I will walk or drive by a thrift shop and look the other way to avoid the temptation of going in. Don’t get me wrong, I love thrift stores, but I end up buying things I don’t need just because they were a bargain. The thrift store to me is like a Shop-Vac hose running over the floor in a construction area - it draws in and sucks up everything that is near its opening.
I sat at the red stop light, waiting for it to turn green. The Goodwill Store was ahead on the other side of the intersection. I could have turned right to avoid driving near the store, but then I thought how it gets lonely working by myself on my current project. “I could buy a cheap radio for the house.” I said, “It would break the silence.” I went straight through the intersection and pulled into the Goodwill parking lot.
Inside, I promptly found a three-dollar radio I wanted and started for the checkout lane. Suddenly I felt an irresistible force pulling at me. It was drawing me to the kitchen section to see if there wasn’t something there I couldn’t live without. “Be strong, man. Turn away.” I said, but then I caved in; besides, the kitchen stuff was on the way to the front counter - sort of. What would it hurt to just look?
I viewed the shelves full of bowls and pans and misfit lids. Then, there it was, on the third shelf up from the bottom. A 9x12” baking pan. It was white on the inside; dark brown on the outside. It wasn’t a regular glass baking dish, it was pottery, more like a bean pot. It had handles on each end and the sides were wavy, but most of all it was extra deep. “Man, this would be the perfect lasagna pan.” I said as I examined the dish inside and out, looking for chips. It was in good condition and only $5.99. I set the radio inside the dish, picked it up and started for the front counter. Then I turned around and set it back on the shelf. “You don’t need to spend that six bucks.” I said, and turned to leave.
I got just a few feet away before I went back and picked the piece up again. “I’m going to buy it.” I said. On the way to the register I convinced myself, “I don’t need another baking dish. Just put it back and go home!” I set it on the shelf and stepped briskly toward the register. Waiting in line, I thought again how unique the dish was. “You’ll probably never see another one like it.” I said. Geesh! What a dilemma. I stepped out of line and went back to get the dish, second guessing myself all the way to the kitchen area.
When I got there another lady was holding the brown dish, turning it over and over to examine it inside and out looking for chips. I stood back, acting like I was looking at something else. I thought she was going to put it in her cart, then she lifted it back toward the shelf but never quite set it down. She started looking it over again; she couldn’t decide either.
I finally said to her, “If you’d just put that in your cart it would confirm my decision that I don’t need it.” She looked at me and said, “That’s the problem. I don’t really need it either, but it’s such a cool dish and I love the high sides” “Do you know what that dish would be really good for?” I asked her. We answered in unison, “Lasagna!” We shared a good laugh about that.
“I’ll assume you make your own lasagna?” I queried. “Yes I do and it is delicious!” She said. We discussed recipes, each telling just enough to show that we made a mean lasagna, but not giving away any secrets either.
I learned her name was Sheryl. After a few minutes she took the item from her cart, handed it to me and said, “Here, you take it.” “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yes, I’m sure. I don’t need another pan.” She assured.
Next, we talked about pies and pie crust, again sharing recipes without telling too much. It turns out we both make pies and often give them away. She seemed to be such a generous person, I handed her the brown dish. “I want you to have this.” I said to her and she graciously took the dish and placed it in her cart.
Sheryl told me she was the night manager at the Perkins restaurant in Winona. We talked about how we like cooking for other people and taking meals to people when they needed a hand. Sheryl reached in her cart and handed me the brown dish, “Here you take it.” She said. “No it’s yours.” I replied. “I insist, you take it.” She said again. I thanked her, and took the dish.
We said our farewells, “It was nice meeting you and chatting with you.” I said to her. “You too,” She replied as we went our separate ways.
We ran into each other again in the checkout line at the at the register. “Are you positive?” I asked Sheryl one more time. She chuckled, “Take your pan and enjoy it!” We shared another good laugh.
I got into my car with my brown pottery baking dish sitting it in the front seat next to me. Glancing at it, I said to myself. “You really should have let her have the dish.” But she wanted me to have it, too. I decided, as much as I liked the dish, I could just as easily live without it.
What is it about thrift stores? Are we really that obsessed with finding an item we just can’t live without? Is it the bargain we seek? Or finding the perfectly unique item and snatching it up before someone else gets it? I think it might be the comradery; meeting new people, sharing good conversation and fun stories. Maybe that’s what draws me to the thrift store.
In truth, it is that interaction with other people; making new friends. That’s the treasure I can’t live without, which I sometimes find in a thrift store. Finding an attractive dark brown 9X12”, extra deep, pottery baking dish that’s perfect for lasagna for under six bucks? That’s just a bonus.
Tom can be reached for comment at Facebook.com/Tom.palen.98
a broadcaster, pilot, writer, and our Guest Columnist!