A Little Piece Of Americana

I stopped by a garage sale today- not because I needed or wanted anything they were selling, but just the opposite. I was actually intrigued by the complete and utter uselessness of everything they were selling. I looked at their things: old and incomplete holiday decorations, fishing reels, political pins, a large collection of whistles, and- this was the best- about 400 keys. All of the keys looked to be different, and next to them sat about 20 or so locks. As I was sorting through the whistles (I need a whistle, for teaching gym class, but somehow, I couldn't bring myself to buy one from them. The whistles looked so complete there, as a whole, I didn't want to break them up. And, besides, I couldn't decide, should I get the antique Japanese Policeman whistle? Or the Oscar Meyer Weener whistle? Or the giant dog whistle? Or perhaps just the random bell sitting nearby, looking lonely? Best not to buy any.) Anyway, as I was looking at whistles, a man inquired of the three generations of women sitting in lawn chairs on the driveway,

"Which of these keys goes with the locks?" and the eighty year old woman, who appeared to be in charge, said,

"No one knows. No locks match no keys. Just a jumble of keys. No way of telling."

"I don't know why you're even trying to sell those, Ma," said one of the other women. "No one's going to buy those keys. What would they use them for?"

"Well, they could buy them for the, uh, the nickel or something. The nickel or the brass or whatever they're made of."

The thought going through my mind, which I didn't say because I was completely in my "fly on the wall don't say anything just listen" mode, was HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU END UP WITH 400 KEYS THAT DON'T GO TO ANYTHING? Dear Reader, if you have an answer to this question, please inform me!

I wanted to take a picture of all of those old keys, but I was afraid it would be disrespectful, so I didn't.

The other patron at the garage sale, having satisfied himself about the keys and locks, then went on to ask about a fishing reel,

"Is this reel for ice fishing?"

"Oh," said the older woman, "you're asking the wrong person."

"Who should I ask?"

"That would be Dad. DAD!"

"I really need to know."

No sooner had he asked, another of the women ran in the house to fetch Dad. Out he came to talk fishing reels.

Dad was wearing shorts.

I wandered around and looked at political pins, finally settling on buying a Nixon pin for the Nixon Bathroom downstairs. (I have a bathroom decorated in Richard Nixon. To the displeasure of my husband. And to my pleasure. But I digress.) When I started paying attention again, the eighty year old lady was talking about "Michael". The way she said his name, with such familiarity, it was as though she spoke of a well-loved grandchild,

"Michael wasn't feeling well, so he called the doctor. The doctor was there, you see, when it happened."

"Did the doctor kill him?" asked one of the other ladies in lawn chairs, jokingly. (At this point, I was sure they were speaking of Michael Jackson.)

"No, no. He called him over when he wasn't feeling well. He was going to go on tour, you know, but he hadn't hired any dancers yet, so he must really have not been feeling well... His girlfriend was there. MMM- Hm."

Dad was done talking fishing reels with the other patron at the garage sale, and ran back into the house in a hurry. I had a strong feeling that he was running in to hear the latest news about Michael Jackson. I purchased my Nixon pin and went my way.

This evening, I had Brian dig out my old Michael Jackson albums and put them on the record player. So I got sentimental, after all. I think it was that old lady calling him "Michael," so sweetly, that did it to me.


  1. I know how you end up with 400 useless keys. You have a drawer. That's all you need. Got a key? Not sure what it does? Fear that if you throw it away it will turn out to be, I don't know, the key to the wardrobe to Narnia? The key that unlocks an heirloom to reveal treasure! Stick it in the drawer.

    Add a large family across a few generations into the mix, and bingo!

    I did watch the MJ special on Channel 4 yesterday, but only the once. They were repeating it.

  2. I can't believe you hesitated on this one. Oscar Meyer Weener Whistle. No contest. Hands down.

    I really need to see this Richard Nixon bathroom. That's too cool.

  3. Perhaps someone in the family was a maintenance person at a motel, and when it switched over to key cards, they took them all home... for some reason....

  4. These keys were all different, not all from the same hotel.

    I have a few from a certain hotel, myself, just because.