Last night my mother asked me if I’d like to join her at an estate auction. Neither of us had ever been before, nor was there anything in particular we were looking to buy, but it seemed like something fun to check out.
We arrived about a half hour before the auction began, so as to get a chance to see all the things on sale. Us and probably a hundred others. It was so strange stepping back and witnessing it all. All of us pouring and pawing over somebody’s old furniture and trinkets. So densely packed were the people and belongings, it was hard to navigate. We were ants crawling over a picnic basket.
We took our seats as the auction began. Having never attended a real one in person, I was curious if the auctioneer was going to sound like those on tv and in movies, or if it would be a more low key affair. He turned out to be a bit of both, like a fast motion WestJet flight attendant (or for those who haven’t flown WestJet: a little mix of playful, sarcastic, and coy).
I like to think of myself as someone quite self aware of when I’m being sold something. I like to stay conscious of how businesses don’t operate out of the kindness of their heart (eg a sale is not a deal unless you were already planning to buy it anyway), I try to recognize when something is a scam, etc. Yet, sitting here in this auction of mostly old furniture, I couldn’t help but think “Oh wow, that really is a good deal” and “Hmmm, well maybe I should place a bid of that” and so on. Of course, this is kind of the point of attending auctions in the first place, so no wonder! but it’s the fact I was trying to avoid that urge and yet the auction made me feel it anyway — very effective.
But my mind kept running back to us all pawing over the old belongings and how strange it felt. What’s strange to me about the auction wasn’t that people were trifling through some dead person’s stuff, it was that that stuff is now separated from the dead person. It’s kind of out of context now and you just see this room full of no-longer-belongings. A lot of objects that kind of make sense when they’re in a house and tended to by a person, but how strange to see all a person’s belongings strewn out in front of all to see, where they don’t belong?