Sunday, 16 March 2014

Market Madness

Last Sunday I ended up helping to run a stall at the Camberwell Market.

I mean, I wasn't snatched off the street and put in charge of it or anything but it was pretty close.

My friend Spooky's sister had finally got herself geared up and booked a spot at the market but just days before her market debut been told she had to work the weekend. This led to her springing the opportunity to run a stall at the flea market/swap-meet-y gathering on Spooky on the Friday.

Spooky had a bunch of clothes she was trying to get rid of so she said yes.

Neither of us had any idea what we were doing but meh, that's half the fun right?

So the night before the market she packed some rolling clothes racks into the back of her car along with a whole mountain of clothes which were carefully bagged by price, made sure she had enough change, got an early night and then got so wound up about the whole situation that she woke up at 1:30 am and couldn't get back to sleep.

As her 'yeah why not' assistant I slept allllllll the way through until the late hour of 3:15am, at which point I rolled out of bed, fed the pets, remembered to get dressed, had a cup of tea and then rolled myself into her father's 4WD when she pulled up the front at 3:45 am looking a little bleary eyed and manically enthusiastic.

First fun part of the day was the 4WD.

It's a Renault Scénic* which her father quite liked about it when he first bought it.
He liked it less when it started needing expensive repairs and imported spare parts.
Sooo he didn't do/import them.
This means that it struggles in 4th and sings you a song of exquisite pain the entire time it's in 5th, so we weren't exactly burning down the highway.

We'd left with enough time to allow for some traffic and other vagaries of fate which meant that even with the poor crippled foreign car we turned up at the market location at 6:15 am, which we figured would be plenty of time to set up our paltry offerings for the market's opening time of 6:30 am.

Yes and no.

Yes because our set up really did only take about 15 minutes once we got to do it.
No because everyone else** had turned up at 5 am, the place was a jam of cars and people wrestling with trestle tables, and some incredibly dedicated shoppers**** were already browsing the wares being unpacked.
They were having to use torches to do this because it was still dark because it was 6:15 AM IN THE MORNING!

So we wrestled the dumb dumb car to our spot, confirmed our assumption that we wouldn't be able to park AND display our wares in the space allocated for our stall was correct and immediately crapped up some more as we tried to set up.

The boot had been completely crammed, so I jumped out, pulled out a few things on top so Spooky could see and then stood there to help usher her back into the car park spot that comprised our stall location for long enough for us to unpack everything before she went to park the car in the assigned area.

This seemed to be going pretty well until the bit where I realised she couldn't see me as she ignored my waved warnings and bumped into a card table with four milk crates of records on it.
Luckily she didn't do this hard enough to damage the table or dislodge the records but we did immediately decide to just unpack with the car sitting in the aisle and get out of the way as soon as possible.

This took us all of three minutes but a market regular still took time to explain to us how because our car was there other people couldn't drive by.
Honey, they wouldn't have been able to drive by while Spooky spent 7 minutes wrestling the weirdo Renault into the spot and then had to force her way back into the flow of traffic to park it elsewhere either, so shut up.

All our stuff was safely in a big pile in the middle of the stall space, Spooky jumped back into the weirdo car to go park it and I stood guard.
And a couple of the 'he always seemed so quiet, never would have guessed' early shoppers came by and tried to browse a bunch of canvas bags of unpacked goods with their torches, one fellow sidling up to me to ask if we were selling any jewellery, another hopefully checking if we had any leather bags.

10 minutes of standing around feeling like bit of a berk as the snooty regular lady occasionally gave me as much of an uppity look as the low light levels would allow and Spooky was back.

Put up clothes racks, pull out clothes hangers, put clothes on hangers, put price signs up, set up our bean bag chairs because we're high-powered professionals and want to flaunt it, and we were ready.

And yes we sold stuff.

That is a thing that happened but it was nowhere near as interesting as just watching the people.

Some of these folks were clearly on a mission, others floated around the place as if they weren't quite sure how they had got here or why they were even outside of the house but how lovely, a market just happens to be here!

A lot of people brought their dogs which had Spooky scurrying off every 10 minutes to go beg to pat them while I stayed to keep an eye on things.

There were people who bought all their clothing at the markets who were clearly rocking the look.
There were people who did the same but with much less successful results.

There was a guy dressed like the lovechild of Cohen the Barbarian and a wizard.

I just googled 'Camberwell Wizard' and here he is!

Found at Andrew D2010's Flickr stream (you have to be signed in to see)

The day we saw him we was wearing royal blue with a bit more leather and honestly looked like he was going to offer to sell you a magic lamp at any second.

Some of the marketeers who I decided to rebadge as 'lifers' obviously knew a lot of tricks of the trade to run their stall smoothly and get customers interested but just as obviously were miserable people.

There was a fellow having what seemed to be a passive-aggressive snipe at a woman I assumed was his wife every time there was a lull in customers, there was the aforementioned snooty lady, there was a woman selling 'vintage' toys who wanted $10 for a low-budget electronic hand-held game that wasn't really worth $10 when it came out in the 90s and certainly not now when it was missing its battery cover and she couldn't actually remember if it worked or not.

I guess a certain amount of manning the barricades and you'd get sick of the looky-lous and the people expecting quality goods for almost free but it seemed a bit sad.
Sure they're running it like a business and probably hit up all sorts of markets on the regular and every market can't be a bustling Disney fantasy of cheerful traders and excited patrons***** but it's a nice atmosphere if you can take the time to appreciate it.

In contrast the fellow whose records Spooky had endangered spent the day popping in to give us little bits of advice, ask us how we were going, make conversation and warn us about the 'lifers'.

At the end of the day - well, by 12:30 pm which is when the market closes - we'd made enough money to cover the cost of running the stall, the petrol getting there and lunch and probably not a lot more but it had been a hell of a time.

What made that end of the experience even better was the fact that all the lifers were so efficient that 10 minutes after close they had packed up entirely and were gone, leaving behind only memories and the echoes of their crushed dreams.
This meant that when Spooky brought the car around to pack up we had plenty of space to park and had everything squared away within 10 minutes and could head off with the crippled Scénic.

Leaving the market presented its own challenges as some people's stalls looked like they had exploded by this point and it was a bit tricky weaving your way out without driving over any of their valuable crap.
The lifers who had been on our other side had almost driven over a shoe rack in our spot when they started casually pulling out without looking.
It was as we pulled up to the exit that Spooky realised - in the warm light of midday - why the record man had almost ended up short some records.
The rear vision mirror had been tilted down.
What with the blackness of the wee hours and the crammed condition of the boot when we'd driven in, she hadn't been able to tell that the mirror wasn't actually framing the rear window the way you'd ideally like it to if you're trying to use it not to cause a traffic incident.

Whoops :-P

If you were more organised, did some reconnaissance to see what competition you were up against and turned up wearing your game face I'm sure you could make a reasonable amount of money out of the enterprise; but then you might risk turning into a joyless lifer and I much preferred the people watching, dog patting, and boggling at people who ummed and ahhed over whether they really wanted the nice shirt that was in the 'dollar bin' rather than just buying it because it COST A WHOLE DOLLAR!******

We probably won't do it again but I'm certainly glad I said 'yeah, why not!' when she asked me.
The memories we've now got were definitely worth the time it took to form them.

The early morning is a strange and almost unreal land, disassociated from normal life, and in this case it actually did contain a wizard!

*What on Earth is that accent doing there? I mean really?
**All the long time marketeers*** at least
***Shut up, I'm calling them that, it's more interesting than 'stallholders'.
****Overenthusiastic weirdoes
*****That was the medieval fair that my brother and I stumbled upon in Luxembourg when we were travelling in 2006. Best fair ever.
******The people shillyshallying were not responsible impoverished folk on a budget, they were uni-aged kids wearing $200 sunglasses and $5 clothes. I'd guess that's how they can afford the $200 sunglasses but that's just conjecture.

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