A Door Knock
Waiting… for six weeks… to “go back”… was hard to adhere to… but I did it. I “forced it”; forced myself. TO WAIT. With the bandying of the pipe tongs before me, the Pandora boxes of… lust for them… AND the …several rungs down the ladder lust for… “IF she has found THOSE what else may …I… find “in there” (the old house). It was, without question, “the best house” I’d “gotten into” at the time. I had to hold on to the steering wheel tight to keep the truck from “just happening” to be “driving by”.
At six weeks waited I was… and the Maine antiques world was… in the first week of February and therefore in full blown “Maine winter”. Snow, cold, cabin fever, darkness, electric lighting, oil heating, oil tank filling, bill paying and car batteries are themes of whole days complimented by the “get out” and “get some exercise” “snow shoveling”. And the seasonally popular “roof shoveling”. Frozen fingers, rosy cheeks and wet socks come inside to “get warm” in houses where twenty dollar bills are being burned to… “keep warm”. For the antiques picker there are mixed blessings mixed in a direct ratio with mixed …negatives.
Standing in an ice cold barn “dickering” for a “that” “up there”, is at best very short. Filling the oil tank for a home owner… becomes a “I guess I’ll sell THAT” forced march… to market. With a spread of four to eight hundred dollars “to fill” a tank… the dark, outback, hidden regions of inaccessible “rooms” “last summer” often find “that when the antiques man comes by”… “take him there” directly “to see”… If I will pay enough for a “that” to “fill the tank”. “Will you?”
I know this. February is NOT a bad month for me. Nor is March. “Things happen” then. IN FACT, due to the sequestered closeness of the wholeness of the setting… folks in their old houses filled with old stuff are actually …glad to see me and …believe it or not… MORE friendly to me than during the REST OF THE YEAR. Not only do I come calling with what they most want (cash) but I am actually PART OF THE SEASON’S “snow, cold, cabin fever, darkness…”. I (“the antiques man”) am probably right between “oil heating” and “oil tank filling”. These months, for me, are “busy”.
At six weeks –first week of February- to “show up” at “the house of the pipe tongs” has an in my mind’s eye scenario: I knock on the door, a smiling old woman answers promptly, ushers me in while saying how glad she is I “stopped by” “today” and “was just thinking of you” and …cutting to the chase… was wondering IF I WAS STILL INTERESTED … in BUYING… “those old pipe tongs”… “I know you wanted”. I… knowing it’s the first week of February and presuming the oil tank needs to be filled and that requires four to eight hundred dollars… quickly and calmly say that “Yes I am interested in buying the (twenty-five hundred dollar value) pipe tongs and will pay six hundred dollars IN CASH RIGHT NOW for them”. Quickly and calmly. She says “Yes please”. I step out to the truck for “more cash” and return to count out six one hundred dollar piles of twenty dollar bills like Monopoly money on the nearest flat surface while she, with great satisfaction retrieves the pipe tongs that are found to be remarkably close at hand and… hands them over. After a gathering up of funds dispensed and I fuss with the tongs … we have an “anything else today?” moment that… USUALLY does not have “anything else” because not only is the oil tank now full but this was, in fact, for the home owner “a big one” (a big problem resolved).
Now it’s MY “big one”. BRISKLY back outside with the tongs in hand and the cash “long gone” when that front door clicked shut… I say here… that WE will look at the OTHERSIDE of this antiques picker’s realm of February for… you’d better if your thinking this looks easy… and I must; I …have no choice.
WHERE does one go with a “just paid six hundred” pair of colonial New England pipe tongs once “I’m one of the best pickers in the trade” butts down in the truck cab and… starts the truck up in… a nine degrees out “at noon” middle of nowhere, hours from anywhere, who even KNOWS what pipe tongs ARE for FIFTY MILES in the “middle of February” quaint old remote “Maine village”. EVEN EATING one’s cold homemade sliced pork sandwich as the truck bumps over the railroad tracks at the edge of town and curves off up the hill as… a few snow flakes start to fly… and… well… “I got at least an hour of driving before I have to “think of how to sell these (the best pair of …colonial New England pipe tongs… I’ve ever found AND WILL EVER FIND).
That’s right: It is February on the (rich, well to do, sophisticated, informed, quality minded and “QUALITY PEOPLE LIVE THERE”) …coast. I am “there” in …over an hour. NOW HOW AM I going to “sell these”?
The fine antiques stores are closed for the winter. The dealer owners are in “FLORIDA” for “THE WINTER”. Or “on their boat” in the “West Indies”. The remaining are local collectors and “a few around” coastal dealers “waiting for summer”. This group has the SAME situation as the household I bought the tongs from including “OIL TANK FILL”. Christmas, college bills, cost of doing business/NO business at this time of year and …lackluster attitude featuring “I’m broke” slogans TRIM my “who can I sell these to” down to a VERY SMALL LIST very fast… as I drive toward a prospect.
First I need someone who has some money. Then I need someone, with money, who knows WHAT colonial New England pipe tongs “are”. HOPEFULLY they might …very unlikely but I wish upon a star all the time... know how to “good-better-best” differentiate between colonial New England pipe tongs? “Yeah right”. AND CARE. Or better…: LOVE. And care. And… LUST. And know that …these are the best pair they are ever going to see, have a chance to buy and … “HAVE TO HAVE THEM” (the money is no object when finding an object of this quality it is always worth more). So I get out my mental Ouija board and start running my fingers over the tax returns of ANY dealer-collector I can think of who… “might buy”… “now”.
Try it sometime.
BACK …at the old house’s doorway where I parked my truck out in front… I see a snowy but recently neatly shoveled front steps with a …I DID NOT NOTICE THIS THEN… shoveled area between the shoveled-by-the-town sidewalk and the plowed-by-the-town street… shoveled access to the street… TOO. I just got out of the truck, walked ON THAT access and UP the doorsteps and KNOCKED ON THE DOOR. Twice. Three times. Nothing happened.
NO ONE answered the door. NOTHING HAPPENED. I heard NO NOISE from “inside”. I stood there. I waited. I turned around and looked at the older but fully kept up house across the street. I gave up. I got back in the truck and… drove away.
I came back in two weeks. The same thing happened.
I came back in one week. The same thing happened.
On this visit I, standing with my back to the door and looking out and away, had an epiphany: “SHE HAS GONE TO FLORIDA FOR THE WINTER!” She left “after Christmas and won’t be back until April”. (?). “OF COURSE… you idiot… she’s not going to stay in that house all winter! She’d FREEZE to DEATH! She’s in FLORIDA! You idiot.” I got back in the truck and drove away. I didn't come back until… the first week of May.
I didn’t buy the pipe tongs in the first week of February. I didn’t have to sell them on the coast of Maine… in the “middle of February”.