continued "We don't use bidder's cards, so you just hold your hand in the air or wave that paper you got when you walked in to get my attention. If I don't see you, make sure you yell. If you keep going like this," he gestures up and down with his hand, barely raising it above his head, "you're taking a chance. I might sell it to someone else when your hand is down. So keep your hands up until the bidding gets too high for you."
Instructions given, the auction gets underway. Three workers bring items up to the podium and tell the auctioneer the lot number, which he announces, followed by a short description. "Got a Sony car stereo here. Good brand. Got some speakers that go with it and three or four CDs. Let's start at $20."
A score of hands go up.
"Got 20, bid 30."
"She's 30, bid 40...you're 40 sir, bid 50...50 straight back, who'll bid 60? Sony stereo, bid 60...60 on the right here, bid 70...70 up here in front. She's 70, how 'bout 80? Eighty right in the middle there. He's 80, bid 90...Sony stereo, bid 90... got some speakers, bid 90... sold 80 in the middle. Come up here to the cashier's table and ask for lot number 237."
Over and over, the auction workers roll up bikes or carry boxes up to the podium and display the contents while the auctioneer, whose chatter is not so much rapid as constant, drives the bids up and up. His voice never grows hoarse; I never see him take a drink of water.
Prices are high on most things and oddly low on others. One mountain bike, which I'm sure you could buy for $125 at Costco, goes for $185. Another junker sells for $200. But a Trek road bike, which would sell new for over $500, sells for $40.
The Gibson guitar Scott Sanderson said he'd buy for $100 goes for $375, and the TV/speaker combination he said he'd pay $150 for sells for $475. A fierce bidding war breaks out over a Gary Fisher mountain bike, and it finally sells to a young man for $400, earning him a round of applause from the crowd. A man bids $375 for a video camera and wins. But when he gets to the cashier's table he discovers it's not the one he wanted and refuses to pay. When the auctioneer hears about this, he asks the crowd, "Where is that guy who bid on the wrong camera?" Twenty fingers in the back left area of the audience point him out. The auctioneer extends a condemning finger at him. "You can't do that here. Pay attention!"
On another occasion, he chastises someone else for winning the bid but not owning up to it. "Don't do that again! It slows down the whole process."
By 11:30 the crowd has thinned to a third of its original size, and I find a vacated seat in the middle of the fifth row on the right. Standing through an hour and a half of the auction has given me the bidding bug. I bid on a few bikes and some craft stuff my wife would like, but only while the bidding is in the $30 to $40 range. I never win. The price always ends up around $100. At 12:30, a Giant mountain bike comes up. I raise my hand at $35 dollars, just for the fun of it. Lesser bikes have sold for $200 today so I'm not expecting to win. "He's 35, bid 40," says the auctioneer, "Giant bike, bid 40...nice-looking bike, bid 40...sold 35 to the young man in the middle. Ask for lot 232."
The legend lives.