Sunday, April 15, 2007

Berkeley,Garage Sale and the Fuzzifiers........

I was dreading this day since I started to have an inkling it might happen - as I could not talk T out of it and ran out of credible excuses - and so the inevitable Garage Sale finally approached .

T had surgically gone through my wardrobe of seven years and basically reduced it by two-thirds ( yes, I have that ' what if I might need it some day ' syndrome or ratpacking ) and gathered all our electronic gadgets that she declared redundant ( why do we have 3 dvd players ? no answer ) - and piled everything at the center of the living room gearing up for The Garage Sale. Most of her burning inspiration I squarely blame on an Oprah episode on "clutter" - and she was on the warpath ! The pile of stuff became a towering presence (increasing every week) in the living room - and I was compelled to add another chore to my routine , that is - to sift through and find out what else was dumped in that tower that I cannot part with and make a spirited defense to take it back to the bedroom !

I tried everything to put it off - " Babe, its going to rain so hard this weekend ! " ; " I might have to swing by work for a while " ; " Sorry baby, could not get hold of the landlord today " ; " Don't we have to be in Palo Alto this weekend ?" - and finally with all options runing out , I went on the offensive - " has anyone thought through the logistics of this ?" Well, it didn't work - I could put it off for a while , but the day finally came.

And T, was ecstatic ! Lifting the boxes down three flights of stairs , I was cursing the weatherman who had given me a faint ray of hope of postponing this for the fourth time - a 33% chance of rain , he said the previous evening , and we woke up to a gorgeous sunshine ! As we were driving up to the designated place for our garage sale a different kind of fear gripped me - what if nobody comes and nothing sells ? I don't want T to be disappointed after all the trouble she went through - maybe I should have called some of my friends "to pose" as buyers , ahh no, lets see what happens.

We set up at a corner and while lamenting a lost Sunday I kept a stiff upper lip about the whole thing . But T's abundant energy and the slowly trickling-in people was a surprise . You should have seen her - waving at people , explaining each item in unshying detail - she was in her element ! I always thought I had the salesmanship between the two of us. Boy, was I wrong ! We met people of so many different shades , some with astonishing simplicity and some with complexities beyond belief - that it was a new experience all in itself.

As I walked up to the set-up , T introduced me to this frail old man wearing an italian hat - " Look who we have here Raj , this is the distinguished mathematician - Dr. Lofti Zadeh ! You know... The inventor of theFuzzy logic theory ! " Although T is in Aplied Maths , I am not - but in this case I nodded with assumed certainty , " Ahh, yes , yes - nice to meet you !" - making a note to google it when I get home while shaking his hand and hoping I wouldn't be asked to elaborate on my non-existent knowledge of this theory ! The man was frail and very thin ( if the wind speed would have picked up 5 more knots he would have certainly been swept away !) - and a tough bargain hunter , T and him was furiously going back and forth on the price of the items he wanted to buy. When the dust settled , he had a lot of things to take back to the car - and I volunteered to carry them . The woman in the car was not at all amused by the sight of these items being loaded into the car. " Lofti ! I have only one car you know ! This is the fifth garage sale you have stopped since six in the morning ! " What ? Six in the morning on a Sunday ? You got to be crazy ! As there was no room in the trunk , I had to move stuff around on the back seat to make room . And off went a happy Dr. Lotfi Zadeh - by far the best client at our garage sale that day !

We had other people also besides him , as I said of all varieties. One guy kept coming back on a bicycle every half hour asking the price of everything and saying ( truthfully as I might add ) - he will be back ! I gathered this must be the local stalker or something , and finally T offered to give him a decorative cushion for free . There was this taxi driver from Yemen ( a place T is greatly infatuated with !) , a school kid bitterly disappointed that we had no X-Box games to sell , two guys and a girl from Israel going through all the electronic items , and this handsome Microbiology student from Berkeley casually walking by and browsing ( T was eagerly conversing with him and I pretended to be busy with other things but kept a sharp eye and ear out ! ) . And then came these two ladies , going through each and every item with a minimum of three questions for each one of them - and when they stumbled upon the hand-free-headsets for the cell phones , they went berserk ! And the conversations went like this :
" Do these work ?"
"Most of them ".
"Why do you have three?"
" I just bought them with each new phone ."
"how many phones did you change ?"
" If they work, why are you selling them ?"
"I got a new one with blutooth ."
"Why did you buy a phone with a blutooth when you could have used these with some other models ?"
"Because I liked the set I bought ."
" Are you sure they work ?"
"As I said, most of them ."
" Most of them ? You mean 1 or 2 that works , or all 3 ?"
" Well, you can take them all and try which one works ."
" How much are they ?"
"Since, I cannot tell which one works , I'll give it to you for free ."
"Why will I take it for free if it doesn't work ?"
"You have to take a chance , but they are free ."
"Why are you giving them for free if it works ?"'
" I guess I have no use for them ."
"Well, if it doesn't work there is no reason for me to take them ."
"How far can I talk on this headset ?"
"As long as it is connected to your cell phone ."
"Can I borrow your cell phone ?"
"Because I want to see if it works ."
"Okay ."
Turning to the other guy browsing : " Can you call him on your cell phone while I walk around the block ?"
As I watched her disappearing around the block I thought to myself that I just had lost my new cell phone. But she came back , smiling .
" All of them work ! "
"Great , its yours then."
"but, what will I do with three sets ?"
"You don't have to take all three if you dont want "
" Why wont I take them if I dont have to pay for them ?"
Inexplicable. Is she married ? This is torture .
"Well, I'll take them . Do you have the instructions manual ?"
I was afraid to answer - a blank stare said it all. She went to T and said how she was there at 7am and didn't see us and came back at noon , and an endless lament of what items she might have missed out on !

It was late afternoon , and as T and I agreed , whatever we didn't sell would have to go straight to the Salvation Army . So we wrapped up, T was extremely happy , most of the items were sold , this was a resounding success for her . And I was happy it came to an end . But more happy , that she enjoyed every minute of it !

But I learnt something in the process - and met some characters I never imagined I share the city with. And added some new words to my vocabulary - fuzzification, fuzzifier , fuzzified - which ranks right up with "projects" ( a term given a new dimension when T's father asked her , So you are living with this boy - are you guys doing some projects together ?) - which had countless spinoff lines which I have to leave to your imagination to wonder .

The foundation of the Fuzzy Logic theory states that there is a third region beyond true and false . I guess the whole experience of this opened my eyes to another set of people -who hunt for bargains waking up at six in the morning on a sunday and drive from one garage sale to another - with zeal , just to find another good deal - whether they need it or not . But mostly, to find , discover and interact with people they would never meet otherwise - and revel in the experience .


t said...

Pretty funny writing.

Grace said...

What vivid writing! This makes me look forward to our own garage sale this summer. Won't you come? Hope you and T are doing well and keep up with your "projects"!