In the early part of the last century things were different here in Maine. It’s not a stretch to say that a lot of things have changed over the last 100 years.
Back then most Maine homes were heated with wood. It was difficult having to cut, split and dry firewood, which then had to be hauled into the house.
Once burned, the ashes had to be hauled outside and dumped somewhere. Eventually Mainers began heating their homes with coal, which was also time-consuming and dirty. In these modern and enlightened times we have oil or gas heat.
Our grandparents used to go to Boston by steam packet, which was time-consuming and sometimes dangerous. Now we speed toward Boston on modern highways like 95 and 495. Come to think of it, they're time-consuming and dangerous too.
One hundred years ago indoor plumbing was unheard of, and people had to endure the inconvenience of chamber pots and outhouses. Now we have to endure the inconvenience and cost of plumbing supplies and septic systems.
I’m trying to say that as things have changed, here in Maine, we've always managed to adapt and go on with our lives as best we can.
But there now exists here in Maine something that could be a threat to our cherished way of life, a technology that could conceivably obliterate our unique Down East culture. I’m referring, of course, to eBay’s threat to our cherished Down East Yard Sale.
Nothing says “Maine” more than a sprawling, traffic-stopping, haggle-happy yard sale? 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 pure example wide-open, un-taxed, unregulated free enterprise. I’ve done this while trying no to reveal too many secrets of the somewhat clandestine Yard Sale Association (YSA).
Ever since the invention of the Sunday drive and the rotary lawnmower, resulting in the discovery of roads to drive on and yards to drive by, the yard sale has been the cornerstone of Maine’s economy. When other industries failed us - shoes, paper, fish – to name three - the yard sale industry was often the only thing our families had to get them through hard times.
But the yard sale - like most everything else - is changing in this new millennium. What brought about this need for change? An enterprise known as eBay, which is nothing more than an online yard sale. In the next few years, eBay could change almost everything about Maine's yard sale culture. Yard sales could change so much that they would hardly be recognizable.
We had best recognize those changes and show the people of the world that we in Maine are nothing if not adaptable. We do this by abolishing the phrase “yard sale” for the more contemporary “Down East Sale.” The name needs a little work but people are working on it. Once the name is officially changed we can begin to change the outdated yard sale to match the reality.
Mainers who think outside the yard have already begun to change. Our east pioneers are way ahead of the rest of us. Tired of standing in their yards and haggling with tight-fisted neighbors over some innocuous 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 sales.
Sometime soon summer complaints will be able to experience virtual Down East yard sales - or Down eastBay sales - without clogging our highways to do it. They won't ever have to leave New Jersey.
Finally, a change that most will agree is for the best.