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In the early part of the last century things were different here in Maine. We think you'll agree that a lot of things have changed over the last 100 years, if not improved.
Long ago all homes in Maine were heated by wood. It was a difficult procedure that involved having someone cut, split and dry firewood. The wood then had to be hauled into the house and eventually placed in the woodstove. Once burned, the ashes had to be hauled out and dumped somewhere. When most of the wood was gone Downeasters began heating their homes with coal, which also was time-consuming, not to mention dirty.
In these enlightened times we have modern oil heat, if we can afford the champagne prices they now get for a few gallons of oil.
Our grandparents used to go to Boston aboard steam packets, which were slow, time-consuming and sometimes dangerous. Now we speed toward Boston on modern highways like 95, 128 and 495. Come to think of it, they're time-consuming and dangerous, too. I guess there's not much improvement there.
One hundred years ago indoor plumbing was unheard of and people had to endure the inconvenience of chamber pots and privies. Now we have to endure the inconvenience and high cost of plumbers and septic systems, so I guess - oh who am I kidding, of course things have improved in that area.
What I'm trying to say is that as things have changed here in Maine we've always managed to somehow adapt and go on with our lives as best we can. But there exists here in Maine something that could be seen as a threat to our very way of life, a technology that could conceivably obliterate our cherished Down East culture.
What in this world says "Maine" more than one of our sprawling, tacky, traffic-stopping yard sales? Regular readers know that over the years I have done my best to record for posterity what I know about this fine Maine institution, this definition of unregulated free enterprise. I've done this while trying not to reveal too many secrets about their clandestine Yard Sale Society (YSS).
Ever since the invention of the Sunday drive and the rotary lawnmower we Mainers discovered that we had roads to drive on and yards to fill with merchandise designed to trap passing motorists. The yard sale soon became of the cornerstones of our economy. When other industries - shipbuilding, shoes, paper, lumber - failed us, the yard sale industry was often the only thing that got Maine families through hard times.
But the yard sale - like most everything else - is changing as we enter the second decade of the new millennium.
What brought about this change? I hear you ask. An enterprise called eBay, which, of course, is nothing more than a Maine-style yard sale - online.
In the next few years eBay could change almost everything about Maine's venerable yard sales. It can change them so much that they'll hardly be recognizable.
We had best recognize those changes now and show the people of the world that we in Maine are nothing if not adaptable. We can do this by getting rid of the phrase "yard sale" and start using something smarter and more contemporary. Something like "Down eBay sale." Once the name is officially changed we can begin to change the outdated yard sale and drag it into the computer age.
Mainers who "think outside the yard" have already begun to read the writing on their iPads and change. Our down eastBay pioneers are way ahead of the rest of us. Tired of standing in their yards and haggling with tight-fisted neighbors and summer complaints over some worthless item, these innovators have started putting these choice items on eBay. They have also started using eBay to shop for items to restock their never-ending yard sales.
Sometime soon, people from away will be able to experience "virtual" Down eBay yard sales, without clogging our already crowded highways to do it. They won't ever have to leave Massachusetts or New Jersey. Won't that be nice?
Finally, a change that most will agree is for the best.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at or 899-1868.
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