Upcycling Again: Goodwill Photo Safari, with Real Life Dialogue!

Pictures instead of stuff

Years ago, when I saw interesting things at the thrift store, I used to bring them home. Then one day I noticed that my flip phone had a camera built into it and a new tradition was born. About once a week, I do a Goodwill Photo Safari, and mostly I leave things on the shelf a grab some quick pix. I don’t use a flip phone these days, but my LG model is only one step up. The photos aen’t supposed to be good — just a record of where I was and what I saw.

I feel strongly that all over the world, our retail shops are filled with multitudes of overproduced items we make, buy, and throw away over and over. So besides grabbing some photographs, I’m on the lookout for items I can repurpose, get more life out of, or give as gifts for birthdays and holidays.

Overheard in the SoPo Goodwill

I’m not a huge eavesdropper but this time I couldn’t help it. I was browsing among the cigarette-lighter car chargers and USB cables. Two rows over, this woman was talking so loudly into her cell phone that I caught every word. She was hoping to ride with a relative down to Florida for a family event, and smeone said they’d take her.

“Are you just being queer or are you serious?” she said, and I flinched and thought “Don’t say that. Rude.” To say that out loud I would have had to interrupt her phone conversation after crossing three aisles at the thrift store. But then I seemed to be hyper-aware of what others were saying at the SoPo Goodwill.

SoPo, by the way, is South Portland, Maine. We are over the very long Casco Bay Bridge from regular Portland.

I guess daddies don’t hold and love the babies?

More social issues. . . I was looking at the boots, in the hope of scoring a pair of those pull-on rubber waders that go to the knee. In the early spring here in New England, the ground can be frozen solid and then torrents of cold late-winter rain can pour down and it’s very possible that you might need to wade around in water a foot deep. So I have been hoping to get some pull-on galoshes to keep my feet and legs dry when the weather goes crazy. They’re $25 a pair at Marden’s, and go nearly for that price at Goodwill but I am unreasnably optimistic and hope to find a pair for seven bucks, maybe with the half-price sale tag. Hey, it could happen.

The boots are not far from the toy section, and at this particular Goodwill store, the toy selection is mostly sports stuff like baseball mitts and hockey sticks, a few board games, and then a lot of stuffed animals and baby dolls.

I heard a boy say something to his mother in the toy aisle. He was about five or six years old, i think. After he asked the question, which I believe had been “Can I look at these?” in reference to the dolls, there was a definite long pause.

In a strained voice, the mother said something I didn’t quite catch, but I think must have been that dolls were for girls because girls grew up to be mommies. Boys grew up to be daddies. Then there was another pause.

“Understand?” she said, and her voice was a little more harsh than normal for talking to a first-grader. She also sounded slightly alarmed. He said nothing and the two of them walked forward out of the danger zone.

I thought “He understands, all right.” Another thing I thought and did not say out loud.

He did a great job of speaking completely neutrally

A slightly-agitated young woman was searching through dressy shoes and trying them on hurriedly. I think she must have been going somewhere fancy that weekend and she needed some shoes she’d wear two hours, something to match her outfit. I don’t know why she was rushing, as her boyfriend seemed to be pretty relaxed as he flipped through some shirts on a nearby rack.

She slipped on some heels and then tapped down the aisle closer to her sweetie. “How are these?” she asked nervously.

He was cool as a cucumber, but his voice told me he was something scientific in life, like maybe a computer programmer. He was mentally scrolling through his possible responses and then quickly running a built-in app in his brain to evaluate which of these choices was least problematic.

He glanced at the shoes, then turned back toward the row of shirts on hangers. “Those look all right,” he said in a voice without any hint of opinion.

He was a genius. By only glancing, he was covered if they turned out to be the greatest shoes in the world. He could say he hadn’t really looked at them. If they were inferior shoes, he’d said only that they were “all right,” which could mean anything from why spend money on heels to wear for one dinner to she could make the worst shoes in the world look good.

Funny toy aisle moment

At the Goodwill store between Mr. Bagel, the dollar store, Nonesuch Books and the hardware store with all the snowblower machines lined up for repair during the summer, the toy aisle (which is mostly dolls and teddy bears) is part of the same row which has all the craft and office supplies.

I was in the Office section, peering into taped-closed boxes of manila envelopes when I heard two girls come rushing past the toys to go look at purses and scarves. They were third-graders, I would guess.

As they zipped by, a curly-haired girl glanced at the doll selection and said, laughing, “That baby can go to the bathroom!”


After the woman talking too loudly into her phone, I accidentally eavesdropped as a different woman talked together near where I was looking over the thrift shop’s used garden container selection. The pickings were slim so it was easy for me to be distracted when both women laughed.

They were discussing an unexpected phone call one of the two had gotten the day before. Evidently she had been waiting for a repair crew to come do something about her roof, and when the phone rang, she assumed it was the supervisor calling to say when the roofers would arrive with their ladders and truck.

Apparently the woman chatted at length with the man, detemining that he would come by later in the afternoon. She asked how many people he would be bringing with him, and he seemed surprised. He planned to come alone, he said.

“Well, all right,” she told him. “If you think it’s best.”

“How many others are you expecting?” he said, sounding concerned. “I only made enough guacamole for four.”

The word “guacamole” sent both women into peals of laughter, and I realized I might be slightly chuckling myself as I poked around in the shelves, avoiding overpriced clay pots and ceramic Dutch girl planters without any drainage holes in the bottoms. I stifled my laugh so i wouldn’t get busted listening.

“Who is this?” said the woman who had been waiting for the roofing crew.

“Well, it’s Raymond,” said the man.

“RAYMOND???” said the woman, and she and her friend totally broke up. They laughed for at least a minute and I wasn’t sure if they thought Raymond was a funny name or if they had gone to school with a guy named Raymond, or what.

A needed smile at the end of the trip

In the checkout line, I got grumpy as a woman with a lot of stuff in her cart pretended to be looking at the kid clothes on the rack across the from the cash registers, then backed her cart up so that she’d made herself next in life in front of where I'[d been waiting.

The noive. I knew it wasn’t a mistake because she wouldn’t glance back at me. She could feel my eyes burning like laser beams at the back of her head. The checkout protocol at thrift stores can be a little disorganized, and people do suddenly fry out there and need to leave in a hurry. But this woman was a pro. It looked like a well-practiced move.

I myself was in fact a bit fried and in a hurry to escape. But other things were going wrong with the two customers being helped so I just put a lid on it and turned off the laser beam eyeball stare.

Once in the parking lot, I was still a little mad as I was putting my stuff into the car trunk but then I saw two siblings come out of the glass exit door and the boy did a pretty good “Karate Kid” flying kick to release some stress from being good in the store. I should have done that.

Anyway, as they went out, he did a kick and then his sister said, covering her nose, “Did you fart?” And then she made the sound “Geeyahhhh,” which was that shortened form of cussing we all learned to do to stay out of trouble.

And the whole thing made me laugh and forgot She Who Backs Up Without Looking Behind Her.

Thank you for reading this!

As you can see from my Hubs list, I try to write with humor on most subjects. While I do think the essays I do on water conservation, ecological gardening, green living, and all that are worthwhile, I need a break from the serious.

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