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Used Ideas

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

If you are one of those Rock Islanders addicted to garage sales but tired of pawing over the same Blue Willow dishes and ceramic ash trays from the Wisconsin Dells Saturday after Saturday, put next June 31 down on your calendar. That's the date the five colleges in the Rock Island area hold their Mississippi Valley All Academic Secondhand Sale. I attended the last one and can recommend it.

The Sale is now in its fifteenth year, the brainstorm of a German professor at Augustana College looking for a way to get rid of the tremendous amount of debris students and faculty leave behind at the end of each year. Students typically arrive at college knowing much more about life than when they graduate. All this used and leftover knowledge piles up.

This past year the tables and booths of all the various collegiate departments covered an entire football field. In just a couple of hours, I picked up an armload of stuff. I was especially glad to find a whole set of tarnished ideals left over from the Sixties. I sprayed them with Guilt-Away and intend to use them as bookends.

The philosophy tables were doing a brisk business with their always popular logical fallacies. Argumentum ad Hominins, non-sequiturs, and false causes were under a dollar each, and you got a free hasty generalization with every purchase.

The English Departments' tables in the end zones are always good bets for bargains. Clichés are a dime a dozen. You can always find boxes of big words here, cut from students’ papers. Buy just a few of these and you'll be able to say, "Up the proverbial estuary without proper means of propulsion" instead of "Up the creek without a paddle." Or how about some euphemisms or mixed metaphors? Or a whole table of half-price words whose slight defects of spelling does not affect their use.

Much of the secondhand goods in the English section can be touched up good as new. For instance, I bought a whole folder of slightly worn phrases and run-on sentences for use in Rock Island Lines, where they are detectable only by careful listening.

I hope to see you at the sale next June.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.