So I was telling an innocent passerby that a recent donation had included an electronic device which, when opened, told me the correct time, date, and year. All I wanted, I said, was to see whether it worked, not be informed that it was more current than I was.
“Do you get a lot of stuff besides books?” he inquired. “What do you do with it?”
I assumed he did not mean records, tapes, magazines, and other such cultural artifacts for which the Book Fair is famous. I also assumed he didn’t want to hear the whole history of our donations, so I simply said, “Well, it all depends.”
But you’re just sitting there, armed with a mouse which can click you to a collection of blithe poetry somewhere else. So I can tell you that, through the years, we’ve had a mattress (unused), a mangle, two pianos, eight strings of Christmas tree lights, four gold coins, an iPod, three snowglobes, Belgian license plates, about a dozen necklaces, an eyelash curler, a curling iron (with steam capabilities and five strands of hair still stuck to it), a pair of cut-offs, a hundred neckties, three rolls of fabric, a quilt, a sheet/comforter set, one pistol, one set of brass knuckles, a set of 3-D slides of women in heels and hose, a box of microscope slides, a box of glass insulators, a pasta machine, three different sets of wine glasses, nine pairs of candlesticks, three crocheted hula dancers, a silver tea set, a bottle of cherry brandy, a bottle of J&B, sixteen quarts of white wine, a Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker, two fur coats, a jar of cinnamon, and a squeaky toy in the shape of Michelangelo’s David.
And that’s just what I could think of in a five minute period jotting down notes for this blog. I could go on. (I frequently do.)
Now, as to “What do you do with it?”–well, it occurs to me, looking back across the list, that there is just one thing that got tossed in the garbage. Go ahead: guess. I’ll tell you later on.
A lot of it, you might correctly decide, was sold on eBay. The gold coins, some of the candlesticks: it just made more sense than trying to decide what to charge and which subject to sort them into at the Book Fair. (And how many guards to post over them. No insult intended to my customers, but gold coins are way too portable. You, personally, wouldn’t have taken them outside to see how they looked in sunlight, but I’m not so sure about that person who was behind you in line. The orange jumpsuit kind of made me nervous.)
The mangle and the mattress, though, were sold in-house. Better to deal with the matter among Newberry staff than try to mail somebody a mattress. It doesn’t always work that way: we sold both pianos (one baby grand, one player piano) on eBay. Two different people threatened to give us cars to sell, too, and I was planning to unload those via eBay. (They reconsidered, or I might be starring in late-night TV ads by now.)
The gun and the brass knuckles can not be legally sold by Book Fair Managers in Illinois, so the police got those. I am also not licensed to sell booze, but a bottle makes a lovely gift. (That white wine, for example, went one bottle at a time to the December staff party until somebody told me they were reaching the vinegar stage.)
Some of these WERE sold at the Book Fair, but you might have missed them: the hula dancers and the squeaky toy sold mere minutes after opening (I have seen what you like,pastrami sandwich cookie, and it’s a frightening picture). The wine glasses did sell, albeit more slowly, and one of our long-suffering volunteers actually wore one of the fur coats around the room to interest people in it. (Sometimes these ideas backfire: the one person who was interested saw her wearing it and withdrew the offer.)
We did finally sell that fur coat. We sent the other one to an artist who made bears and bunnies out of old fur coats, and put the bear up for sale. We try to think of a use for what comes out way. No, the bear hasn’t quite SOLD yet, but it’s easier to store than the coat. And it will have more chances to sell, especially if it is accompanied by a small denim bunny made out of the cut-offs.
Yeah, we threw away the eyelash curler. But that was before eBay. We might…no, don’t send me yours. Books are easier to stack.