Organising a garage sale doesn't sound like much work. When I first had the idea, I was sure that all I would have to do was dig out some old stuff, prop a few tables up in my garage, perhaps bake some cookies and wait for the crowds to start streaming in. Perhaps I'd get Hannah, who lives next door, to keep me company. It's easier said than done, I discovered. The first item on the list, "Find things to sell", involved me strewing the contents of my cupboards over the floor of my room, and my parents furiously exclaiming: "What have you done to your room?"
Broken hair straighteners, bits of plastic, a mini vacuum cleaner shaped like the Teletubbies' elephant one and numerous unidentifiable objects came tumbling out from the depths of my shelves. My parents' bedroom and the living room turned out to be useful places for finding decorative pieces to sell. My excuse, when I later faced the full brunt of maternal fury, was that I had assumed that she would surely not want to hold on to what were, after all, simply material things. It is unwise to become too fond of inanimate objects, I began to drone, and we should divert our attentions to better things, such as practising being more tolerant of young people or finding inner peace. With hushed grumblings of "Not much chance of finding any peace with you around", I was finally left to reflect on the sale.
Assuming that posters would help, I printed off a few pieces of paper proclaiming "Garage Sale in Street 5 on Friday evening". I even went to the lengths of stamping the word "sale" in different languages around the border, inspired by a Nike advertisement. It took me an hour and lots of sticky tape to go around and stick them on walls, trees and lampposts. Hannah and I dragged tables to the garage. We had scheduled the sale for a weekend evening, and the car was taking up most of the space, but that suited us fine. It made our makeshift "shop" look more filled up. Somehow, using my acute powers of intuition, I had a nagging feeling that perhaps no one would be very interested in buying mismatched napkin rings or the old keyboard Hannah had provided.
"It only has a couple of bass keys missing," she shrugged. "No one would play such low keys anyway. It's better without them." I pointed out that it lacked an on button, too. "Oh, well," she said. "Maybe no one will notice." Our ordeal began. Whoever designed our house had the bright idea of creating a slatted roof for the garage, so there are thin alternating columns of shade and harsh sunlight. In other words, sit there for too long and you're endangering yourself to being candy-cane tanned. The roof certainly didn't help in keeping the heat out.
Since there is a sad shortage of pedestrians in our compound, cars being the preferred mode of transport, it was an hour before anyone passed by. When someone did, accompanied by a terrier whose goal in life seemed to be upsetting our carefully set-up tables, we pounced. We rattled off a string of prices and descriptions of the products, which Hannah wrapped up beautifully by ending on "And because you're our first customer, you can have this lovely vintage musical instrument with almost all the keys still on, for half the price. I'll make it Dh200 just for you."
"Just for you!" I nodded happily. Our bewildered customer stared for a few seconds, then asked hopefully: "No English. Malay?" Shaking her head regretfully, Hannah flopped back onto her chair. I didn't have the heart to tell our customer's dog to stop sniffing the cookies my neighbour had spent hours baking and decorating with rainbow sprinkles. The dog was wearing the most adorable expression - and it served Hannah right for refusing to let me touch her precious cookies.
Although we didn't manage to sell any of the items, a group of children, out for their evening romp in the park, stopped by. They didn't seem too interested in the home decor, but they had their nannies buy them some cookies - from the plate little Rover had been snuffling in. I probably should have had a guilty conscience while I cleared up, but at least we'd made a tidy profit. It will probably make their immunity stronger, I explained to Hannah. There's my good deed of the day done.
Lavanya Malhotra is a 14-year-old student in Dubai.