Posted in Creative NonFiction

Treasure Hunting at a Swap Meet

“How much is this?” a young man asks the vendor as he picks up an old picture frame. His wife stands by, holding a painting. People around us chatter, holding plastic bags, suitcases, purses, backpacks and pushing strollers and wagons as they walk around the crowded aisles. Several other tables and tents are set up along the old parking lot, creating a maze of endless treasures.

“Five dollars,” the vendor replies. The two make an exchange, and the customer wanders off happily with his prize as his wife eagerly follows him, disappearing into the crowd. Many other people look around at the vendor’s table. Every inch of it is covered in antique items. I pick up an old war hat, with pins protruding from the sides. My friend asks who would just sell something like that. I set it back down on the table, and we continue on to the next booth, this one covered with multicolored rocks and stones and a few lanterns and shovels.

Another vendor here tells me that there is a lot to find at a swap meet. “Some of them sell things found in stores, others, like me, sell things like this. It’s a way for us to get rid of junk.” He shows my friends and I a collection of stones and rocks his father-in-law owned. He says that there isn’t a story to them, but he makes one up anyways, making us laugh as he says that the biggest rock was found under the bone of the oldest dinosaur. Once he’s done, we continue walking through the maze. The sun beats down on us, but the rays don’t bother us at all. It’s a beautiful day in February. A perfect day for spending the day outside.

Each new table we pass has something different. There’s one covered in movies, another one has children’s books. That one has nothing but toys and video games. Kids stop their parents, and pounce on the toys, happily digging through them to find the perfect one. One little boy walks away happily with a new video game in his hands, and a young girl wields a sword found in the dusty blue bin.

We walk by another longer shaded booth with produce lining the walls, with shoppers holding bags and crates of fruits and vegetables. My friend waits in line to buy a box of mangoes, while I sit and wait, watching the procession of shoppers across the way. Someone is bartering for a great snowboard, still in amazing condition, asking for a lower price, but the vendor doesn’t want to go any lower than twenty dollars.

We pass more tents with countless older items: lanterns, typewriters, paintings from the 1940s, sculptures, phones, huge trunks and chests, bookshelves, a baby blue bike, and a piano. One of the swap meet workers stops to play on a quick ditty on the piano, and he’s smiling the entire time. Everyone claps and cheers when he finishes the song, and he takes a quick bow.

You could pretty much find anything you wanted here. It puts the whole phrase “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” into perspective. It rings true as I purchase a few Disney movies that were discarded in a box, and my friend discovers a table covered in fancy knives and swords. She doesn’t buy any┬ábut finds a comic book at the next table over. We both walk away, grinning with our treasures.

It doesn’t take too long to reach the last table of the swap meet. Everyone has seen and bought what they wanted to get. As we leave through the gates, I glance back at the sea of tents and trucks. Maybe next time I come, I’ll discover even more new treasure.