Friday, May 10, 2013

Why Rummage Sales are Worth It

At times, I'm bad about impulse purchasing. I've really improved, and was never a shopaholic, but I do have a compulsion to go to rummage sales, rubberneck at garage sales, and periodically peruse Salvation Army (which really, you should, as you end up with pieces of the Berlin Wall, or a Sushi cookbook in Spanish that you can give a friend for Christmas). I'm not quite so bad as, say, Gallagher's wife, whose explanation (per his standup routine) was "But it's on sale! Somebody else might buy it! Then it's our stuff in somebody else's house!" But I've felt like that on occasion. I don't want to miss something that would change my life.

So. The church next to the library has a twice yearly (at least) rummage sale, in the Spring and at Christmas. I go to it regularly, even though 4 out of 5 times, I don't find anything I need. But, I've been looking for a laptop bag for some months now. I had a bag that was suede (or more like wash leather, I guess) from Wilson's Leather, but it was Jim's, on perpetual loan. Then the strap started fraying because for a little while I had a paracord bracelet on it, and though it was plastic, it started the woven strap unraveling. So. Rather than thoroughly ruin his bag, I sought a new one.

 Now, while I delight in Spending Money to Buy Cool Things, I tend to do things like pay my bills, not drop $200-300  (or more!) on a bag to haul my laptop around in. Also, my laptop is a 17 inch Macbook of some stripe, inherited also from said fiancé. So, as you may guess, the laptop just won't Goddamn fit in many bags. So I searched. Etsy, military surplus, Amazon, Ebay. I saw many things I liked a good deal. All were too expensive, too small, or judging from the customer feedback, took a distressingly long time to ship and then smelled weird (or had a weird texture). Seriously. If you search "laptop bag" and similar on Etsy, these are the things that happen.

I can't say I was hopeful, precisely, when I went to the rummage sale. I'd forgotten about it and re-remembered is several times over, until this last Thursday. I had a meager fold of singles in my pocket when I walked into work and once again visited the "rummage sale!" sign. I got re-excited, and on my break at 2:00, moseyed next door.

The first row of tables was not promising. A partially done cross stitch of a dog and a seal. A tiny George Foreman Grill. Old aluminum frying pans. 8 tracks. A shopping bag that claimed to contain two complete Mr. Potatoheads (that one was a definite maybe). Old button down shirts, out of date skirts, shoes (I never buy secondhand shoes. It just weirds me out.) Then I came to the bags, and I know you know where this is going, but wait. It gets better. There were two contenders, a black leather bag and a tan leather one. Both would fit the laptop, I thought. Both were clearly real leather. I looked at the pricing guide on the wall nearby, and figured for three bucks each, I could go ahead and buy both.

When I got home, I tried the fit of the computer in both bags. Both fit! Better and better. EAch has more than one compartment; the tan one is of a more "open" design, and closes with actual belt loops; the handle (as opposed to the shoulder strap) is much darker and was clearly used more. The black one has lots of zippers, is missing its shoulder strap (though I have one I can use that came with Jim's briefcase, because who puts a shoulder strap on an actual hard-sided briefcase?), has a padded section clearly intended for laptop use. The black one had nothing in it from the previous owner. The tan one had a stick of Wrigley's gum, wrapper intact, some black pens, and four business cards, belonging to one Thomas Dunne,  Vice President, executive edtor & publisher, St. Martin's Press, and a Post-it note addressed to "TD".

You'll have to help me out here. What's the word you use, when you're an aspiring writer (though currently unpublished and agentless) and you buy a bag for the laptop on which you write and it turns out it used to belong to a publisher?  Whose had his own imprint since 1986? (they have a Dachshund colophon, by the by) Fortuitous? Kismet? Serendipity? I'm convinced there's one that starts with a B, but my brain won't give it to me. So if you think of it, let me know. I threw out the stick of Wrigley's, but I'm keeping the business cards and the Post-it note for now, perhaps as "publishing totems". Maybe one day I'll actually have some manner of contact with Mr. Dunne and mention that I have his bag (though I'm unlikely to give it back. It's a really cool bag, and fit with what I had in mind while I was searching).

The moral of the story is this is why rummage sales (and things like it) are so totally worth it. I have a bag that will last me many years to come, partially broken in by one or more owners, I have a neat story to tell, and my fiancé  now has his original bag back, with no further accidental mutilation by yours truly.


  1. That's a cool story! Maybe you could somehow work it into a query letter, should you query there!

    1. It's definitely a stand-out detail! It feels like a significant bit of luck, to be sure.