Tales from the Thrift
"What i s this?!"
If there were a Song of the Thrift Herder, the phrase "what is this?" would have to feature in it; it's one of the most commonly repeated phrases in the basement of the thrift store, where we sort donations.
Often someone––staff member or customer–– will know what a mysterious item is, and I've learned all sorts of stuff.
That battery-operated thing that looks like a sex toy is a kitchen implement that you put in a pan of liquid you're heating up, so you don't have to stand there and stir it:
it rotates on its own and keeps the milk or whatever from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
A gadget that looks like it's for car repairs is for sealing metal tops onto beer bottles.
This wooden egg on a stick goes inside a sock toe or heel that you're going to darn.
Stuff that we thrift herders deem too obscure or too beat up to sell gets put in recycling, the trash, or––my favorite–– a box that will eventually get transferred to the Free Box across from the check-out counter.
When I cashier, I'm interested to see what people rescue from the Free Box.
(I get stuff from it too. An piece of antique china with a chip in it. An empty DVD case.)
Someone had worked on the toy donations this morning, and there was a ton of stuff in the Free Box this afternoon when I cashiered.
One woman enthusiastically showed me all the good stuff she'd found, including a rubbery manatee. * >
"Oh, this manatee is cute," I said.
"I'm not sure, but I think it's a tea strainer. The tea leaves go in the bottom part, and you put it in boiling water and it doesn't melt because I'm pretty sure it's made out of silicon."
"Well, it's going to Africa," the woman said. "It's for a mission that gives children Christmas presents."
"Oh, that's nice," I said. "Some kid will get a manatee..."
"Yes," she said, "and Jesus!"
"Ah. Jesus in a manatee," I said.
"Yes!" She put her manatee in a paper bag and happily went on her way.
Yes. Well. There you go.
The answer to "what is this?" is not always what you might think.
* I found the photo of the manatee tea infuser on Etsy, where it was priced at $9.16.