We’re here in Baarle Nassau on the Belgian/Netherlands border, only a few kilometers from our campsite in Alphen, Noord Brabant, Netherlands. The city is literally on the border, as many of its streets have painted broken lines to indicate which country you were then occupying space in.
At midday, Lieve and I entered a cavernous second-hand shop or tweedehands winkel. This place could’ve been a bowling alley at one time, I thought. Or a used car dealership. Long rows of four-stack shelves filled with assorted homeless relics such as cups, glasses, ashtrays, vases and other glassware longing for a home, took up maybe a third of the shop. Retro and vintage discards of all description, which included the perennial music CD’s of mostly forgotten continental talent, moldy and faded books of mostly romantic and horror genre, garish couches, and ponderous and sullen wooden furnishings, occupied the remaining two-thirds of this household purgatory. In case you’re wondering, vintage means the real-deal item from the past while retro indicates an item impersonating a vintage piece. Could members of species-humanis also be one or the other?
Lieve came here in search of items that might go well with our recently acquired vintage trailer-camper. Atop the list of possibilities were orange coffee cups. I soon took a seat in what appeared to be vintage formed plastic, though to my untrained eye, it could’ve been retro/ersatz vintage. Soon I observed the owner making several trips back and forth to a rear storage area. At least he had the look of an owner. Like a long-retired guy who once ran a plus-five employee company. He had a resigned posture and gait as if he were relegated or consigned to this place. As if his shoes were weighted, or as if he had to do a certain amount of community service for discarded and orphaned items. With all this, I guess he loved the place. Suddenly a loud piercing buzzer sounded. Like a halftime buzzer at an NBA game. Or a buzzer announcing a prison break or mutiny. So loud and obnoxious that all the items on the shelves seemed to jump or hiccup, like in an old or vintage Warner Brothers cartoon. I then discovered that this audible intrusion indicated when people walked in and out of his establishment.
Still sitting, I pondered the tenacious hope that these discarded items might’ve had for finding a home. Some were once proud centerpieces. Others the holder
of a thousand drinks. Still others friendly accommodating items of comfort. Some silently pleading their worthiness. Others were resentful still at their previous owners for their abandonment. Still, others hoping to be accidentally broken to put an end to their interminable inaction. But did they ponder as well, a fate worse than the one they were presently entrapped in? Would some be tossed against walls and onto floors during hateful exchanges? Did all those music CDs and DVD’s dread probable permanent silence, never to sing for anyone again? Of course, I doubted all these possibilities. After all, they’re just inanimate items, but all this nonsensical musing, all this forlorn madness, passed the time that otherwise might’ve been spent thinking of what? My own obsolescence?
After some twenty minutes, Lieve announced that she had finally located a coffee cup – only one, unfortunately. This retro-or-was-it-vintage discovery was suitably orange on the outside and cream on the inside. Told by the owner at check-out (for a slow guy, he seemed to be everywhere) that the cup was 60 euro cents, Lieve protested while she pointed out a minor surface crack along the inner edge. Never changing expression, the owner then not unkindly retorted
“OK, 20 cents, then” Lieve, on whom no opportunity is lost, including the business ways of the Hollanders, answered with “How about 10 cents?
OK, literary license only goes so far. It was 20 cents.