Season of Giving

Now, I understand the problem, kippered kiwi fruit. I do not specifically state in my phone message nor on the website that the Book Fair does not want large appliances. Obviously, I should have.

“Do you take refrigerators?” the lady asked the picker-upper.

This particular pick-up had involved over thirty-seven boxes of books, half of which were on the second floor. This particular pick-up driver, having hauled all the boxes, loaded them into his vehicle, and then heard this question, SAYS he replied, “No, but thanks for the offer, Ma’am.” I have no particular reason to disbelieve his account. I should like to think I would have made the same response.

It is impossible, of course, to list all the things we do not take. First, the list would go on and on. Second, no matter how long it went on, I would be bound to leave something out. Some angry donor would say, “Well, it doesn’t say you don’t take stuffed polar bears holding cans of candy canes. It just says ‘No Polar Bears’. How was I supposed to know?”

So let’s work on a few ground rules here, just some parameters within which you can draw your own conclusions. Although even here, we could make exceptions, just assume that in general:

If it won’t fit in the car, we don’t want it. If it had been the old dorm room sized refrigerator, we might have given it some thought, but many of our picker-uppers aren’t prepared to strap donations to the top of the vehicle. Yes, there are a few ultra-rare books that stand taller than six feet, and yes, if you have a globe from 1789 that is fifteen feet across, there’s a chance we’ll be interested. But those won’t go to the Book Fair anyhow, so let’s just make the basic suggestion that you should keep them at home until you can rent a truck.

If it must be fed or watered, we don’t want it. We have nothing against your house plants, your gerbils, or your beagle, but that is not the business we’re in. We do not want your firstborn, thirdborn, or sixteenthborn child, nor do we want your ex or that bum your granddaughter is dating. Remember, we price things and pack them away in boxes for months, so it wouldn’t…no, we STILL won’t take your ex.

If it is damaged beyond use, we don’t want it. I recall a charity sale in my hometown where one of the volunteers wished she could get hold of all the people who donated buttonfly jeans with all the buttonholes torn. I don’t know whether she wanted revenge for a useless donation or just wanted to hear the story of the jeans. But some of what she said—which I doubt they’ll let me print here—goes for those of you who donate videocassettes with part of the case broken off, volumes of Bolivian poetry so water-damaged that they won’t open, and booklights without bulbs.

If it is illegal to sell, keep it. I’m not thinking so much of those preview videos Warner Brothers sent when you were running the neighborhood video store, but of things like brass knuckles or those stripped books you got for a nickel at the corner store. (These are the ones where the store ripped off the covers to send to the distributor to prove they’d destroyed those books that didn’t sell.) If I can’t sell it, what use is it to me? (Yeah, I suppose I could use the brass knuckles. If unconscious donors start turning up under banana boxes in the bushes by the Newberry, we haven’t had this little talk.)

These are enough guidelines for now, but it can’t be a complete list. I also don’t want your buttonfly jeans—with or without tears—or your reading glasses or your bedroom slippers. We’ll consider your bookends, paperweights, and inkwells, though, and I’d like to send a personal note to the person who donated the deck of naughty playing cards: you can send more of those any time. I’ll swap you a refrigerator.

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