10 Rules of Swap Meet Etiquette

Oh, Hosannah, the calendar has flipped to April and for car geeks in places where it’s been snowing all winter, that means only one thing: It’s swap meet season. The Stafford Springs Swap Meet at 6:00 a.m. in mid-April? It’s like Pebble Beach for unshowered, still-drunk people. If your automotive excursions have only included the rarified air of Amelia Island and Meadowbrook Hall, here are 10 handy rules for thriving in the swap meet scene: Rule 1: Get out of bed. I once saw a complete, running, mid-1960s Puch split-single motorcycle being rolled out of a swap for the princely sum of $400, and I was there by 6:15. You want to be there by 5:30 at the latest. That's in the morning, campers. Rule 2: Keep your eyes peeled for amazing feats of spelling and grammar. “For Sale: Parts or Hole” is my current favorite, but you’ll see generous application of the “catastrophe S.” Fun drinking game: shotgun a Narragansett every time you find an alternate spelling of the name “Camaro.” Rule 3: If you’re standing in somebody’s swap area, GET OFF THE PHONE. People are here to buy things. Who the hell are you calling at 6:20 am, anyway? Rule 4: That shop manual you’ve been looking at for 35 minutes is six dollars.You’re not negotiating to purchase the Flatiron Building, Donald Trump. Make the call and move along. The seller’s not interested in a long-term relationship.
10 Rules of Swap Meet Etiquette
Rule 5: Do not patronize the sellers of memorabilia, linens, Beanie Babies, socks, Blu-Blockers, miracle wax, sweatpants or home stereo speakers. Swap meets are for cars and car-related parts only. There are plenty of places to buy your authentic Franklin Mint Whitney Houston memorial plates. We call them "flea markets." My buddy Bill once scored a deal on Gillette Fusion razor blades at the Thompson Speedway swap meet, which usually cost about what you’d pay for a gently used Lincoln Town Car. He bought 20 for $10. He shaved the next morning and peeled his cheek off like a thin slice of olive loaf. Similarly, avoid the purveyors of the most depressing pornography this side of a truck stop in Omaha. I once looked in one of those tents, and I'm pretty sure it cost me my soul. Rule 6: Wear appropriate footwear. No boat shoes, flip-flops, loafers, Toms or wingtips. This ain’t the mall, Imelda Marcos.  I'm not going to listen to you griping all morning that your feet are wet/cold/punctured/crushed or otherwise injured. If you’re tempted to buy a pair of Chinese knockoff “Tomberlind” boots at the swap, see Rule 5. Rule 7: Do not grind a seller down to $8.93 for a mint 1970 Chevelle SS console and then try to pay with a Benjamin. Bring small bills, Highbuck McSpendalot. It’s best if you’ve patronized a strip joint the night before. You’ll need the ones. Rule 8: Go before you go. Swap meet Porta-Johns offer Slumdog Millionaire-style filth, with the added bonus of steeping for weeks in the hot sun. If the three gallons of coffee you drank is rushing for the exit and the woods are inconveniently located, hold your breath, don’t look down, and thank the baby Jesus for hand sanitizer. For best results, set your shoes on fire after exiting. One more reason not to wear flip-flops.
10 Rules of Swap Meet Etiquette
Rule 9: Do not buy tires at a swap meet. I learned this valuable lesson all the way back in 1998, when I bought a full set of unblemished Uniroyal Royal Seal tires for my ’86 Buick Electra Wagon. No more than a week after mounting them, I accelerated to about 70 miles per hour on 495 south in Westboro, Massachusetts and the front tire on the passenger side exploded like Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underpants didn’t. The gooey, nougat center of those Royal Seal tires grabbed ahold of every piece of trim surrounding the front wheel, ripped out the fender mounted turn indicators and tore a six-by-nine-inch hole in the plastic inner fender. Two days later, the driver’s side let go with the same impact. I repeat: Do not buy tires at a swap meet. Rule 10: Choose your food wisely. Hot Dog? Yes! Pickled Egg? NO!! Also, do not consume any mayonnaise. If you’re tempted to ignore this warning, see Rule 8. Other than that, the general rules of conduct apply: No whining, no fighting, and no asking, "Are we there yet?" and "When can we leave?" Oh, and you'll be driving. And paying for gas. Image credit: Street Legends Digest

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