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Yard sale food permits is big news in the city

May 01, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

Only in Washington County would a local paper ever run a front page, above the fold, four-deck-headline story about - yard sales.

Yes, it's my old nemesis back to haunt me, just when I thought my issues over this atrocious institution had been settled. There it was, last Saturday morning: "County may lower food permit fee at yard sale."

Ye gogs. Look, I know we're supposed to be a community newspaper, but ...

For the play this story got, you would have thought that some local yard sale had just been visited by J-Lo, Dan Marino and Saddam Hussein, all riding up in the same minivan and asking to see something in a 1970s-era shoe tree.

But no, the only news here was the Washington County Health Department was lowering the fee for a yard sale food license. That was the front-page, above the fold news. It won't cost you quite as much to peddle your Rice Crispie treats and Hi-C. Wonderful.

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And the depressing thing is that the paper knew exactly what it was doing. It knows its audience, and that was probably the most-read story of the day. Iraq can fall, but hey, there's big doins on the yard sale front. Stop the presses.

Everyone knows my feelings on yard sales, but for two long years I've held my peace. True, it's been two years since I vented on the subject and I've got a boiler full of steam that would send a stern-wheeler from New Orleans to Minneapolis in three seconds exactly.

I know, I know. If people want to buy and sell each others sweat-stained T-shirts and two-legged piano stools and Peaches 'n Herb eight-tracks and act like they're Donald Freaking Trump because they made $400 over a three-day weekend on stuff that cost them $7,428 when it was new, then that's their business.

But I think it ought to be the law that yard sales be held indoors, like any good, self-respecting form of commerce.

Nothing ruins a beautiful, dogwood-lined street like lawns filled with junk that's been crowbarred out of every living crawl space where it's sat for the last two decades growing mildew faster than a Costa Rican cloud forest.

Entire neighborhoods look as if they've been hit by a neutron tornado - dishevels all your stuff, but leaves the house standing.

This isn't even to mention the safety hazard caused by these above-ground landfills. Drivers going 55 will slam on their brakes and creep past the front yard at 5 mph, committing a flagrant act of drive-by-shopping as they decide whether it's worth stopping.

And when they do stop, leaving their car half in the road as a general thing, they are usually too focused on some pitted brass spittoon to even look for traffic before crossing the street.

If there's a process more utterly devoid of dignity, I haven't heard of it.

As far as the accompanying food sales go, if I don't want what's in your attic, if I don't want what's in your basement, if I don't want what's in your closets, if I don't want what's in your garage, what in the name of Waste Management makes you think I want what's in your moss-encrusted refrigerator?

I'm supposed to pay a buck fifty for some freezer-burned hot dog you chiseled out of the pack and tossed into a tepid pan of recycled dishwater then stuffed into a bun left over from your uncle's Labor Day beer bash?

Tell you what. I'll give you your health permit if you give me a gun permit so I can blow a hole in all those crock pots filled with pork and beans that you've "doctored up" with ring bologna and onion soup mix.

But go right ahead. Have your yard sale, get your health permit - and then put that mayonnaise in the sun.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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