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Yard sales drive hazards in the summer

Azaleas bloom, gardens grow, green stuff pops up all over the place, and people sneeze a lot. The lazy summer days are here. But don’t be lulled into a sense of false security; there is great danger on the streets of our towns!

You might not think of it as being anything like a blinding lake effect blizzard, or a dense fog with ten feet of visibility, or a downpour that turns the streets into rivers sweeping away cars like they’re toys. But if you choose to drive your car on these summer days, do so at your own risk: It is Lawn Sale Season.

This is the time of year when people drive up and down the streets led by one ear because their heads are turned sideways and their eyes are scanning a sprawling mass of stuff strewn across yards everywhere: furniture, appliances, clothing, tools, books, games, sports equipment, electronic devices, and all kinds of questionable art-like stuff. Sometimes you even witness things that reveal people’s special interests, like a cassette tape of exotic animal mating calls, or pooping pooch calendars from 19994-1999, or a Jane Fonda Barabarella Halloween outfit.

During Lawn Sale Season, most drivers are in a trance, hypnotized, as if they’ve heard a calling, a voice like Barry White’s, telling them there is something precious and rare and extremely useful missing from their lives that must be hidden somewhere in all that stuff – a diamond in the ruff!

Thus, they flout the common rules of the road and make up their own, like “Because I am on a mission, I can stop without warning and park anywhere I please, including the middle of the road.”

I learned from the internet that you are 7,000 times more likely to get in an accident during Lawn Sale Season. The good news is that the average vehicular speed is 5 miles per hour, so severe injuries are uncommon. Yet there are other kinds of risks, especially because many drivers are like Mr. Magoo. They are good natured, but suffer from some kind of handicap such as perpetual bliss, or the inability to use a rear view mirror.

There is also the risk of road rage, wherein senior citizens (who comprise 34% of the lawn hawks) can get real aggressive when competing for parking spots. I read somewhere on the internet about a nasty brawl in which one senior took a swing but missed. He threw his shoulder out and had to have it removed. The guy who ducked ruptured a disc in his lower back and to this day walks stooped at a ninety degree angle. Neither one has driven a car since, though the latter now rides a recumbent bicycle.

The majority of folks who go to lawn sales are pretty out-in-the open about it. They are there to browse, to mingle, to barter, or to turn their noses up at stuff they deem odious or overpriced. All suffer with an internal conflict: do they really need this (whatever it is)? Is it really the perfect item to fill the last remaining nine-square-feet of open space on the patio? Will someone suspect they actually bought it at a yard sale?

Some of them are entrepreneurs. They go to the other side of town to look for deals with the intention of finding a bargain item that they can turn into a profit later on. They might buy it for five bucks, and next summer sell it from a neighbor’s yard for seven and a half.

Then there are those secretive types who don’t want to be recognized. They shop incognito. If you ever see someone dressed in a niqab and burka, or in a nun’s habit, look closer: she might be an American lawn sale shopper in disguise.

The Internet estimates that 67.32 percent of the stuff sold at one lawn sale will appear in a different lawn sale within the next two years. This is encouraging for those who almost bought something but had it snatched up by a more aggressive shopper or got cold feet at the last minute. It may be available again soon!

But I digress. The important thing here is the traffic problem. I urge concerned readers to write to their congressmen in an appeal to take action. New road warning signs could be created, picture-y ones, like those used for cattle crossing, or the man on the tractor, or no back seat driving, or black cat area. It might feature a spaceship hovering over a bunch of humans and cars who have been programmed to wander about in random patterns, looking for something.

Pete Howard is the author of The Hourglass Pendant and other Paul James Mysteries. He lives in Dunkirk and teaches ELA at Northern Chautauqua Catholic School. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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