“You either get ‘The White E,’ or you don’t,” a coworker told me. Well, I was ashamed to admit that after my first experience, I didn’t get it. It’s only one of the most popular places in Sitka, and has been for 52 years. People crowd on the sidewalk for at least 20 minutes before it opens. It has odd hours that everyone’s memorized—Monday at 6, Thursday at noon—and many even build their weekend around getting there early. But, it’s still a thrift shop. And, my first visit felt too much like Christmas shopping at the Galleria—people elbowing each other to get to the racks, looking for passageways where they didn’t exist, arms heaped, shelves disheveled, dust flying, soap samples and chipped bowls. I scrounged through some scratched CD’s and then left empty-handed and sneezing, convinced that people in Sitka really need more entertainment.
But I decided to give The White Elephant another chance. I am sick of the work clothes I brought. My apartment is bland. I had time to kill before yoga. So, I waited 10 minutes to let the sidewalk crowd rush in, then tucked my head and pushed forward. I was a little more assertive finding paths through the impossibly crowded racks and even snickered as one lady sent a tower of bras crashing and another man tripped over a fishing pole blocking the “shoe and small appliance” aisle. Fisheryouth bought summer’s gear, intellects browsed the books, and I got a bit of everything: 3 work shirts, one for exercise, 2 “gifts” for patients, houseslippers, candle holders (my coffee filters were probably a fire hazard?), a hardback book, a large mug (Saturday morning’s so sweet now), and a Tae Bo workout tape (“Changing the world, one body at a time”). The grand total: $14.50. NOW, I get it!!! [...and let's see what I get Thursday at noon...]
Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all.”