Friday, November 17, 2006

Flea Bitten

I am a fan of cheap. I like garage sales and swap meets. When I was a little punker in college I dressed exclusively in thrift store chic. Our favorite place to hit was a clothes-by-the-pound place in east LA. Today I couldn’t find the place if you paid me. I’m more of an Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters girl but I’m still up for the odd vintage find. And with my current struggling-writer negative income, cheap is my best friend.

With this in mind, Mr. Wonderful and I went to the Pasadena Flea Market this weekend. Specifically I was on a mission for old chandelier bits that I wanted for earrings. Kidding. I was planning on making them into gifts; ornaments for the old tannenbaum. We walked from one end of the place to the other before I finally found her: the Recycled Door Knob Lady.

I cruised purposefully past her selection of knobs, pulls and brass hinges until I got to the chandelier bits. I selected a group of old sparkly cut glass. I was trying to envision just how I’d put them together since I really didn’t have an actual plan when I noticed a short woman had drifted up next to me and had her back to me. When I had ready what I hoped would be my purchase, I asked her if she knew where the Door Knob Lady was and she curtly informed me that she was said Lady. It turned out my selection was far beyond the paltry sum yet at my disposal so I began paring down. Then I asked what the new total was. Still beyond my reach.

I began making new cuts. She was facing me now, scrutinizing my fingers’ every move. I felt myself start sweating. I had to choose the exact right bits of trashed glass or she wouldn’t approve. Was she growling at me? When my final cut was still more money than I had, she flared her nostrils at me. I decided a different approach. How about we work from what I do have?

When I showed her my money she grabbed the glass bits and threw them back in their respective bins. I protested that I did want to buy some. From what she’d said I thought I had enough for one, maybe two. She snorted that I’d made her wait too long. I wasn’t worth her time. I held my bills out to her and asked her to take them for at least one strand. I could make that work.

“Get away from my stand,” she said with a thick accent. “Keep your bad money.”

Stunned I stood there for a moment before it sank in: The junk dealer was kicking me out because I’m poor. I would leave without my intended Christmas project in hand. There was no changing her mind. So, clearly, there was no reason to behave like a reasonable adult.

“You keep your bad attitude then.”

She narrowed her eyes at me and starting complaining to her other customers that I had wasted her precious time and was trying to take advantage of her. Mind you, the whole thing had taken all of three minutes. Clearly she was a little light on the whole American customer service ethic. But she was now muttering epithets at me in a foreign language which shall go unnamed. Rude hand gestures followed.

In that weird tunnel vision that happens at times of trauma, I can’t tell you if other customers were paying attention, or even if she was looking at me when I turned back to her.

“You’re a cruel bitch,” I said as calmly as my shaking fists would allow. And I walked away to find Mr. Wonderful several stands away.

In his sweet, fix-it way, he offered to buy the things for me but I protested that now it was a matter of principle. The Evil Door Knob Lady would never ever have any money of mine or his. I couldn’t believe it had gone so wonky.

It took me a few minutes more to realize it wasn’t about me. Perhaps she’d had day of disappointing sales. Maybe she’d lost some knobs to theft. I’ll never know what set her off. But I do know that when we get upset it’s almost never about the immediate event that appears to be upsetting us. If I were Zen I’d have been able to come to an understanding with her; get her world point of view and maybe even make it better for her with a little focus shift.

But I’m at times tragically unevolved. It was easier to meet bitch with bitch. I’m not proud of my response although I think she earned it. I know what set me off in reaction was old feelings of being rejected. At least that’s the closest thing it felt like. Here I am scraping to make ends meet until the fabled script sale happens, I’m trying to do a nice thing for a few people who matter to me and I’m being kicked to the curb. Oh the chandelier injustice! My upset was in anticipating my friends’ disappointment at not getting a trinket they didn’t even know about and feeling powerless to do anything about it. Last time I checked my friends weren’t gift psychics.

So there you have it. I’ve been rejected by the Pasadena Flea Market Door Knob Lady. For a nice girl, I find myself on an inordinate amount of blacklists. Ah well. I’ll live. Although, a few friends may be getting cookies this year instead of funky homemade ornaments.



Blogger Brett said...

You allowed yourself to momentarily feel somehow unworthy to a used doorknob vendor?

Forget flea markets. Get thee to a salvage yard, or a good old fashioned dump.

And keep your bad money.

7:52 AM  

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