What Urban Missionaries Do

All I can say is, it was “a day from hell!” Usually when you get to this part of Streetlights you find a story about those we help, their struggles, problems, or dilemmas and how we helped. Well this one is about me, the Flea market, and all the things that conspired to make this day, a day we will never forget, “a day from hell” You have had days like this, everyone does, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take.

Let me begin with some background material. Every Saturday, starting on the first Saturday of May until the last Saturday of September, we have a Flea market in the parking lot. This was our seventh year and we now draw a crowd of about 150 people. We have always had enough items to sell so that we hardly ever have the same items from week to week. This keeps bringing people back every week because they know that they will be seeing different items from prior weeks.

I have my ritual. Starting on Sunday, I start looking at the weather forecast to see if any rain will be upon us on Saturday. I noticed a 20% chance of rain late in the day was being forecasted for this particular Saturday. “OK,” I thought, “maybe we will be able to run the Flea before the rains come.”  The problem is, if it rains while I have everything out on the tables electronics, books and clothing all get ruined. We need to repack everything and all the boxes need to be thrown away. It’s a mess, a big mess. It also takes an hour and a half to two hours to get everything set and ready for sale. It takes another two hours to close down and put everything away. You get the picture, why go through all this work and then have it rain.  I knew I would have to make a go or no go decision later in the week.

On Friday night, I watched the weather forecast.  “Saturday will be cloudy in the 70’s with rain starting after 10 P.M.” so said the weatherman. Off to bed I go, and when I get up at 3:00 P.M. I check the weather on my most trusted site, NOAA. “Cloudy in the mid 70’s with rain after 9:00 P.M.” was the forecast. So I made an executive decision for the day, it’s a go for the Flea! As I was driving in, I notice that everything was dry, a good sign, but it is still pitch black out, so I was still going to have to wait and see once the sun starts to rise before I make the final decision to go or not. It was 5:15 A.M. when I checked the weather again. The forecast was the same, so I decided to go. 

I open up as usual and we were all set up by 7:00 A.M. when the first customers started to arrive. Some of them made the comment, “I thought you wouldn’t be open today because of the rain.” they said. I replied, “Well the forecast is for rain to hold off until 9:00 P.M. tonight, so I decided to go for it.” 

The day was going well and Joe, my helper who comes in at 6:00 A.M. to help me set up, left for lunch at 10:30 A.M. and I expected him back at 12:00 P.M. to help me close down. It was about 11:45 A.M. when Kathy came out and told me that Joe was on the way to the hospital with chest pains! “Good grief,” I thought. Without Joe it would take me three hours to close down. I said to Kathy, “I am going to start putting things away now, so that when you come out at 1:30 P. M. I will be ready to work with you closing down. So Kathy headed back into the office to continue with her work and I started packing up the big items into gaylord boxes in between helping customers.

At about 12:40 P.M. as I was putting things into the gaylord box I felt a drop a rather large drop of rain right in the middle of my forehead. Then, it started. First it was a light rain and it would stop and start, but no matter, things were getting wet. So I started to place some plastic coverings over the tables and some of the gaylord boxes. Then it picked up and it was raining harder and the wind kicked in blowing the coverings all over the place as I was racing around trying to put them back in place and find something to hold them in place. It wasn’t very long before I realized I was “up  a creek without a paddle.” Plus, I was getting very very wet.

At 1:30 P.M. Kathy came out to help. As she was walking towards me I could see a somewhat confused look on her face. “When did it start raining?” she asked. “About 45 minutes ago,” I replied. We continued packing things up, trying to find dry boxes we could use. We had to throw out all of the clothing, books and paper goods. We had to go around and empty all of the dishware, glasses, cups, pots and pans, anything that could hold water before we packed them into boxes so they could be stored. And yes, it was raining all the time we were doing this. It finally stopped raining and we got everything packed ready to be put away. At this point, I had Kathy head back to the office to count up the day’s receipts. Once things are packed and the boxes are on pallets I can get it all put away in the shed using the forklift. I finally finished putting all the rubbish into rubbish container. Once everything is in storage, I closed the overhead door in the shed I headed back to the store and lo and behold the sun came out!! I looked up to the heavens and yelled, “YOU gotta be kidding me.” I turned around and went into the store.

As I came into the office, Kathy was just standing there. We looked at each other and started to laugh. There we were, both soaking wet from head to toe. My hoodie was so wet that it was hanging down to my knees. All we could say as we were drying ourselves off was “What a day, What a day.”  and laugh some more.

That night I stayed up to listen to the weather report. The forecast showed bright sunshine for next Saturday. “Cool beans,” I thought as I headed for bed.