Monday, September 12, 2011

It's Never Too Late To Learn Something New (Or To Buy My Punch Bowl--Please!)

Over the weekend I was rusticating at my brother's lake house a couple counties downstate.  He has a lovely vacation home in Amish Country, and the community there has a twice-yearly garage sale.  He told me about it a little over a year ago and urged me to start gathering up things in my house to put in his sale.  I go gather up my mother (St. Patsy) as well, jam everything in my car, and spend the weekend at the lake peddling my crap, visiting with St. Patsy and Bob, watching people and making a little wine money.  Bonus:  a blogpost.

Bob and I love to watch what people will buy, how they will try to bargain you down on a fifty-cent item, and try to figure out why, after over a year and three sales now, my brand new punch bowl will not sell, even at the low low price of only five dollars.  (I've had it with that goddam thing--I mean it. Next sale, I'm marking that puppy up to ten bucks. Fuck 'em.)

We have a goodly amount of Amish customers--Mennonites, too, and here's what we've learned:  1.  They will bargain, gently, on items of beauty or luxury, such as my strawberry crockery or faux depression glass; 2.  They buy sporting equipment in the spring; 3.  They do not generally buy plastic kitchen items; 4.  They will buy dishes or silverware in vast quantities. 

This year, a young Mennonite girl bought a pink plaid skirt from me after looking interestedly at--and touching--my black lace peignoir set.  For a long time.  Shortly after that, the following occurred:

Amish buggy pulls up.  Inside are two twentysomething Amish women.  One alights and begins browsing.  She is either heavy or pregnant.  After a time, she chooses one 12"X12" mirrored tile marked $2.  She shows it to her companion in the buggy, who nods. 

Amish shopper:  (approaching our cashier table)  Would you take less for this?
Bob:  No.  In Home Depot, a store, you would pay at least five dollars for that.
Amish shopper:  All right. I will take it then.  (carefully hands over a one and some change)
Bob:  Can I wrap that for you?
Amish shopper:  No.  That's okay.
Bob:  Thank you.

Amish shopper leaves.  Goes to buggy. Conversation occurs with its occupant. Amish shopper turns back around, clutching mirror, looks unsure.  Looks back at us. More conversation.  Occupant points to us.  Shopper starts back slowly.

Patsy: Oh no. Maybe she's not allowed to have that.  Maybe she has to return it.
Nance: Here she comes.
Amish shopper:  (looking up at sign above our heads) I would like a...Pepsi.
Nance:  Oh.  Would you like regular or diet?
Amish shopper:  I...I...(hand to mouth; looks from one of us to the other)...don't know.  Which one is best?
Bob:  Well, the regular Pepsi has a lot of sugar.  The Diet has no sugar.
Amish Shopper:  Well then, the Diet sounds best.
Nance:  That will be fifty cents, please.

With that, she handed over the money and carried both the mirror and the can of Diet Pepsi back to the buggy and her companion as if both were precious treasures.  Once inside, she stowed the mirror and opened the can.  And as they urged their big brown horse to life, I had a glimpse of the Amish women tipping back that Diet Pepsi inside their buggy.


  1. Nance! The second reference to the Amish in 3 days - Whad'Ya Know on saturday was a replay of a Wooster, OH show that featured a fellow from Lehman's Hardware store that specializes in Amish needs (check

    Also brings back memories of summers long past - once while laboring on a road crew near Kalona, IA (no stranger to hard work myself) we passed a couple kids that couldn't have been older than 6 or 8 plowing corn with a pair of horses infinitely larger than they were! Six hours later on our way back to the garage, they had made it about a quarter of the way across the field. You've got to admire their work ethic - or at least utilizing their child labor!


  2. Nobody is buying the punch bowl because we ALL have the exact same one, and none of us ever use it.

  3. Poor woman. You KNOW she was dying to have that black lace peignoir set. *wicked cackle*
    But, you gotta start simple. Diet Pepsi would be simple. And you can hide the sin, since it's disposable. That was probably the subject of the debate in the buggy.

    —Dare we?
    —Oh, let's go for it. We can get rid of the can, and, after all, it isn't exactly ALCOHOL!

  4. Once,years ago, I had a three hour delay at Heathrow Airport and was delighted because Heathrow is one of the most interesting places in the World..Nothing can top it for people watching.

    So, in walks a Sheik and about 6 women. The women are dressed in black,head to toe . The only skin you can see is around their eyes.

    They sit in the lounge for about an hour never moving or talking. Then the Sheik has to go to the men's room and the action begins.

    Up come the skirts revealing Reeboks and socks with packs of cigarettes stuck in them. They light up as fast as they can and puff away. One of them runs to the corner to be the lookout while the others inhale as much smoke as they can. Too soon she reports that the Boss is on his way back. Puff,puff,puff again then stomp,stomp,stomp to put the cigarettes out and kick the butts under their chairs.

    Next they reach into the depths of their black Burqas and pull out packs of chewing gum and frantically put a stick in their mouth to cover up the smell of the

    It was one of my most rewarding "people Watching" events.

    The Amish women reminded me of that incident when they had the nerve to flaunt authority and drink a Pepsi.

    Good post,Nance. Fun read.

  5. Nancy--Thank you. And thanks for sharing your experience as well. I'm always heartened by any Female Rebellion--I simply cannot help it--and while I do try to respect anyone's choice to follow his/her faith, I like the idea that, from time to time, there is some veering off The Path. Humanity, you know?

    Ortizzle--I know! The final scene reminded me of a picture I have someplace of Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of The Crucible. You know, he is so entrenched in The Method that it is legendary. But even he cannot live his character 24/7, a fact he points out to obnoxious interviewers. In the case to which I'm referring, he is dressed as John Proctor, sitting in the shadow of the home HE built AS John Proctor before shooting began...drinking a can of Coke. LOL. So much for 1692 Puritan Salem.

    Silliyak--Sigh. That is a Possible Truth that I refuse to accept. You know what they say: Cleopatra is not the only Queen of De Nile....

    Dean--Our prices are way better than Lehman's. LOL. Where else can you get all jeans for 2$, all tops for 2$, and a bread machine for 15$? And that's just a random sampling! I even have a crystal decanter in there for five bucks. I swear, it's criminal how low our prices are. Regarding the child labor, though, one thing the Amish do not lack is children, it would seem. Almost every Amish woman of childbearing age who we see is pregnant, and I did see a very sweet months-old baby, dressed in miniature gown and apron and bonnet.

  6. There is NO WAY I would have sold a DIET pepsi to those women - that's just shameful! If they're going to sin then they should get the REAL THING. Although on the other hand they'll probably not go looking for another...

    P.S. Since I'm TERRIBLE at responding on my blog I'll respond here. I am trying really really hard to not walk like a duck. I recognize the danger - as well as the potential for ridicule :)

  7. Excuse me for making two comments,Nance, but I must tell you why the punch bowl isn't selling.

    The price is not right! Too low? NO! Not high enough.

    My neighbor once had a Dachsund named Astro and they
    were being transferred to a foreign base and could not take her.

    Another neighbor wanted her and when he asked the price they said he could have her for nothing. He wanted no part of that and said "NO!"

    A few days later the owner called the potential buyer and raised the price to $60.00. The buyer said,"I'll give you $40.00 and not a penny more." The owner countered with $50.00 for Astro and the buyer said,"Done! $50.00 is a fair price for such a nice dog."

    Astro was taken for a long walk and never brought back to his own house. He was taken to the buyer's place where the $50.00 was paid and the dog was introduced to his new family which included 3 kids and a cat.The kids were no problem but the cat....ouch!

    The lesson to be learned here is that you should place more value on the punch bowl. Price it at $40.00 and stand back and watch a bidding war start.

    If none of this happens, fill the G D Punch Bowl with a bottle of Grey Goose, add a bucket of ice and a 10 oz.bottle of tonic and you,Bob and Patsy enjoy the rest of the day...

  8. Nancy--Oh my. I can barely get Patsy to sip some plum wine now and again, and that makes her loopy. She detests the taste of alcohol. Bob drinks only occasionally (I know, how am I related to These People!?), and usually sucks down coffee during the sales because he has been up all night the night before playing poker. But as I said in the post, next sale (in May), that punch bowl is getting prominently displayed on a pedestal and marked up considerably. And I may just fill it, but not with Grey Goose. ;-)

    Bug--Oh, you and I have a vastly different Soda Philosophy. I don't think there should be any variety other than Diet. The amount of sugar in soda is The Worst Offender in the nation's obesity epidemic among young people. Fountain drinks sold at convenience stores are so cheap and so huge that kids are sucking down 64oz of pure sugar and caffeine. On a lighter note, I know what you mean, though. I got so used to Diet Coke, Diet Dr. Pepper (my fave!) when I was able to drink soda, however, that I really didn't notice a taste difference.

  9. I'm with Bug. How often is this girl going to have a soda? Go big or go home. I seriously doubt her access to a real pepsi now and again is going to make her fat. Now me? I drink far more soda than is healthy for anyone, so it's all diet, all the time around here.

    I had to laugh, because I saw this:
    "...urged me to start gathering up things in my house to put in his sale. I go gather up my mother..." and I thought maybe you were going to put your mother in his sale. HA!

  10. Oh, how much do I hate yard sales. I remember having a woman come by and start loading a bag and a box with tons of my stuff, tons of it! Then she says, "You take checks, right?" I said no. She got into a huff, "ALL the other yard sales take checks!" I told her there was a bank within a half mile. She got all snippy with me and I said, "Hey, I'm sorry. This isn't Wal-Mart." I was confident her check would bounce because she was just loading stuff up and not really looking at it. She wasn't a real buyer, she was a thief!

    When I was in Oklahoma, I had someone trying to bargain me down from 25 cents on something. It was so ridiculous and annoying. "Will ya take a nickel for it?" Me: "I think I'd rather send it to the landfill. Thanks anyway!"

    As for the punch bowl, I ask you this, "Who uses punch bowls at home anymore?" Plus, they take up so much room. I think you should put a velvet cushion in it and make it an elegant cat bed. : )

  11. V-grrrl--Holy crap. There is NO WAY my enormous cats could wedge into that punch bowl. And Midwesterners still put out punch bowls at Ladies' Gatherings, like showers and Product Parties, both of which I abhor. Sigh. They are Obligation Things, basically. Anyway, I hear you about sales. Every time some wackadoo wanders in and wants to bargain us down on a 25 or 50 cent item, I handle it, say NO firmly and smilingly, then turn to Bob and Patsy and say grimly, "That Ahole just screwed the next four people who want a deal at this table." Nance does NOT PLAY., hell. I know. Sometimes I simply cannot help my own Little Missions, you know? And Bob as well, who has just lost a bunch of weight and is on a Journey Of Wellness And Dietary Reform, is also trying to Do What He Can. I'm glad you caught me being a little naughty with my diction (i.e. "gathering" Patsy); it was entirely intentional. We often threaten to sell her, the dog Abbi, and lots of things when we get snarky and punchy after a few hours. PUNCHY...get it? ;-)
    (Someone cyberslap me.)


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