downsizing a houseful of stuff, Mrs. Pincus and I had a yard sale last weekend. I printed out a stack of signs to hang up around our neighborhood. One evening after work, Mrs. P drove me around and I hopped out of the car to tack my paper advertisements on strategically-determined wooden utility poles within a ten (or so) block radius Chez Pincus.
So, we had our little yard sale and when the new week began, we put off the tedious task of taking down the signs until mid-week. (Yes, we are civic-minded people, who do the right thing and take down the signs we put up. Unlike most people who advertise their yard sales, choosing to leave the responsibility of removal for the "sign fairy" or until they deteriorate in the elements.) On Wednesday evening, Mrs. P got behind the wheel of her car and I took the passenger seat, ready to retrace our route through our neighborhood.
As we tooled around our small, suburban community, we saw that someone (or someones) had beat us to the punch. Many of the signs I had attached to utility poles were now just bright-colored corners held in place by heavy-duty staples. In some instances, a long strip of neon green paper sporting the first digits of our address flapped in the breeze. But, for the most part, only corners remained. Sure, there were plenty of signs still intact and I was determined to get each and every one, provided we could remember where we hung them all.
On a long stretch of Church Road, a main thoroughfare that bisects Elkins Park and continues on into the next township, I had hung a number of signs on consecutive poles. I jumped out of the car, finding it easier to just walk the whole way, instead of getting in and out of the car every few feet and have Mrs. P continually halt traffic. So, I got out and my wife drove on ahead to circle the block and eventually meet up with me down the road. I strolled the sidewalk, grabbing and ripping down each sign as I came upon them. At a forked intersection, a small car slowed down next to me and a young man emerged from the passenger side door. He was tall, athletic-looking in a University of Pittsburgh t-shirt and a dark ball cap — the bill pointing backwards — on his head. He hesitantly approached me. I assumed he was going to ask directions like a guy did last week when I was hanging the signs up. (A guy in a rusty heap, its backseat filled with assorted stained boxes and bolts of dirty fabric, leaned over and shouted through the open passenger window, "Which way's Glenside [another nearby town]?" I pointed over my shoulder and said, "Back there." "Back there!?!," he repeated in angered disbelief. He gunned his engine, ignored my reply and continued in the opposite direction.)
The young man smiled. "Sir, would you mind if I took your picture?"
I cocked my head and squinted to indicate I need further explanation. He complied. "My friends and I are on a scavenger hunt. We need a picture of a red-headed stranger." He offered a forlorn look, punctuated by a sorrowful pair of puppy dog eyes.
I laughed. "Sure," I said, "You can take my picture."
A look of relief and elation came across his face. "Really? Cool! I gotta call my friends. They'll be here in a minute." He quickly tapped his cellphone and then shoved it into his pocket. While we waited for his friends, I asked him what else was on his scavenger hunt list. "Any call for old yard sale signs?," I asked and gestured with the stack of spent signs in my hand.
He allowed a small laugh. "Ha! No.," he continued, "We had to walk a stranger's dog."
"Someone let you walk their dog?," I questioned.
"Oh yeah, and she was very nice about it," the young man said proudly.
"I would have run off with the dog.," I joked. He didn't get that I was joking and briefly gave me a look of slight horror. I quickly changed the subject. "So, have you been driving around Elkins Park looking for a red head for a long time?"
"Not really.," he replied, "Well, not too long."
After a minute or two, another small car parked illegally across the street, its two right wheels up on the curb. The doors flew open and four kids in their 20s bounded out, each wearing a heather gray t-shirt emblazoned with the logo of a different college. The group gathered around me like we were posing for a family reunion picture and I was the long-lost relative, discovered after years of searching. I announced, "Before you take your picture, is it okay that I'm not a natural redhead?" They laughed and assured me that it was fine. They took their picture, thanked me over and over again and bounded off in much the same manner they arrived.
My wife pulled up as the episode was ending and I filled her in as I climbed into the car. When I finished, she laughed and told me she had passed them on her drive around the block.
"They were putting clothes on a fire hydrant and taking a picture.," she revealed.
Who says nothing exciting ever happens in the suburbs?