I’ve always loved thrift store shopping. When I was younger, it was the only place to find the vintage clothing that my friends and I, 1980s club kids, favoured. When I got older and money got tighter, it was a cheap way to look nice. And now that Ken and I have re-instated the antiques business and I’ve opened a second booth at the antique market, thrift stores are a wonderful place to find trinkets, odds and ends and whatnot that I can resell. The other day in fact, I was at a local thrift store, Goodwill, and found some good deals–a vintage action figure for a buck, a few pieces of ironstone and a depression glass rooster candy dish for 4.50. It’s from the 1930s, in excellent condition, and worth a heck of a lot more. So imagine my excitement when one of my co-workers at the antique market mentioned that there was a Goodwill ‘outlet store’ not too far away.
Me: OUTLET, you say? A place where things are even cheaper than at the regular Goodwill?
Co-worker: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. You pay by the pound. We’ve gotten some good stuff there.
Me: Where is this mecca of good deals?! I must know!
Co-worker: Just up the highway. Here are the directions.
I was super-excited, imagining a store lined with shelves of beautiful china, glassware, and other assorted sundries, and me with a shopping cart, just filling it up with things that didn’t weigh too much. Finally, last week, after days of anticipation, I was able to go there.
AND IT WAS THE MOST TERRIFYING EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.
I arrived shortly after 10:30 in the morning, having followed my GPS instructions like a pirate with a treasure map. I pulled into the parking lot and the red flag should have gone up right there. It was PACKED. People were double-parked and cars were squeezed together, but luckily my car is quite tiny, and I managed to find a spot partly on the grass. I grabbed a couple of reusable shopping bags and walked through the door…into a giant open room. It was full of large, wheeled bins surrounded by people, who were going through them, tossing things up in the air, digging through to the bottom, and pulling things out. I was hesitant, and took a tentative step forward to peek into one of the bins, which was full of what looked like broken CDs. Then I noticed in the far corner, there was a line of tape on the floor, and behind the line of tape, there was a line of men, standing shoulder to shoulder, fidgeting, rocking back and forth on their heels and looking desperate and hungry. A store worker went by:
Me: Excuse me. That line-up over there—is that where I’m supposed to wait my turn or something?
Worker: Oh no. You can look in all the bins over here. Those guys are waiting for the new bins to come out. You have to stay behind the line until the new bins come to a complete stop and the back-room workers have had time to step away. Then we give a signal and you can dive right in.
Me: Maybe I’ll just watch for a bit.
After a minute, the doors to the warehouse suddenly flew open. The air bristled with anticipation and the men in line started cracking their knuckles and bouncing up and down on their toes. The bins were wheeled over to the corner and parked. A man began to move and a woman shrieked, “NOT YET!! STAY BACK!! The men muttered in frustration while the carts were positioned, and then the workers let go and backed away quickly as a whistle sounded. The line surged forward and everything became pure chaos. Arms disappeared into the bins, then reappeared holding perceived treasures. A cry went up as one man triumphantly brandished a coil of copper tubing. Two other men tussled over loose hockey cards, and another ran back to his shopping cart (I realized they all had carts lined up against the back wall) with a Coleman cooler. It was like feeding frenzy time at the shark tank, with vintage radios and glass vases as chum. Then, as quickly as it had begun, the men tossed their finds into their respective carts and ran, as a unit, to the opposite corner, where ANOTHER LINE FORMED. Apparently, the new bins were placed in alternating corners, and sure enough, a minute later, a set of full bins arrived, and a fresh round of shrieking and digging commenced.
So what did I do? What do you think? I tucked my reusable shopping bags under my arm, got the hell out of there, and drove like the wind to the calm oasis of Value Village.
In other news, I had the tremendous honour recently of being asked to write the foreword to my good friend and brilliant poet Susan Richardson’s latest compilation titled Tiger Lily, to be released on August 19. The collection is an ekphrastic collaboration between Susan and artist Jane Cornwell, and it’s just brilliant. You can pre-order it here. And here’s a sneak preview of one of my favourites, Mermaids Are Real: