The Swap Meet

by Mark McCombs

Twenty or more people milled impatiently about, jockeying for a good starting position with aggression rarely displayed in public. Sounding like the start of a greyhound race, a large exposed bell sounded above the walk signal. The participants were off and running. Sprinting to the front, I managed to hold my lead by maintaining a fast walk; I hate lines. Seventy five cents seemed pretty reasonable for a morning spent at the Midway Drive Inn and swap meet. Once inside the ten foot high, aged wooden fence, I slowed down to look about curiously. Everything seemed out of place, cars and tables stood at bizarre angles, as if a child had thrown them carelessly into a sand box. crowds of people argued heatedly about the prices of items for which I could imagine no possible use for. Stunned, I tried to find a systematic way to cover all the booths in a reasonable period of time. Giving up, I started out at random.

Fresh air, exercise and sunshine, are just some of the attractions this swap meet offers. Best during the summer, it has been held every weekend for the past several years. Young and old alike seem to enjoy the carnival atmosphere and the challenge of haggling. Bargains can be found if one is willing to rummage through enough overpriced junk and be patient enough to hold out for the right item. People watchers will find the crowd itself worth the prices of admission.

Many families spend a morning at the swap meet. Parents can leave their children in the provided play area and browse at leisure. Men may look through the tools and sporting equipment, while women search for that certain item of furniture or clothing. Older children seem to enjoy the freedom and the ability to actually buy something with a few dollars. Senior citizens try to stretch their limited budgets by searching for needed items at remembered prices. Indeed there seems to be something for everyone.

While some booths contain only overpriced junk, the prices are negotiable. The bargain of a lifetime could be found right over there, behind that moth-eaten sofa or under that rowboat. Try to avoid the new car stereos and Taiwanese tools; they are usually overpriced and of low quality. Look instead, towards the back of the piles for things people don't want to sell. It's best to avoid the inside booths. Set up permanently, the prices inside reflect the increased overhead. Be prepared to go back later, if you find the right item for the wrong prices. Many people sell here only once a year which can drastically lower the prices by Sunday afternoon.

Ranging from beautiful young couples to left-over hippies, the crowd is a delight to watch. Teenagers, in the latest outrageous fashion, strut around sporting florescent spiked hair and pierced noses. Women in halter tops and men in nylon shorts stroll by with the confidence of youth. Older people shuffle along, pausing or veering at random, slowing the flow of traffic. Children run through the crowd laughing and shouting excitedly to one another. Mothers struggle with tired crying toddlers, their desperate eyes searching the crowd for a husband or perhaps a gallant knight to rescue them from mortal embarrassment. Bearded middle aged men, wearing tie-dye T-shirts, attempt to sell lava lamps and incense to the uninitiated youth of today.

If you ever find yourself bored on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I recommend that you try going to the Midway Drive Inn and swap meet. It was an adventure I will not soon forget.

Edited for HTML: 9/5/97 11:52:25 PM