Monday, April 23, 2012

Elbow Grease and Paint Pants: Just Not My Night

Rarely do I walk away from an auction empty-handed. If I have previewed and evaluated and decided it’s worth my time to physically attend (as opposed to bidding online), then I’ll end up with one or two great deals and one item that I paid my top price for.

 I need to regale you with my auction adventure from last Thursday night. There were a few cool, one-of-a—kind finds: a custom-made granite bench, an older model Canon Rebel with four lenses (hopefully to replace my defunct 50 mm), and the coolest custom-made lucite and steel trunk. A few smaller items caught my eye, and since bids online were pretty low (and Ben’s rugby match was only a block away), I figured it would be worth my time to attend.

The crowd wasn’t the usual crowd—could be good, could be bad. I found an empty chair, pulled out my auction notes, and sipped my soda while I waited for my first lot to come up. My first few lots were warm-ups—a garden gargoyle, a dinner bell. And I got nothing. NOTHING! What the heck? But I wasn’t too alarmed. Those little trinkets were just amusements, not what I’d really come for anyway, right?

That’s when I noticed a strange feeling in that small stuffy room—a strange feeling and a too-commonly called number—bidder number 128. I turned around and that’s when I saw him—Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy. He was about 6’5”, not thin but not heavy either. About 55 years old, his curly blond hair was thinning to the Bozo the Clown point, and his gut hung slightly over his pants. Bright yellow shirt, black Wranglers, pointy patent leather shoes, and two heavy gold chains—who was this guy and why was he outbidding me every single time?

 He approached me and in a friendly voice said, “Looks like we have the same taste. Hope we stop bidding against each other.” He smiled a nice smile, and I thought that would be the end of it—I don’t make a habit of fraternizing with the enemy. He bought the dining set where I had set up headquarters for the night, then he turned to me and said, “Wow. Can’t believe that other guy kept bidding. I could have gotten it for a song. I’m sure I can sell this for a ton!” I shrugged noncommittally and surreptitiously snuck a photo of the hideous set he’d just purchased. No we don’t have the same taste. The table and chairs may be okay, but good luck selling this Southwest-style floating hutch and buffet, Dude.

128.  128. Bidder number 128. I lost count how many lots he bought, and with each call of his number, the angrier the whole crowd became. I vowed right then that I wouldn’t lose to him again, no matter what.

 Up came my bench. I already knew exactly where its new home would be—next to the pool for the kids to enjoy. Bidding started, and I was hanging in there, even ventured above my limit, simply out of pride. Then, another bidder entered—Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy. And that was the end of my granite bench dream. Sigh.

Okay, Jen, shake it off. Be ready for the next big one—camera lenses. Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy shattered that dream as well. I was secretly happy when the bidding stopped. Obviously he knew little about cameras--$625 for an original model Rebel. Lenses might be worth $300. Sucker.

The final small lot I’d had my eye on came up for bid. My feisty side was up, and I bid Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy up and up, knowing he would keep going forever—that’s when he unexpectedly dropped out, and I ended up with this cast iron garden lamp—for $40, about double what I was willing to pay. Now who was the sucker?

 I couldn’t care for long because the lucite trunk was next. I had been looking for six months for a long but not tall storage box, and this one was perfect—perfect size, perfect look, and unique in a really good way. Time to put on my game face. Bidding started, and Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy ran away with my final prize—paying more than double what I was willing to shell out. What a bummer of a night.

image from here

I cashed out, then I stayed to watch the most anticipated item of the night—a camel-color Herman Miller Eames chair and ottoman, absolutely beautiful.  (Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy had committed a huge faux pas earlier in the evening when he had disregarded the ropes around the chair and sprawled his long body across that classic chair’s pristine leather.  All present cringed. When asked to move, he bumbled off, not fully comprehending what he’d done.)  Bidding began very low--$1500.  Three parties were vying for this gorgeous classic—Dark-haired Guy in his late thirties, Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy (like you’re surprised), and Classy Old Rich Lady, she who was surrounded by an air of wealth and purpose.  Dark-haired Guy dropped out early, exasperation with Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy audibly expressed as he concluded his effort.  I felt his pain.  Classy Old Rich Lady was giving Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy a good run, but I couldn’t help thinking, “He doesn’t even know what he’s bidding on.  Don’t give up, Classy Old Rich Lady!”

When the bid reached $3500, things slowed down.  I could see Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy contemplating the value of the chair, and at $3750, he dropped out.  Classy Old Rich Lady won the Eames, and the room erupted in applause, half with appreciation for the chair and half with gratitude at Stupid Yellow Shirt Guy’s epic defeat.

I left the building with a smile on my face, lugging my 35-pound lantern.  Just as I was hefting it into the Suburban, I heard a crack.  The glass of my newest treasure had broken.

Some nights are just like that.

Lessons learned:
  • Someone always has deeper pockets than you do.  Don’t fall victim to the competition.  $40 for a broken lantern is a small price to pay compared to $625 for $400 worth of camera equipment.  I got off easy.
  • And that someone that always has more money than you?  Someone is always richer and more determined than they are!
  • Ovations occur even in auction houses.
  • There is always another auction, another night--another treasure—when luck will blow your way.

Until next week,

Going once, going twice . . .


  1. What an annoying outing this was! And I'm chuckling at your description of your nemesis.



  2. Reading your post was like being there- Thank you for good laugh- it will carry me through-out the day!

  3. i loved ur auction post! felt like i was there! (just w/o my pocket book)