Saturday, May 15, 2004

Parallel lives

We go to a lot of yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, and the like. A very large percentage of the things we own were previously owned by someone else. I like to think of it as bottom-feeding on the economy. We don't believe in constantly buying new things and throwing them away.

You can tell a lot about people from their yard sales. Most of the sales aren't interesting; they're filled up with undistinguished crap and/or baby clothes (not that there's anything wrong with the latter, but I'm never going to have any use for it, so for me it's a waste of time and space).

But every once in a while we'll arrive at a yard sale that fits us like a glove. I'll walk up to the clothing rack and start grabbing item after item. We'll find housewares that suit our tastes. The s.o. will buy an entire box of soul LPs at a bargain price. There might even be art or furniture we like. That's what it was like today. There was a nice young Hispanic couple whose personal aesthetic (and clothing sizes) matched ours beautifully. I expanded my wardrobe vastly at prices ranging from 10 cents to a dollar per piece. I adopted a $1 black Kate Spade mini-backpack. We picked up a chain collar for Cairo, as well as a southwestern cookbook. And we found the perfect big rattan Venetian blind for our screen porch, so that we can sit out there in the afternoons and not be bothered by the sun. It was exactly what we'd envisioned, and it was $6.

This has happened to me a couple times before. Once at a charity sale in town, I happened upon a table belonging to a girl whose personal style was a dead ringer for mine. I bought half the items on the table--CDs, clothes, kitsch, etc. Another time I went to a garage sale in St. Paul and walked away with two lamps, a stack of dishes, two pairs of shoes, and several pieces from the lady's vintage clothing collection.

I always feel a tiny twinge of sadness when I find these perfect sales. They usually mean the person is moving away, which is sad because if they're that much like me, why haven't I been friends with them all these years? But even if the people aren't moving, it's not as though I'm going to walk up to them and say, "Hey, want to come over for dinner?" That's creepy somehow. It's strange how people so alike can live parallel lives whose paths never cross, even if they're in the same town.