THE FLEA MARKET
On any weekend at sunrise, while most of the country still sleeps, vans, pickup trucks, campers, and cars crammed with every conceivable item gather in empty parking lots and fairgrounds across the U.S. By noon, the scene overflows with thousands of people who have come to bargain and look around this mad carnival called the flea market.
People have traded and bartered for centuries. Whatever else the flea market may appear to be, its purpose is the sale and exchange of goods. Whether they are knowledgeable collectors or just plain bargain hunters, people are drawn to the flea market by the enormous amount and variety of merchandise offered.
The possibility of finding something truly valuable before anybody else does makes shopping at a flea market a treasure hunt.
For many buyers, the ritual of bargaining at a flea market is more fun than the bargain itself. It’s not the money they save that gives them a feeling of accomplishment; it’s the satisfaction of playing an ancient game.
Satisfaction also comes from the nature of a flea-market exchange. After you negotiate your price, taking your time, it is ‘cash and carry’ – the dealer pockets your money, you go home with your purchase, and that’s that. You got what you wanted, and the dealer got what he or she wanted.
In today’s world of credit cards, the flea market takes you back to a time when life was simpler and money had more meaning.
The people who set up stalls at the flea market, vendors, may have nothing in common during their weekday lives, but over the weekend their diversity becomes community. A Chinese couple sells embroidered slippers next to a punk teenager displaying cat’s-eye sunglasses across from another
dealer’s plastic potted plants.
On the street, they would probably never talk to each other. Here they do.
What do these ‘fleas’ have in common here?
Perhaps it is a belief in getting ahead, in becoming economically self-sufficient, and in taking control of their own lives. Vendors willingly give up the security of a nine-to-five job in exchange for freedom: freedom from rigid working hours; freedom from the world of inflation and taxation; freedom to choose when, where, and what they will sell; freedom to be what they want to be.