Big Billy – Confessions of a Swap Shop Addict

Remember years ago when Swap Shop was on the radio?

“Yeah,I got a spare tire for an ‘88 Ford Tempo, three of them Olympics glasses the Big BIllygas station was givin’ away and a beauty-ful ladies watch for parts. I’m askin’ $30 for everything.”

Me and Minnie would always hear the phone number different. Especially if there was an ad like that where we both wanted somethin’ they were tyrin’ to sell. Like if I wanted the tires and she wanted the broken ladies watch, she’d remember four single digits and I’d remember two double digits.

No – it was thirty-five-eighteen! I’d yell at her. That’s what I wrote down! She’d yell back – three five one eight. And how is that thirty-eight-fifteen? I’d yell at her again, and we’d end up accidentally callin’ the fish plant or somethin’.

The dirty truth about it is, for a while there after we got married but before we had kids, we were both kind of addicted to Swap Shop. If we had any money in our pockets at all, you better believe we were gonna listen to the radio and then call somebody up and try to buy their old dresser or half a box of floor tile, or a probably-stolen brand new jigsaw for twenty bucks. I had a CB set in my truck and other one right on the kitchen table. Minnie had about twelve different kind of kitchen appliances – beaters, mixers, god knows what else. It seemed like every day we turned on the radio to listen to it, we found somethin’ else we wanted.

I was workin’ the odd job here and there pretty regular with Cyril and the fella he worked for at the time, doin’ handyman stuff. And Minnie was workin’ for her aunt’s little company, cleanin’ office buildings in Sydney at night. We weren’t rakin’ in the money by any means, but for anybody who eventually has kids, you kind of look back on them days before they came along and realize that you were actually pretty rich in comparison. When you didn’t have to spend half your pay on rent and the other half on Similac and diapers and earache medicine, you just kind of naturally spent what you had left on things you wanted.

But that was another thing – ya didn’t need a whole pocketful of money to get some of the things you wanted, cuz there was a good chance you could make a trade. One of the best trades I ever worked out – a fella called up and said he had a backyard swing for sale, but he was also lookin’ for a transmission for his truck. Well it just so happened I was sellin’ off my old truck for parts, and it was still in the yard with the transmission in it. So we traded – I gave him the transmission, and he gave me the swing set and $50.

Imagine that, I says to Minnie. Buddy calls up tryin’ to sell somethin’ and we not only end up gettin’ it, but he pays us!

We had a good thing goin’ for a while there, until one day I turned on the radio a few minutes late and caught only just the tail end of what the first guy was sellin’. Sounded to me like he said he had some Moosehead for sale for $20.

Holy cripes, I said to myself. I didn’t even know you were allowed to sell beer on the radio! And since everything gets sold on there at a bit of a discount, I figured this guy probably had three or four dozen beer to get rid of, dependin’ on how much of a deal he was offerin’.

So I called him up and found out where he lived and told him I’d be out to inspect his Moosehead. I’ve always had a bit of a fifth sense when it comes to detectin’ skunky beer, and if any of them didn’t look right, I figured I could drive down the price a bit.

Anyways, I get to buddy’s place and – you can probably see where this is goin’ – it turns out he didn’t have any beer for sale at all. He had an actual moose head. Stuffed and mounted with these giant antlers and glossy black glass eyes.

Yis know me good enough to know that I’m usually awful disappointed and sometimes rip-roarin’ mad when there’s supposed to be beer comin’ to me and it turns out there isn’t. But the thing is, in them days, like I say, I was so addicted to Swap Shop that I managed to beat the guy down to $17 and headed home with a giant moose head. I figured I could put it right in the livin’ room, right above the couch.

It was only when I got home and Minnie screamed like she seen a ghost that I found out she’s scared to death of stuffed animals. Not like teddy bears and that, but real animals they do taxidermy on.

She made me put it out in the baby barn. Of course, I didn’t like that at all, and we got into a big fight and in the heat of the moment I ended up sayin’ all the stuff Minnie got on Swap Shop was junk, and she said everything I got on there was garbage, and we both hurt each other’s feelings so bad we didn’t listen to Swap Shop for a week.

Finally, one day we were sittin’ at the table and she turned the radio on, and after a few calls for stuff we didn’t want, somebody called up with a crib and some baby clothes for sale, and Minnie wrote the number down.

Whatchya write that down for? I asked her.

And that’s how I found out there was a Little Bill on the way.

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