet I’d find a Confederate flag photo on her Facebook page if I scrolled deep enough.

I had unwittingly poked a hornet’s nest of nastiness. A coworker, well aware of the barter page rage, told me, “You are my new hero . . . It was better than throwing a firecracker in a room full of chihuahuas.” I can’t think of a better summation.

All in all, my barter page experience was a success despite the crackpots. I sold (aka, gave away) all the heavy items to make my move easier. Most importantly, I actually met some nice people. The young father who smiled when I gave him a Nintendo Wii console at no charge so he could surprise his son. The amazing Cruz family who migrated from Peru. They shared touching stories about their lives. I love hearing immigrant tales. The Cruz family arrived at my garage with two mini vans, which my entire master bedroom suite somehow fit into. It was for their son’s apartment. He’s a sophomore at IU and is interested in global supply chain management. I listed the bedroom furniture for $350 even though it was well worth $1,500. For the Cruz family, it was free. I hope to see them again, share a meal. For dessert, maybe, indulge in a churro cheesecake made by their trilingual daughter who specializes in confectionaries.

I know I have no influence when it comes to encouraging people to get vaccinated. Their minds are made up — well until the endotracheal tube is shoved down their throats. Still, I can applaud the vaccinated because I love my mother. I want to protect her, keep her around a bit more. We still have some things to laugh about. I do not doubt that you love your mother, too. If you sensed that she was being threatened, I bet you’d also toss a few firecrackers, too, and set the chihuahuas into a frenzy. Rock on, Brynne Saalman. Rock on, Cassie Karney. You are my heroes. This column’s for you, Mom. They always are.

All these words just because someone stole my red charcoal grill.




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