Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Oh for heaven's sake, this ain't Ebay

Amidst my flurry of Freecycling unwanted stuff away - yes, the generic Zantac was gone within 12 hours, my friends! - I have, on the other side of the coin, been fixatedly scanning the Boeing Surplus online auctions for an answer to our storage needs.

A couple months ago, we got invited to a housewarming party at the home of a younger, hipper couple. They had purchased these awesome rolling tool containers from Boeing surplus, painted them bright colors, and arranged them around their back deck as storage containers, benches, and raised planter beds. It was a masterpiece of repurposed industrial chic.

I've been looking for, oh, forever for a solution to our outdoor storage needs. We have no garage, no basement, and we tore down our nasty rat-infested shed last summer. I have extensively researched cheap modular sheds, custom-built sheds, eco-friendly modular buildings, custom designed cabinetry for under the carport, storage chests made from recycled plastic, a small add-on off our back door, and adding flooring and a fold-down staircase for our unfinished attic. I have created spreadsheets comparing the cost, cubic footage, and eco-friendliness of each option. The ones I like best are outrageously expensive.

And so, inspired by our younger hipper friends, I wondered if perhaps some Boeing cast-offs could meet my needs. Have you ever visited Boeing surplus? It's pretty well known among local nonprofits as a source of cheap office furniture. But they have all kinds of things. Hydraulic lifts, rolling aircraft stairs, power tools, engine parts, wires and cables, fire hoses, insulation, work tables, bicycles, cafeteria equipment, flame-resistant storage cabinets. There are mysterious gizmos like fluke multimeters and gaussmeters. There are grab-bag items like "a trove of shop tools" or "miscellaneous casters." Not to mention the many full hides of fine Scottish leather.

But most saliently, there are storage carts, cabinets and boxes of all sizes and descriptions.

I rejected the 32-foot long office trailer even though the starting bid was only $500; no way I could pick that up in Eva. I bid on two things, both beaten up but with, I thought, a certain charm. I could envision painting them bright colors. The auction for the first item expired this evening, and with five minutes left I checked to verify that I was still the top bidder, at a whopping $35. Enrico shook his head. I know, I said; as if somebody is sitting out there waiting to pounce with a last-minute bid.

Being neurotic, I refreshed it with 2 minutes to go. Somebody had upped the bid by $5.

Stunned, I nonetheless regained my wits and submitted a new bid. They countered. In the last 90 seconds of the auction, my invisible opponent and I furious lodged 6 more bids. Up, up up it went, $50, $60, $70! But lo! Victory was mine.

Can't you just visualize them repainted bright colors, a masterpiece of repurposed industrial chic? Enrico can't. But I can.

So I still have a bid out on one more item, which is actually a much more practical answer to our storage need. But I'm not going to tell you which one it is, now that I know how cut-throat these auctions are. At five minutes before the deadline I'll be waiting, fingers poised above the keyboard to protect my find.

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