Collection of random objects gives life worth

    One thing I’ve always particularly enjoyed is owning a lot of crap. I refer not to the literal meaning of the word — I leave that hobby to one of my roommates — but to the metaphorical meaning that I believe is deeper and more complex, like people who use Macs with “”Free Tibet”” stickers on them.

    To give you a good example, in the living room we have a 6-foot-long crayon, cardboard cut-outs of Boba Fett and Natalie Portman, a magnetic dartboard, a hamster that sings “”I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt,”” a chandelier made of plastic bowling pins, a mobile advertising Air’s Moon Safari, a glass head with a broken Coca-Cola bottle light underneath it, a postmodern wind-up toy, and a talking Halloween bowl that I bought at Rite-Aid for 75 percent off. And that’s just the stuff my girlfriend lets me keep in there, although the Natalie Portman cut-out is sort of an ongoing debate. On the patio, I have patriotic rope lights, an informative display on how a car’s brake system works, a set of golf clubs, an inflatable Monopoly set, an inflatable Mr. Pibb display, and many, many improperly and illegally used Priority Mail boxes filled to the brim with crap that just gets transported every time I move.

    The only thing I enjoy more than owning and buying crap is the impression that I’m getting a good deal when I’m buying crap. That’s why, recently, I’ve been going to swap meets. There’s one at Sports Arena every Saturday and Sunday near the wonderful strip club Les Girls, which I highly recommend because it is complete with pews so it’s similar to a really dark funeral ceremony with naked chicks.

    Anyways, the swap meet is quite large. There are two kinds of booths available: personal crap and retail crap. I try to avoid the retail crap tables; if I wanted a good price on cutlery and mini RC cars, I’d watch the Home Shopping Network. No, I much prefer to wade through piles and piles of crap that people once thought was a good idea to buy and no longer want. I tend to be drawn to old video games, CDs, retro stuff that has become funny with age, and rather large things I don’t need. My most recent trip resulted in a VHS copy of “”Beverly Hills Cop,”” a bumper sticker that says “”Smuggling — it’s not just a job, it’s an adventure,”” a Pee-Wee Herman folder, and a book titled “”You can Trust Communists … to be Communists.”” I haggled with a lady over “”Spy Hunter”” for the old eight-bit Nintendo. She wanted $5 for it, I said $3, she said $4, I said $3, she said, “”No.”” I shrugged and pulled the whole walking away bit, but she didn’t bite. Perhaps now would be a good time for a lecture on haggling.

    Many people are curious about when it is appropriate to haggle. At a swap meet, it is always appropriate to haggle. I love haggling. I’m not very good at it, but I have some fun with it. The general rule of thumb is: Start at half of what you want to pay for something because chances are you’ll ultimately end up at that number. I don’t really follow that rule. First, if it isn’t marked, I ask them the price. Then I form a shocked expression on my face, carefully place the item down, and then start walking toward the next booth. Almost always, they’ll drop their price. Then I’ll subtract just a little bit more from that to make it worth my while, and buy it. This doesn’t always work.

    Some people think their stuff is such hot shit that they’re doing you a favor by selling it to you. I was talking to this guy with a huge swastika flag behind his booth about his R2-D2 cup. He was convinced that it was worth, at the very least, $15. I offered him $2 for it, and he got a tad insulted. People tend to assign weird factors like nostalgia and how much they paid for it, which they try to apply toward the sale. If you piss these people off, they won’t sell anything to you at any cost. I avoid buying from these people just out of principle, just like they refuse to sell to me out of principle.

    On my last trip, I got separated from the person that drove me there, which is a dangerous spot to be in. I walked around for a good hour and decided to bite the bullet and visit the snack bar. Whoever invented the snack bar back in the day sure was an asshole. I imagine the conversation went like this:

    Marketing Guy #1: Airports, ski resorts, shopping malls, theme parks, fairs, conventions, concerts, sporting events and mini-bars in hotel rooms. What do all these have in common?

    Marketing Guy #2: They’re all multi-syllable words!

    Marketing Guy #3: They all have vowels in them!

    Marketing Guy #4: Dude, you’re getting a Dell!

    Marketing Guy #1: They are all places that people either are happy to be in, or have to be in. And we can charge whatever the hell we want!

    Marketing Guy #2: Whoa.

    Marketing Guy #3: Hot damn.

    Marketing Guy #4: Dude.

    Marketing Guy #1: I propose that we just take everything and add what I like to call the “”super-lucky bonus surcharge”” at these places. Every in favor say, “”Aye!””

    Marketing Guy #2: Aye.

    Marketing Guy #3: I?

    Marketing Guy #4: Eye?

    I paid something like $4 for some fries, but was so pissed about getting financially raped that I refused to get the Coke. Thirty minutes later, I was thirsty. Really thirsty. Crawling-in-the-Sahara-desert thirsty. Some old lady offered me a Coke from her cooler for $0.75. “”That’s funny, you don’t look like a vending machine,”” I thought. I refused out of principle, and no less than 100 feet later, some guy propositions me, “”Hey buddy? Want a nice free drink? All you got to do is watch part of ‘Bad Boys 2’ and tell us what you think.””

    I figured, what the hell. Why not? So then this lady pulls me in back and interrogates me. Asks me questions like if I’ve seen “”Men in Black II”” and how I feel about Martin Lawrence. It was the first time in my life anybody had ever asked me how I felt about Martin Lawrence. Then we watched the preview, and she said, “”What do you remember from that?””

    “”Umm … there were explosions and stuff.””

    “”Here, watch it again.””

    Before I could refuse, she had already started it again. I made a mental note to remember something, just to stop the thing from repeating itself.

    “”Well, what do you remember?””

    “”Uhhh … I remember this tree, and then it said, ‘produced by Jerry Bruckheimer,’ and explosions and stuff. It was a lot like every movie produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.””

    “”What would you say the movie was about?””

    “”You know, I really couldn’t tell you.””

    She proceeded with a long list of questions while I tried to explain to her that there was no way in hell I was going to see this movie, no matter what the preview was, unless it was a preview for a different movie, like “”The Bare Wench Project 3.”” After the interrogation was over, she told me I could go to the cooler and pick out a drink.

    I open the cooler, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t all Simply Soda, which is halfway between Triametic and liquid shit. I’m not going to lie, I drank it, but let this be a lesson for you. There are free cheeseburgers at Cheetahs at lunchtime.

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