Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.

10/13/2008

Hey, buddy, wanna’ buy some jewelry?

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,News and Current Events,Personal — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:08 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Gibbous


Jewelry

Originally uploaded by Network Geek

No, for real. I’ve got some jewelry I’m selling.

So, this weekend, I got a real education in the economics of despair. I’ve never been to a pawn shop to sell, only to buy. It’s an entirely different experience.
As I mentioned in an earlier entry, thanks to Ike, I’ve had some unexpected expenses come up around some damaged fences. Because of my darling Hilda, I really need to have a fenced yard. Or, I suppose, a better trained dog. But, since the fence is easier, that’s the choice I’m going with. For the sake of ease, and block politics, I decided to use the same guy who did the fabulous job on the neighbor’s fence. Incidentally, I’ll be paying some small fraction of that, too, since it’s shared, which is only fair. So, after I asked him, the fence guy came back with a quote of $1475, which isn’t as bad as it sounds when you consider the size of the fence, the height, and how quickly he seems to work. Also, I’m figuring it’ll buy me a little “good neighbor” currency with my oldest neighbor, the lawyer. Yeah, you can see why I like to stay on his good side.

Naturally, this guy doesn’t really do fence work as his main gig, which means this is a strictly cash business, otherwise, I’d pop it onto American Express and work out the details later. And, he’s going to want to be paid on completion, which is going to be, probably, Thursday. The time crunch really puts the squeeze on my poor, tiny, cold-slowed brain and, well, I started to get a little panicky. I’m not proud of that, but money being tight for as long as it has, a little blip on that front really throws me off. This has been no different.
Naturally, trying to handle it all on my own with as little help as possible, I hit on the idea that I can sell some of my ex-wife’s abandoned jewelry. Sounds great, right? I mean, my lawyer’s office pretty well confirmed that, based on the documentation we have of her demanding certain items be sent and leaving the rest, and the amount of time that has passed, that, in essence, salvage rights apply. In other words, this stuff is all mine to do with as I see fit. Great, right? Not so quick.

I saw fit to sell it to a jewelry store. The only problem is, I couldn’t find a jewelry store that would buy it. That meant checking out pawn shops. Naturally, that brought up all kinds of fears for me. Fears of getting cheated, scammed, you name it. But, screwing up my courage, I start asking around to see if anyone knows a good, relatively honest pawn shop. It came as no surprise that someone I know from church has a relative who owns a pawn shop. Her grandmother, in fact. There is, however, one small, um, “catch”. She’s a beautiful, young, athletic woman who is, intrinsically, attractive and I’m, well, not, and, frankly, still, even at my advanced age, get a little nervous and tongue-tied around that kind of woman. It’s sad, really, but, well, there it is. Thankfully, I have e-mail to save me.

So, I e-mailed her and she told me the name of the place and that her cousin runs it, usually, and if not him then her uncle will be. Then, she also told me about their other businesses that for various reasons, including at least one or two legal ones, I’m not going to mention. I think it was at about this point that I started to wonder just how good an idea this really was. I mean, if the most reputable pawn shop I can find with a recommendation from a church-going woman, no less, still has that faint, musty odor of potential illegality, well… Of course, none of this has ever stopped me before, and it doesn’t this time, either, but it makes me a bit more nervous and cautious.
In any case, I do trust this woman from church, and I’m starting to feel a bit of pressure to come up with the cash, so, setting aside my reservations, I get a shower Saturday morning and head over to check things out.
The closer I got to the shop, the more I recognized the neighborhood I was driving into as being, um, less than the best. I wasn’t worried, per se, but I suspected that I should be careful with stuff to sell in my hand, just in case someone got the idea to mug me. It was a longshot, but, still, I grew up outside of Chicago, so I’m not entirely naive. By the time I actually roll up on the place, I’ve gotten a bit nervous that these guys are going to see a desperate sucker coming and take me for all I’ve got. So, as I park, I resolve not to just jump at the first offer and see where the whole thing goes. And, it does occur to me that telling these guys no could end up reflecting poorly on me with this woman from church or get her into an uncomfortable spot with her cousin or uncle or something. None of which would be good, if for no other reason than I genuinely like this lady. I mean, besides being very attractive, she’s a pretty straight-forward sort of gal, and after dealing with the Queen of the Damned, that’s pretty nice.  Though, please, understand that, no matter how much I would like to be, I’m fairly certain I could never, ever be her “type” and that’s okay because I dig her anyhow, even if it’s just as friends.

As I hopped out of the car, I saw two guys loading or unloading something from a trailer, like a generator or pump or something pretty big. One was a younger guy, at least younger than me, and the other looked a little older than me. I kind of wonder if the older guy wasn’t her uncle, but I never did find out or even think to ask. The younger guy sort of squinted in my direction and then walked over toward me and where I parked as I headed into the pawn shop. Before I got too far in and could head toward any counter, the young guy kind of scooted in behind me. He seemed tense or nervous, which didn’t help me, but he was also pretty eager to find out what I wanted. I can’t blame him, since I looked and felt a little out of place. I introduced myself as a friend of the lady from church and tell him she said to ask for her cousin or uncle. He got even more nervous and admitted to me that he was her cousin. Now, keep in mind, this young woman has a couple of tattoos, but they’re tasteful and pretty easily hidden and, when they are, she’s the picture of respectability. The guy I was talking to was… Well, to use her words, dressed a little “thug”. I mean, he fit the role he was filling. Or, at least dressed the part, right down to his shaved head. Oh, also, he work a loose shirt, untucked from his baggy shorts, so I pretty well assumed that he was carrying a gun. Turns out, I was probably right.
Well, the poor guy seemed even more shocked that I knew his cousin or that she’d sent me, but we got down to business pretty quick. He didn’t want to even touch the pearls or the tennis bracelet, and I can’t blame him. They’re a little iffy without an appraisal. The ruby ring was only worth the gold in it, to him and the platinum rings were only had value based on weight. After looking at the rings and weighing them, he ducked into the back for a couple minutes. At first, I thought he might have been calling his cousin to check on me and my story, and then it occurred to me that he was probably checking on the price of platinum. Later, when I talked to his cousin, she confirmed that was probably just precisely what he was doing.
So, then he made me his offer.
Earlier in the week, I’d priced this stuff on eBay, just to get an idea of how much it might sell for. I figured I might get half of that price from these guys, which would have been enough.
They offered me less than a quarter of what I thought I could sell this stuff for on eBay.

In just a few seconds, I went from initial shock to trying to figure out how to tactfully say “no thanks” to a guy who may, or may not, be involved in criminal activity and who may, or may not, actually be strapped as I was talking to him and not insult him or cause trouble for this cute, sweet, and all around nice, woman from church. In that gap, filled with a small breath sucked in through tight lips and my clenched teeth, he gave me my out.
“Hey, if you think you can get a better price somewhere else, go for it. We’ll still be here.”

And with that, I scooped up the jewelry, dropped it into the Ziploc freezer bag and walked out, thanking him out loud and God silently.
When I got into my car, I noticed something was different, but I was a good three blocks away before I realized that what had made the guy nervous when I drove up was the fact that I was driving what looked like an unmarked police car, just like what the Feds drive. Combine that with being, um, ethnically incorrect for the neighborhood and I’m fairly certain he thought I was a cop, of some kind, coming to bust him for something.
You see, what I’d noticed was that the spot-light on the outside of my car had been moved so that someone could check the registration. After thinking about it for a minute, I was sure that what he’d done was check to see if I had a city or federal parking tag or registration on the windshield. I’d probably made him more uncomfortable than he’d made me!
And, when I got home, I called my parents, who were more than happy to lend me the money to pay the fence guy until I can sell the jewelry on eBay, or whatever. But, I sure did get a taste of how desperate you have to be to actually sell something at a pawn shop. I understood just how bad things had to have gotten for someone to be there and really not have the choice to walk away. Just take their offer or do without, somehow. Today, I’m very, very thankful that wasn’t my only choice.

On the upside, while I was waiting, I saw some very reasonably priced power tools. So, you know, when I do get a little working capital and want some tools, they’re probably going to be my first stop!


Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"You see things and you say 'Why?'. I dream things that never were and say 'Why not?'"
   --George Bernard Shaw


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