Lifestyle

‘Swear jar’ helps pay for other people’s junk | Column

Recently, I found myself lured into the activity center at the annual St. Vincent de Paul Fall Festival.

I tried to stay away, but the tables were overloaded with miscellaneous items that parishioners had donated. There was plenty of room to spread out and, after the second walkthrough, my third-grader and I succumbed to the roll of the ball — the Bingo ball, that is.

Bingo is addicting. The victor could pick a prize, any prize. It was a glorified garage sale, minus the crap no one else wants either. I spotted my pick before I sat down eagerly to play. This gave me incentive to win by utilizing a proven successful strategy: I had six boards going at once.

This was serious business. I really had to have that pair of etched lead crystal candlestick holders. Did the donator know what they were giving away, I wondered. They were probably a wedding present — that’s how nice they were.

I really fell off the wagon. Recovering pack rats have no business near garage sales or free Bingo prize tables. It’s just plain dangerous.

For my first Bingo, however, I chose a pair of shiny brass cowboy boot bookends. I know they sound tacky, but they are quite heavy — and fun. These are a gift for our stylish school librarian with an equestrian theme for her library this year. She will love them! The next win, I ran over and grabbed those etched lead crystal candlestick holders before those little kids could realize their value. I spent the next hour or so (time flies when you’re having fun) winning items for another teacher. I controlled myself as if this were a test. Then I walked happily away with my lone pair of heavy etched lead crystal candlestick holders.

It feels good to be a winner.

Garage sales are an interesting American pastime. Personally, I refuse to host them anymore. Not since a guy asked me if I’d take a lousy dime for this brand new holiday pillar candle at my last garage sale five years ago. I stared at him in complete shock. How cheap can someone be? I was so thunderstruck I could barely squeak out “yes.”

Everyone wants a bargain, and it could be a win-win situation. Somehow other people’s junk is better than your own. The more people buy, the less you have to cart away to charity, or in my case, shove back into the garage. My youngest daughter loves garage sales — you can never have enough bits and pieces on top of your dresser. She was bursting with anticipation when a yard sale sign was posted in our very own neighborhood, but she lacked proper funding.

Finding creative ways to bring in money, she gleaned the concept of a swearing jar from a TV show. Every time she heard me utter sh--, h--- or d---, she’d shriek indignantly, “Mom! You owe me a nickel!” earning her the swear-police nickname. Her older teenage siblings laughed hysterically, until she started charging them too.

Most nickels were acquired while driving, or when chores were not being done in a timely fashion. (Or if I dropped something, bumped into a chair, or burned myself with hot water.) The comical part is I never actually gave her any coins.

The morning of the garage sale, Kathy, our trusty neighbor, accompanied Andrea and her daughter, Rachel, to the event. Kathy informed me that Andrea arrived at the residence carrying a big plastic jar chock-full of loose change. When questioned about the jar, Andrea proceeded to enlighten the yard sale host (whom I do not know very well) that every one of the coins were from her mom’s swearing jar. The sweet, innocent little pickpocket had gone into every room of our house scrounging coins.

Of course, my response earned her a few more nickels to spend — at the next garage sale.

Lesson learned: Stop swearing or learn to whisper — and hide your money!

Federal Way resident Jan Hallahan is a writer and mom: Jan12160@yahoo.com.

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