In preparation for the flea market, I pulled out a lot of junk I don't normally take to shows like dime boxes of 1980s/1990s football, programs, media guides, 1980s/90s wax, posters, photos and complete sets from the '80s. I also brought along my usual array of vintage stars, binders, dime box, 50-cent boxes and dollar box.
I woke up at 5 a.m. on Sunday and made it to Wolff's flea market at the Allstate Horizon Rosemont Gangster Town at around 6 a.m. The place was jammed!! I forget that I needed to get up at 4 a.m. and get to the flea market by 5 a.m. The Wolff's people stuck all of us 6 a.m. latecomers along the far railing, just a few dozen yards from Interstate 290. Crappy spot and set up was ugly. I forgot how to set up my tent. When I finally got the tent up, I wasn't sure how to organize the wax and stuff with my regular items. I probably lost some sales early on because I was discombobulated. I ended up using only two small display cases because I had so much other stuff I wanted to get out. I put the display case just under the tent on the east side of my spot. The sun was shining on the cases but I figured it would rise shortly and the cases would get some shade. I was WRONG! The eastern side never seemed to get any shade from the tent and after a few hours I moved the display cases toward the middle of the tent so they could get some shade. At the end of the day, I noticed that some of my top loaders had melted. Ugh! I pulled the cards from the top loaders so they wouldn't get ruined. Now I have to re-price several dozen cards. Ugh!!
Anyway, long before I learned of my bonehead display case placement mistake, I had my first customer, a guy who told me he lived across the street from the flea market and attended it every Sunday. He enjoyed looking through my star cards and pulled out a 1940 Play Ball Dizzy Trout to purchase. It seemed like a long while before I had another paying customer. So I just sat back and enjoyed one of my favorite flea market pasttimes -- people watching. Over parts of the past four decades, I've seen all sorts of freaks, weirdos, drunks, skunks and monks at the flea market. There used to be all sorts of gnome people in the '70s and '80s. They seemed deceivingly short in stature because they would wear their pants hiked up to their armpits and their pantcuffs were well above their ankles. These gnome people always seemed to have buck teeth, facial warts and freaky hair. I didn't see any gnome people today.
In the '70s there were the bell bottom freaks. I didn't see any of those people. There was also a lot of tight clothing in the '70s and I noticed this fad is back. It works for some but is really disturbing to view on others. The '80s had the mullets. I actually used to play a game where I would start the day and guess how many mullets I would see and then count them all day. It's been many years since I could count mullets. Didn't see any today. Actually the crowd today was rather boring. What has happened to all the freaks and weirdos. Where did they go?
As I sat there and pondered the meaning of life, enjoying the presence of far more pretty ladies than I normally see at card shows, a paying customer showed up and pulled a bunch of cards out of my 50-cent box. This customer was followed by another lull and it seemed the only people showing up at my tables were folks who wanted to sell me tens of thousands of cards from the '80s and '90s. I had to explain, ad nauseum, that cards from this era were printed in the billions and aren't worth the paper they're printed on. There were also people who claimed to have treasure troves of vintage cards and wanted to get ideas on pricing. I've heard this story for decades. These folks never have any vintage cards. I started to think that this must be what life is like in a baseball card shop. I've been considering opening a shop but today I absorbed a nice dose of reality and am placing that idea on the backburner.
Soon it was 9:30 a.m., I'd been set up for three hours and made 20 bucks. Dark thoughts arose. Then I observed that the Wolff's people have increased their staff tenfold since I last set up at this thing -- which explains the large bump up in space fee. I also noticed that several Wolff's employees seemed to be scrutinizing my set up. What the hell? I'm not selling anything illegal. Why are they walking around my booth like they're some sort of snot-nosed building inspectors? Finally, a Wolff's guy approaches me and says I need weights on my tent because it will blow away in the wind. I say WHAT?!! I don't need any weights on my tent! I purchased this stupid tent five years ago, solely to protect my cards from the sun when I set up at this forsaken flea market. In that five years I think I actually set up at Wolff's only one time and didn't have any problems with my tent nor did any Wolff's worker hassle me about the tent. I also wasn't having any problems with the tent for the three freakin' hours I've been people watching this Sunday morning.
Mr. Wolff's building inspector says I gotta take the tent down or I can give him some MONEY and rent weights from HIM. Whoooa! I say. What kind of scam are you trying to pull? He says it is not a scam but a safety issue. Well, on a windy day, he might have something, but on this day, the wind was calm, temperatures were tepid, and the sun was shining. I wasn't going to take down my tent and let the sun ruin my cards. So I say, I'm not buying your scam, I've already paid much too much money for the spot, you're not getting any more of my money. You give me a refund on the space, I'll take the tent down and leave. He says no refunds, I gotta take the tent down. He says it's in the rule sheet given to me by the Bozo who took my money at the front gate at 6 a.m., when they stuck me in this crappy spot under the expressway. He says I agreed to follow the rules when I paid the fee.
I say, I sell cards as a hobby and this is how I relax, let off some steam, stress from my real job as a LAWYER. As one who spends an inordinate amount of time buried in statutes and case law, I can confidently declare that I did not legally agree to anything, lest of all placing weights on my tent. What occurred here is that I gave Bozo money, he gave me a sheet with rules I didn't read, then his sister directed me to a crappy spot. In my day job, we call this a contract of adhesion and it has about as much legal weight and authority as a dill pickle, frozen and floating down a river. If you want to contractually bind me to your rules, we must comply with the law of the land, under which there has to be an offer based on prior negotiations, acceptance of said offer and performance as outlined in the contract. Here, there was no compliance with the basic legal rules of contract formation. I say again to the building inspector, refund my money and I'll leave, case closed. He gets on his walky talky, "Hello, boss, this guy's not taking down his tent, he says he's a lawyer." Blip. Squeaky voice comes out of the walky talky, "I'll be right there."
Short while later, a young guy and girl, who both look like they work in a comic book shop, pull up in a little motorized cart. Young guy gives me the same spiel, though in a manner of some sort of administrative pencil pusher. I say again, I'm not buying your scam. Refund my money and I'll leave. We go back and forth and I'm basically calling this guy a crook and accusing him of running a crooked operation. So he says he'll give me the weights for free but warned me not to steal them. I thank him and promise that I will not flee with his cement weights. The building inspector and the comic book girl attach the weights to my tent. They all leave. Though I notice I'm under the watchful eye of the Wolff's squad for the rest of the day. There was something very high school about this episode. Like when the deans would follow me around the school and try to catch me smoking in the boys room. Well I never smoked in the boys room and I didn't violate any sort of contractual obligation today with Wolff's. Thanks Wolff's people for making me feel like a criminal. At my real job this week, I actually made sure a real criminal stayed behind bars for committing a heinous murder, like I do most weeks. What did you do this week Mr. Wolff? Prepare to aggravate and annoy unsuspecting and harmless vendors? What's your deal? How and when did you convert your pleasant little flea market into some sort of festering covert expression of a faltering quasi-republic?
Back at the farm, the invasion of spuds subsides and I let the nonsensical stress from the Wolff's idiots pass. I resume people watching. I lazily observe that folks wearing White Sox garb outnumber those wearing Cubs gear by 2 to 1. I also observe that the place is crowded, very crowded, but nobody in this crowd wants my cards. A few guys asked me for stamps, another guy asked for Nascar, while another guy asked for nonsports cards. Nope, nope and no. Hey, what's that? A customer!! A guy pulled a bunch of stuff from my dollar box and my 50-cent box. Woo Hoo!! Hey!! A husband and wife team purchased a 1956 Topps Joe Collins -- the only thing I sold all day out of about 50 binders sitting on my tables. Another guy hit the dollar and 50-cent boxes. A pair of lovely ladies pulled a pile of Cubs out of my 50-cent box and purchased an old Ernie Banks poster. Another guy bought my 1977 Topps Steve Largent rookie and my 1975 Topps Dan Fouts rookie. A guy wearing a Cubs hat pulled some stuff from my dime box. With that, the day was done. I packed up the multitudes of sports junk I had out on display. I removed the controversial weights from my tent and placed them along the guard rail, like I was instructed. Taking down the down went much smoother than its set up. I bid adieu to you Wolff's, and plan to NEVER return. I will break down my sentiments in simple English -- WOLFF'S FLEA MARKET SUCKS!!
Having said that, I haven't given up in flea markets, just Wolff's. Something isn't quite right with these people. I can't wait to get to Serb Hall on Sunday and back into my comfort zone. Thankfully, the Serb Hall promoter PJ doesn't pass out a rule sheet when you pay your fee. I LOVE baseball card shows!! Please picture me now raising my middle finger to Wolff's.