You don’t ordinarily associate driving with buying, but there is a connection. It relates to our informal “underground” economy, though but a minor feature of our vast network of undocumented exchange and commerce in America.
Rather, it’s about what ordinary people attempt to sell to those driving around in suburbia, and motoring along our rural roadways. Let us begin by considering the garage sale, long a permanent fixture of suburban life. It’s hard to miss those posted signs directing you to the addresses of those selling off sundry household contents (and often those of their neighbors as well).
On certain weekends, such sales are everywhere. Most have left the confines of the garage with items sprawled across driveways or, more commonly, covering front lawns.
For many, garage sales are irresistible – “You never know what you’ll find.” Besides which, stuff actually is cheap – and you can bargain (especially when you arrive just as they’re packing up). There’s always something you can use (and even if not, still you buy it). And it’s all so convenient. You just park your car along the curb and later deposit your purchases in the trunk or back seat. And let’s not overlook the social dimensions. In suburbia neighbors meet each other only occasionally (unless they walk dogs). They proceed from the house to the car and off they go. Garage sales feature that rare opportunity to chat, catch up, learn what’s going on and meet people informally. Commerce and camaraderie – a winning combination.
County roads also offer many a garage sale, but there’s more here. Those living alongside roadways have long recognized that where traffic flows, there is the opportunity to sell stuff. So what’s on display? Cars figure most prominently. Parked close to the road and decorated with sale signs, you can’t miss them. (From a distance they can be mistaken for police cars trolling for traffic violators, so you slow down.) Just how effective is this sales technique? Clearly the eyeball traffic is significant, and it takes just one interested passerby to make it all worthwhile.
More memorable are the roadside displays of farm-fresh products (the farm often located just back of the stand). Some are unattended and rely on the honor system. You select the items, put your money in a box and make your own change (no credit cards here). You come away feeling trustworthy, and that you’re a certified supporter of rural America.
But, wait; there’s more. You can also drive past stands selling maple syrup, fresh eggs, firewood or signs announcing puppies or rabbits available for purchase. And on hot days, you’ll spot local kids sitting along roadsides behind pitchers of lemonade. You may even pull over and buy a cup just because the sales staff are so cute and because it’s important to encourage private enterprise.
Let’s not forget giveaways. It’s not all about selling. “Take” or “Free” signs urge you to just help yourself after you pull up. Furniture, chairs, ski boots, books, or a sun dress – your choice. Generosity still has its place along the back roads of our nation.