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In the early part of the last century things were different here in Maine. A lot of things have - if not improved - at least changed over the last 100 years.
Long ago homes here in Maine were heated by wood. It was difficult cutting, splitting and drying firewood, which then had to be hauled into the house. Once burned, the ashes had to be hauled out. 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 oil.
Our grandparents used to go to Boston by packet, which was time-consuming and sometimes dangerous. Now we speed toward Boston on modern highways like 128 and 495. Come to think of it, they're time-consuming and dangerous, too, so there was little improvement there.
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 septic systems, so I guess there was no improvement there, either.
What was I thinking? Of course indoor plumbing was an improvement.
I guess what I'm trying to say is 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 seen as a threat to our cherished way of life, a technology that could conceivably obliterate our unique Down East culture.
What in this world says “Maine” more than a sprawling, tacky, traffic-stopping 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 definition of free enterprise - without revealing too many secrets about the very clandestine Yard Sale Society (YSS).
Ever since the invention of the Sunday drive and the rotary lawnmower and the resulting discovery that we had roads to drive on and yards to drive by here, the yard sale has been the cornerstone of our economy. When other industries failed us - shipbuilding, shoes, paper - the yard sale industry was often the only thing our families had to get 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 called eBay, which is virtually, literally, a big, online yard sale. In the last few years eBay could change almost everything about Maine's venerable yard sales, so much so that they are hardly 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 eastBay sale.” 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 eastBay 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.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly throughout
New England. Contact John at mainestoryteller@yahoo.com or 899-1868.
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