Picture this: a huge field full of tents, campers, tables, antique cars and car parts, and at least one of every consumer object ever sold in the last two hundred years. Throw in a couple of dozen port-a-potties, 900 vendors from every province east of Ontario (and a few from the Eastern States), a few dogs, several thousand hot and sweaty customers, and some country music, and you have the Sussex Flea Market. Organized by the New Brunswick Antique Auto Club, the annual market runs for three days over the third weekend in August.
My dad and I have gone every year for about the last seven years…
My alarm went off yesterday at 5:30 a.m. I jumped out of bed and donned my flea market outfit (skipped my shower – I knew I would need one after I got home): baggy shorts, an old tee-shirt, and my Birkenstock knock-off sandals (I put band-aids over my instep where they rub). I put my hair in a ponytail, and pulled a black baseball cap over that, sticking the ponytail out the hole in the back of the hat. Normally, I wear sunglasses, but having had a pesky eye infection for the last few weeks, had to wear my glasses instead of contacts. I did rudimentary makeup and smeared sunscreen over all the exposed skin.
I went downstairs, and began packing our lunch: peanut butter/jam sandwiches on 12-grain bread, cucumber slices/baby carrots, blueberries/blackberries, and zucchini bread (chocolate and plain). I put our frozen water bottles into a cooler, and the lunch in another cooler. I grabbed a hoody in case it rained.
We left the house at 7, stopping first in Quispamsis at the bank and the gas station. When we hit the highway, it was sunny, with very few clouds in the sky…awesome!
We got off at the first Sussex exit, and headed to the market. We were almost there when we saw her: “Hit the gas,” I yelled. Trundling her wheeled cart purposefully towards the gate was our nemesis - I’ll call her Witchy-Poo. Witchy-Poo had tried to bum a ride with my dad to the market, and he had told her “No” because neither one of us can stand her. Let’s just say she’s paranoid, delusional, and could talk the side off a barn (and then spread your business all over town when she’s finished). I don’t dislike many people, but she’s definitely on my list of people to avoid if at all possible! I was happy that she had her cart so that I could hear her coming!
I loaded my essentials (money, phone, Kleenex, extra car key, and ID) into a small bag borrowed from one of the kids…then I put that bag, two more shopping bags, and a water bottle into a shopping bag. Dad got his cart out of the trunk, and we arranged to meet back at the car at 10:30, and headed for the gate.
There was a rope strung along the edge of the parking lot, about 18″ off the ground. I was halfway over it, when Dad decided he would lift it up to go under it! He nearly dropped me right there! I couldn’t believe he would try to go under a rope that low…
We made it to the gate. One lady took our $3 admission, and another one stamped a big green dot with a bingo marker on the backs of our hands. Dad set off towards the arena, where there was a guy who always had nice, clean books. After a stop at the port-a-potty (which wasn’t too gross yet – it was early in the day), I started down the first row. I found a nice Thornton Burgess book for a buck, and talked a woman into selling me a $10 book on New Brunswick history for $7. That was all I got in the first hour – usually I have a full box by that time! I saw more Danielle Steeles than I thought existed, and lots of other pulp fiction. Then I found a vendor who Dad knew from the Flea Market in Saint John (he didn’t recognize me in my “incognito” outfit, until I introduced myself). I bought two books for two bucks, and headed for the car.
Dad had fared better than I had – he found a bunch of nice Chip Hiltons for a buck each. We unloaded our books into the trunk, and ate our zucchini bread. I was starving, and feeling a little faint from the heat. Dad had managed to lose his water bottle, so I gave him another one. I had finished at Row O, and Dad had left off at Row K (we were meeting in the middle), so we didn’t have many rows left. We set noon as our next rendezvous time back at the car.
I approached one booth that I could see had books, but couldn’t see what they were from a distance. The vendor started his sales pitch right away. ”This girl looks like a reader…I’ve got some love books over there.”
I glanced dismissively at his pile of Harlequins and said in my snottiest voice, “I’m looking for old hardcovers…I don’t think you have anything I want!” And I walked away. Sexist bugger!
Eventually, I came to a table where about eight boxes of the type of book I was seeking awaited my perusal. Apparently the vendor’s little old lady neighbour had cleaned out her shed and sent the books with her to sell! Thank goodness for little old ladies who like to read! I bought eight of them for $2 each.
At another table, I spied four local books which I had never seen – I got them for 50 cents each – I suspect we will sell them for between $15 and $20 each. That was probably my best purchase of the day.
I went back to the car at noon, and Dad and I ate our lunch. About 12:30, Jim called and said he and the girls were at the other gate – I arranged to meet them at the arena, and Dad left for home.
By then, it had clouded over, and was starting to sprinkle. We walked around outside for a while, and then I suggested we take shelter in the arena, since I hadn’t been in there yet. The kids bought some movies, and some jewellery, while I went to the book guy and bought more of his books (which I ended up getting for about half-price, because I bought so many!).
The rain stopped for a while, so we explored some of the rows close to the arena…Hope and Brianna got some soft ice cream: chocolate and vanilla twist. I found a few more books (five for a buck). Then the rain began in earnest. My feet were hurting, the preventive band-aids were clinging by their last bit of adhesive, and I was starting to get a shinsplint (at this point, I’d been walking for more than five hours). I begged to head home, and the rest of the family reluctantly agreed. After a quick stop at McDonald’s to satisfy hungry kids, we were on the highway again.
Dad was making more applesauce when we got home. I set the books down, and went upstairs to wash the brown dust of Sussex from my tired body.
Can’t wait for next year…