I just love Charity Shops (Thrift Stores, for my legion of American readers) - They're a veritable Alladin's cave of dead people's stuff and broken toys. My local 'shopping centre' has about seven and every time I go out to buy the ingredients for an Ocelot Stew, or Sweet and Sour Crispy Peacock I try to pop into as many as I can. I don't neccessarily want to buy anything - It's kind of like a trip to the museum, but with added mothballs.
There is nothing you can't get (OK, there are a huge number of things that you can't get, just shuddup and go with it) and if you wait in the store long enough, you will see every single consumer item that has been sold in the past hundred years or so. I've seen everything from Hello Kitty Handbags to Victorian Violet Wands on those hallowed shelves (Before you ask, no, I didn't buy it, there was too much month left at the end of the money). We all need to support these places, they can't be allowed to die out.
Don't get me wrong, for me, it's nothing to do with the Charity, for all I care the money could go straight to Albanian gangsters who live only to wallpaper their houses with kittens' eyelids. It's the whole digging through the crap aspect of it that appeals to me, a bit like you guys must feel reading this Blog... Most of the time it's all odd shoes and canteens of cutlery with all the knives missing - But occasionally you'll find an original copy of Action Comics Number 1 - In A1 condition. OK, so someone's drawn a penis on the cover in sharpie, but still..
Anywho, I was in one a few months ago, digging through a tub of naked Action-Men (GI-Joes), odd Sticklebricks and Matchbox cars that had so few wheels between them that they'd only be completely at home in Back to the Future 2, when the very worthy lady behind the counter asked;
'Are you looking for anything in particular?'
Now, I froze, because I didn't want to say, 'No, I'm just pretending to be an archaeologist' - Which was the sad truth, so I replied with the first thing that came into my head, 'I don't suppose you have any Lego do you?'
She thought for a second, she actually did that thing where you tap your index finger on your lips and look up (which I know you're all doing now, so stop it!) then said,
'No, I don't think so, but if you give me your number, I'll give you a call if some comes in'
Ok, I mean she wasn't completely unattractive in a 'Person who works in a charity shop and probably has a part share in a rescued pony' kind of way, but I couldn't take the chance that she was hitting on me, after all, I'm a married man... So, in true tabloid style, I made my excuses and left.
A week or so later, I was walking past the same shop when I saw what I thought was a first edition StarScream in the window (It turns out it wasn't) - As I was deciding whether to in, the worthy lady's face appeared and mouthed 'OO-ee God, sumly Go!' (You're doing it again... stop it!). She beckoned me into the store like Morpheous asking Neo to show him Kung-Fu and said,
'It's just come in, you can have first look!' And then she did that excited stiff handclap thing.
It took me a good few seconds to figure out what the blinking-flip she was talking about, and I still didn't twig until she brought out a cardboard box with Lego in it.
'I'm afraid it's not all Lego, but feel free to sort out what you don't want.'
So, picture the scene, avid readers, I'm sat on the floor, in a busy-ish Charity shop, sorting out a box of mixed toys that was about 80% Lego, when she came up and said,
'Let me know when you've got that one sorted and I'll bring you the next one'
Now, I did that thing where you go all slittly-eyed and look from side to side (Again? Stop it!) and said, 'There's more?'
'Yeah, a couple of small ones'
So all in all there were three decent sized boxes of Lego and a box of assorted rubbish, which I kindly re-donated to them. Quite gingerly I asked, 'And how much would you like for all these?'
'Well, I'm sorry, but Lego's quite expensive to buy isn't it, I'm afraid I can't let it go for less than £20...'
I nearly pooped an actual kitten in my rush to get out my wallet.
'Tell, you what,' I said, 'It's all in a good cause isn't it? I'll give you £25.'
You know, I think she was genuinely touched, and I desperately tried not to blurt out 'But it's worth, like £200 Muhahahahaaha!' and twirl my moustache.
So, once I'd filled out the Gift-Aid certificate - It seemed the right thing to do. I picked up the three boxes of Lego and struggled out of the shop. Now, I didn't have the car with me because the shops are only about 10 minutes walk from my house. So I had the two open boxes balanced on top of each other in front of me, and a box, with what I thought was a fairly close-fitting lid, gripped with the spare fingers of my right hand... You can guess what happened, by my usage of 'what I thought was', right?
The lid came off the box, and spewed about a kilo of lego all over the pavement. Embarrassing enough you might think, but no, it chose to let go at a traffic island, on a three lane road, at rush hour, with halted traffic.
I don't think Bono got anywhere near that amount of applause when he anounced that he had single-handedly saved the entire African population from starvation - And to get the same amount of 'Woooo!'s I would have to have been wearing a severely short skirt and little else. My face actually felt like it was about to spontaneously combust.
Was it Karma? - Would it have happened if I'd offered what some people might say was a 'fair' price?
Yeah, it probably would... Because even though they say that Karma's a bitch, she's also got a bloody good sense of humour.