Last weekend, a friend and I got inspired to clean out our closets and garages and hold a yard sale.  We set up some tables on the driveway, loaded them up, priced all our goodies with little round neon stickers and were ready to go.

The morning was a study in people watching, not quite as good as a Nascar race (the ultimate place to people watch) but still pretty good, especially for a writer.

The first observation I made is that yard-salers drive like crap.  They’d fly up the road, slam on their brakes to drive by really slowly craning their necks out the window to check everything out from their car as if they could really see the cool fish shaped shower curtain rings all the way from the street.  This is worse than texting while driving.  They were not watching where they were going, and those who chose not to park missed out on some truly cool stuff.

Those who deemed the tables of treasures adequate for further perusal fell into five clear cut categories.

  • The Discerning Shopper – this person would question us on every item.  They would pick each treasure up, turn it over, and completely check it out.  One woman undressed every one of our daughters’ old baby dolls to make sure . . . well, I’m not sure what she was checking, but she didn’t dress the dolls that she didn’t buy back up.  We had to.  That was annoying.  Another guy opened up every single CD to make sure he wasn’t purchasing an empty case.  I wanted to tell him just to get an ipod but then I would’ve lost the sale, so I kept my mouth shut.
  • The Haggler – This person refused to pay full price, even on items marked .25¢.  One woman actually asked if I’d take a dime instead of a quarter.  I get that people are looking for bargains at yard sales but really?!?
  • The Browser – This person would circle the entire driveway checking out every item on every table.  Then they’d do it again . . . and again.  I’d ask if they were looking for something in particular.  They never were, but they’d usually circle one last time before leaving empty handed.
  • The Talker – The talkers came incognito as shoppers.  They acted like they wanted to shop, browsing away and slowing down when they got near our chairs.  As soon as one of us said, “good morning” their true nature emerged.  They were really there to talk.  Total strangers told us their life stories.  One man talked for over twenty minutes.  I can tell you his kids’ names, the breeds of each of his eight dogs, which ones are nice and which ones fight, why he needs a lawnmower, his job (he was a truck driver) etc. You get the idea.  Thankfully, we only had a handful of talkers.  They were the most exhausting of the bunch.
  • The Boss – These are the laziest of the yard sale people.  They sit in their air conditioned car and send out scouts, either their spouses or their kids.  The scouts then report back either by cell phone (even though the car would be parked, maybe, 30 feet away) or by actually walking all they way back to the car to let the Boss know what they had scouted out and if the sale was worthy of their presence.

Since I’ve started writing, I’ve found that I tend to people watch with a more discerning eye.  I’m not sure if this is a good thing.  For my writer self, it’s good for character development, but then I also find myself highly entertained by random details which makes me wonder if I’m being an “observant writer” or if I’m actually just overly judgmental and bitchy.

I think I’ll go with “observant writer.”