When you're a junker, it's hard to avoid magical thinking. Success is so dependent on serendipity you start to believe it's not just random. It was, for instance, easy to feel things were "meant to be" when I found, via that magical portal of Facebook, that my friend Rabuck was heading to the Biltmore Square Mall just as I was heading there myself. We decided to carpool.
Rabuck is, among other things, a junker of no small ability, a yard sale scourge with a bounteous basement. He was on his way to buy advance tickets for a movie that evening. I was going to Hospice Treasures. These are, as far as I know, the only two reasons to ever go to the Biltmore Square Mall.
The sunny ride on the uncommonly temperate July afternoon generated its own buzz. I got in this game to goof off at thrift stores with my buddies when other people were being productive. Now my productivity is based around what I get at thrift stores. Clearly I was meant to renew the social aspect of what is, professionally, a solitary pursuit.
Rabuck dropped me off and went to get his tickets. I walked into Hospice Treasures and made a beeline for two plastic tubs full of vinyl LPs. They looked fuller than the last time I'd been in, and were moved up front. Ah-ha – I knew I was supposed to come here today.
As I started to dig, my phone rang. Normally, I don't stop the hunt for phone calls, but I was expecting a visit from the plumber that afternoon. Was, potentially, blowing it off (or at least cutting it close) by hitting a thrift. So I answered it.
It was the plumber, hoping I could I outline a bit more of my situation. I told him my water troubles, digging through the LPs, which weren't as good as I'd hoped. And he began to explain my options.
He explained. And explained. We had a bad connection, so I stopped digging to listen, figuring it'd be over soon. But it wasn't over soon. He talked so long that Rabuck had time to buy his tickets and come back to the thrift store.
And the next thing I know, Rabuck is digging through a box of 45s I'd overlooked on my way the LPs!
Now, albums may be my bread and butter, but 45s are my meat. I also DJ, and for my style, the 45 record is the most perfect song delivery method ever devised. To miss a box of 45s because I was talking to my plumber is a totally bush league. I begged off the plumber, telling him I was about to get in a car wreck.
The 45s were all from the late '50s and early '60s, made by also-ran companies with artists few people have heard of, exactly the kind of thing I like to see in a box of 45s. And since it all looked good, Rabuck, who, as I've said, is no piker, was picking most of it out.
"Did you look through these?" he said, clearly confused that there was so much good stuff left in the box.
I explained about the plumber.
"Oh man, that's too bad. I only started to look through these because I'd figured you'd gone through them already."
I looked through his stack. There was record by a cat named Larry Kingston called "I'm a Flop." I knew how Larry felt.
"That's the problem with two people coming to the same place," Rabuck said. "I know. I've been there."
It's true. Everything's fine as long as there's no goods, but come time to dig it's hard not to feel like the best stuff is in the other guy's box. You're glad your pal has scored, but if you haven't … it's tough.
I tried the best I could, describing the labels I knew something about, cheering a good pull. And I hope I sounded genuine, because I was. Mostly.
When he was about 2/3 of the way through the box, Rabuck stepped back, and said, "Go ahead, I feel bad you haven't been through these, you need to get first shot at some of them."
Now, I had been the one who suggested we come to Hospice Treasures. But, ethically speaking, the box was all Rabuck's. I had missed it – no excuses. That is clearly the law of the junker land.
Be there any man more blessed than he who offers to share his box under such conditions?
Me, I didn't argue. I dived in. And a few of the sweetest cherries were in the back. We ended up buying the whole thing for $15 and splitting the box. All in all, a fun and fortunate venture.
But clearly, what was meant to happen was for me to ponder, and then present to you, the question – "If you were in Rabuck's place, would you have given your friend first shot at the back of the box, would you have gone all the way to the back before you stepped aside, or would you have bought the whole batch for $15 and kept it for yourself?"