Going Once, Going Twice, Going Too Many Times


I’m sitting here waiting to hear what silent auction items I may have won and how much I owe for a bunch of stuff I can’t even remember bidding on.

I went to a fundraiser last night where there were oodles of silent auction items around the room. I got caught up in the Silent Auction Dance. You know, the one where you go around the first time and pass on everything, because in all honesty, none of the stuff is vital to your well being. Then you have a glass of wine and go around once again, and this time you think, “You know, dinner for 10 at Brio’s would be really fun! What a hoot! What a splurge! Let’s do it!”  Round 3, you’ve decided that everyone else in the world is eating in restaurants in large groups, having their faces rejuvenated and taking private trumpet lessons, so why shouldn’t you? Bid on that sucker.  By Round 4, you’ve heard the speech from the sponsoring organization and you’re all teary eyed and patriotic. You’re on your third glass of wine, the band is playing feel-good songs from the '70s, and you’re bidding on a bike that is identical to one in your garage, mental health sessions, and the stuff that you yourself donated for the silent auction. The last part of the Silent Auction Dance is the next morning, when you’re at home waiting to hear what you weren’t outbid on, and what you’re now obligated to pay for.

A silent auction I went to last year for our youth orchestra netted me a bunch of Christmas serving dishes, a basket of body lotions, some jewelry, notecards and stationary, and a container of edible stuff that we ate in the car on the way home.

I’m expecting my booty from last night’s affair to be about as impactful. Cool stuff, and for a good cause, though. Reminding yourself of that is part of the dance, too.

Silent auctions aren’t as bad as regular auctions, though. In a regular auction you don’t have time to do Rounds 1-3 and comparison shop. You lose your perspective in record speed. When they bring out that football signed by Bernie Kosar, you start holding up your number and before you can register in your mind how much it’s worth, how much money you have in your checking account right now, or what you would do with the thing, your mind becomes consumed by not letting that guy with the wire frames outbid you. You’ve got to have the football signed by Bernie Kosar. At any cost. And the next thing you know, you’ve got a football signed by Bernie Kosar and the checkout desk lady is smiling big at you.

That’s exactly what happened to my husband and I years ago. We were at an auction for a Catholic girls’ school. When the auctioneer yelled, “Sold! To the couple holding each other’s forearms and jumping up and down!” you would have thought we had just won a football signed by someone who wouldn't be dropped from the team shortly and fade away into anonymity.

“What the flip just happened here?” I said about 10 seconds later. I was being respectful because of the nuns. Otherwise I would have let loose an Exorcist-worthy torrent of swears. 

I vowed to never go to an auction again. I thought silent auctions were safe, what with all the walking around and drinking wine. And the word silent makes it all seem so warm and cozy. Lots of contemplating, almost religious. 

Some years later, I went to a Christmas tree auction. Local businesses and groups and designers and artists and regular people would decorate artificial Christmas trees in different themes and then they would be silent-auctioned off.  I didn’t need a fully decorated Christmas tree. I didn’t have any room for a fully decorated Christmas tree. We already had two big Christmas trees that we put up in our house. There was no way I was going to bid on a Christmas tree.

Then I bid on a Christmas tree. After walking through and seeing all the trees - and some of them were huge and decorated with lots of sparkly expensive ornaments, real birds’ nests, and other hand-crafted-by-artists stuff - I lost my perspective and thought that a 5-foot tree decorated in a Sugarplum Fairy theme was the bargain of the century.

I bid on it at the end of the first day of the two-day event, thinking, oh hell, somebody will outbid me. Who wouldn’t want a tree stuffed full of giant fake candy, fairies and fruit? When I dropped my daughter off to sing with the children’s choir at the event on the second day, I checked on my tree. I was still the high bidder. Oh dear crap. When I picked her up, I was still the high bidder. I was sweating now. How in the name of all that is holy was I going to sneak a Christmas tree into my house without my husband noticing it? And where was I going to hide it? The ornaments were permanently hot-glue-gunned onto the tree. It would never get disassembled and put back into a box. This was a big, hulking Sugarplum nightmare.

Some saint outbid me at the end, saving me from the dreaded divorce-court-at-Christmas-time.

Thank goodness some rich people go to silent auctions, too.

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