By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
The man speaks slooow and LOUD, as if to a person who doesn't know her hearing aids have failed.
"It's just stuff I have," he says. "And now I'm getting rid of it. We're moving."
"But how do you happen to have three glass jewelry display cases?" I ask.
"At one time I sold jewelry."
"But that doesn't explain the Kleen-rite wet/dry drapery cleaner."
"Well, I also used to clean draperies," he says. "Look, are you interested in buying it?"
"Maybe. I don't know. Lemme ask you -- how do you happen to have 'hundreds of Playboys from 60s to 90s?'"
"It's just a thing some guys have," he says, now truly exasperated.
"So why don't you want them anymore? They must be worth a fortune."
"Yup. And that's why I'm selling them, okay?"
"I still don't get it," I say. "What do all these things have in common?"
"You have to ask? They're miscellaneous."
Right, right. Miscellaneous is the only category that could possibly bring together a drapery-cleaning machine, a basement-load of lite porn, a jewelry display case and, oh, yeah, a 300-watt Pioneer stereo amp. Miscellaneous is also where you will find a collectible doll, a wheelchair and a pet carrier, all looking to be liberated from their owner...a paraplegic doll collector whose dog can't walk, either?
I love the miscellaneous section of the daily newspapers' classifieds. It gets me thinking. Whenever I get sick of the inside of my own head -- and much of the outside world, at least as depicted in news stories -- I spend a restful twenty minutes reading miscellaneous. And in the process, I glean little lessons about life. Really. Here are some of my gleanings in recent years.
1. Home exercise is a pointless venture at which everyone fails.There is not a single lot of miscellaneousthat doesn't include at least one "exercise bike, never used," "weight bench with one dumbbell" -- what happened to the other one? -- or, most typically, a Nordic Track. As far as I can tell, no Nordic Track machine has ever delivered on its promise of sleek Nordic fitness, and the machines take up a lot of room. This is space in which you could otherwise store a pile of old Playboys or a Snake Prudhomme funny car -- but I'm getting ahead of myself. And so the Nordic Track is eventually sold, at a loss.
2. No one owns one of anything anymore, except a dumbbell. If someone is selling one solid cast-iron Kohler sink, he is inevitably selling four or five of them, and almond-colored refrigerators always come in sets of three or more. Of toilets there is an incredible bounty. Miscellaneous is where you can find a BIG toilet, too -- one with EPA-flouting gallons of stored water, a relic from the good old single-flush days.
3. Marriage often forces a man to change his ways. Otherwise, why would he be selling off his Jet Ski, three guitar amps, two non-running Chevy Novas (in boxes, but priceless) and all of his model rockets? Marriage is the culprit, without question, since he offers to trade all of this for a sewing machine, a motor home or a late-model car that gets good gas mileage.
4. Divorce makes a woman bitter and pressed for cash. Divorce is what causes her to put "beautiful size 8 wedding gown with pearl stitchery, only worn once, $125" on the miscellaneous market.
5. The word "goat" has several layers of meaning. If it's a genuine goat you seek, you need only go straight to Livestock in the classifieds, a category clogged with African Pygmies and other small species. (Or check out www.cybergoat.com for a glimpse into one of the most compelling animal-husbandry obsessions of all time.) In miscellaneous, however, a goat is never just a goat. Last week I called on two goat-related ads.
Call One -- in which the goat-related item is offered along with "guns, lathe, welder and more":
Me: "I'm calling about the goat wagon."
Them: "No, honey, we ain't sold it yet."
Me: "Well, what is it?"
Them: "Why, it's an ornamental, with twelve-inch wheels, about 36 inches long, and it sets out on the lawn, and that's all it's meant to do. It's made of wood."
Call Two -- in which the goat-related item appears alongside "tractor/mower, PT8, CR-125, and Schwinn bike":
Me: "Have you sold the Tote-Goat yet?"
Them: "Nope. It's $400, firm."
Me: "What's it for?"
Me (wildly guessing): "Like for dragging dead animals out of the woods with?"
Me: "Does the dead animal have to be a goat?"
6. There may or may not be a fascinating mystery behind every offloading ofmiscellaneousstuff. Perhaps some stories are better left untold. Whenever I see an advertisement for everything a small child owned, from changing table to first communion dress to two-wheeler, I get nervous: Is that little person still among us? And it's hard to face the obvious heartbreak inherent when someone is selling "nice wedding dress" and "scuba tank, nearly new." Why would the woman who placed the ad sell these two items if she hadn't been jilted at the altar, shattering all of her dreams and ruining a perfectly good Caribbean diving honeymoon?