YUUUUP! It’s the new year, and while everybody else is in full purge mode, or at least thinking about thinking about getting rid of their excess stuff, I’ve worked out how to do it with no effort on my part whatsoever.
First, a question. Which Vancouver genius decreed that homeowners here didn’t need a garage? Tiny carports or, even worse, lockers in condo complexes, are pitiful stand-ins for anybody who has sports equipment, toboggans, barbecues, charcoal, fire-wood, strollers, lawnchairs, recycling, garbage, and containers of seasonal clothes.
I suppose these cramped spaces would be fine for followers of LOVAS (Lifestyles of Voluntary Simplicity) like my friend Rick, who can fit most things he owns in a backpack and has no fixed address. But we live in a city of consumers. People here have all kinds of outdoor toys, from parasails to dinghies. Lack of storage is an issue, which may be why so many of us are glued to the A&E TV series Storage Wars.
The show focuses on the detritus left in rental storage units, which call out to many of us like mermaids bent on dragging us down to the deeps. Stanley and I once rented one, then realized we were spending about a thousand dollars a year to store stuff we never, ever used. We got rid of most of it, and now we subject our neighbours to a colourful, ever-changing exhibition of the rest. It would be nice to park our car in the carport one day, but there are far too many skateboard rails, barbecues and large power tools in the way.
Despite being buried in all this stuff, we’d hardly want our outdoor rubble to suffer the fate of the cast-offs in Storage Wars. If you haven’t seen this show, which is a huge hit, the concept is simple. When people don’t pay the monthly fees on their storage lockers, their contents are put up for auction. The show follows five main characters in Southern California as they bid on this detritus. The “drama,” such as it is, comes from the fact that they can only preview the contents from outside, getting a cursory look from afar.
The characters, secondhand-goods dealers with fierce rivalries, make a guess at how much the stuff will be worth, and the auction begins. It’s only after they’ve forked over the cash that they get to explore the locker, often finding mysterious items that they take to antiques and other specialty dealers for appraisal.
Sounds pretty boring, no? When Stanley told me this was his new addiction, I sighed wearily. Why on earth would he want to speculate about somebody else’s junk when we have so much of our own to navigate every #$%^& day of our lives, constantly wending our way past snowboards, rubber boots and sacks of inflatable beds just to get to the laundry room? Nevertheless, he puts up with my enthusiasms, so I thought I should take a stab at watching with him.
The show is strangely gripping. One of the characters, Barry Weiss, is intriguing enough that we looked him up. Well over 60 and clearly affluent, he has an admirable mane of grey hair and movie star looks, but the vulgar humour of a strip club enthusiast 30 years younger. It turns out he’s been collecting antiques since he was 15.
The other characters include hairy-backed dufus Darrell Sheets, prickly hoser Jarrod Schulz, his understandably irritable wife, Brandi Passante, and a super-aggressive consignment dealer called Dave Hester. Hester’s the guy whose auction catchphrase -- “Yuuup!” -- is printed on the giant truck he pulls up to the auctions to intimidate his opponents, who can’t stand him. (In real life, of course, they might be best friends. It is “reality” TV, after all, with its staged catfights and phony enmities.)
At any rate, we’re now hooked on this cock-eyed treasure hunt, where something often emerges from what appears to be nothing. The storage lockers frequently seem loaded with grimy foot massagers and cut-rate coffee tables -- you wonder why anybody would choose to make their living sifting through strangers’ debris. Then the bidders stumble on something odd, like an ancient blowpipe, or antique medical implements, or a book of original watercolours. Hester once bought a locker full of old newspapers that turned out to be a goldmine of Memphis rags published the day after the death of Elvis.
And so I come to my plan: Invite the Storage Wars folks into my home, open the door of the basement pantry, and let them go at ’er, just like they do on the show. They certainly can’t get in it, for all the cans of tomatoes, tubs of barbecue rub, camping equipment, grandmothers’ tea services, sacks of gloves, hissing plastic snake, giant Halloween spider, and tea-lights.
I know I can count on Hester to push the bidding up to at least $100. Barry would surely find one random item worth the trip, maybe the silver Art Deco hot water pot. But really, it’s up to you, Storage War dudes. Please come -- I’m beggin’ ya.