In the darkness the trees are full of starlight (henwy) wrote,
In the darkness the trees are full of starlight

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The trickiest of trays

Last Thursday Brian called me up and asked me if I wanted to go to a church fundraiser the next day. It turns out that one of the people who was supposed to go had to work instead and there was a spare ticket. I had nothing better to do so I agreed to tag along.

The event was a Chinese Auction. Or, it would have been a Chinese Auction if the PC-nazi's hadn't gotten there ahead of time and felt that the term was potentially offensive. Apparently the new PC term for Chinese Auction is 'Tricky Tray'. While the name might have changed, the process was still pretty much what I remembered as a kid. They put lots of items out with a cup in front of it and you drop tickets into the cup of whatever item you want to try to win. When it's time to do the drawing, a single ticket is pulled out of the cup and whoever it belongs to wins the prize. It's an interesting way to do an auction and potentially raises a hell of a lot more money than any straight auction where the high bidder takes the prize. In this case, you get to claim all the money from the non-winners as well and everyone feels they had a chance to win.

I've only been to a single Chinese Auction in my life and that was back in elementary school. I remember buying a mess of tickets and going pretty insane, 'bidding' on everything in sight. I ended up winning a literal cartload of crap, and had a hell of a time hauling it all home. The fun in these auctions is in the winning and not necessarily in what you win. I came home that time with shitloads of used toys meant for 5 year olds, all items that I then re-gifted to my cousins who were probably toddlers at that point. I haven't even heard of a Chinese Auction since then and it was to my surprise to find that they've become very popular as a source of fundraising. Of course, the reason I hadn't heard of any Chinese Auctions was no doubt due largely to the name change.

So anyway, the next day I headed over to Brian's place and we trekked on over to the Church where it was being held. I had the dubious privilege of driving through Newark once more. I haven't been to Newark for over 10 years and the last time I had ended up serving as an unwitting drug mule. I personally would have been a very happy camper to have never set foot in that cesspool again. I was pleasantly surprised that no one tried to sideswipe my car and I didn't hear a single instance of gunfire while we were trucking through town. Maybe all the gangbangers were taking an afternoon nap, or perhaps the efforts to clean up and gentrify that sewer are paying off.

Here's the ticket for the event with all the relevant details. You'll notice that I was #69, which I felt contribute to my lucky streak later on.

We were told to write our names on the back of the card so it could be use to select door prizes later. Here you can see Brian industriously writing his name. We did end up getting two of these at our table. Jessie got a picture frame of some sort and Beelo's sister won the other.

Here we are all filing into the building. Jessie's right in front there and Beelo's sister is obscured to the right. You can see a smidge of Beelo's bald head and there's Brian on the right.

The event definitely catered to the more elderly bracket. Other than a few kids who were dragged to the event, there were almost no young people in the crowd at all. The volunteers all seemed to be in their teens and 20's but the majority of the participants looked like they were scouting for an elephant graveyard to take a nap in.

Here we have a picture of the front of the gym. Everything was decorated pretty nicely with all the balloons and such.

It's sort of hard to see, and unfortunately I forgot to take any better shots, but there are baskets of items ringing the room. The sides were packed with over 200 different prizes and up front were the big, very big, and grand prizes. I don't remember what the categories were actually called but that pretty much sums up the idea.

The back of the room was set up with the food on one side and the table to buy tickets at the other.

As I mentioned, there were multiple categories for which you could purchase tickets. The lowest level came with a sheet of (I think) 20 tickets and you got a couple of those with your ticket to get in. You could buy additional ones for 5 dollars or 4 for $20. The next level up had supposedly 'better' prizes. Those went for a buck a pop. The next step up was a couple bucks a pop and the grand prize (a 40-someodd inch flatscreen tv) had a ticket category all to itself at $10 a go. Everything was color coded and it was pretty easy to navigate. After buying your tickets you simply walked around the room and dropped them in the cup in front of whatever you wanted to win.

I hadn't been sure how much the whole thing was going to cost and so I made sure to bring a good chunk of extra cash with me. If you've ever heard me talk or make entries on religion, you know that I'm not personally religious but I like the idea of religion a lot and generally support religious people. I think of it along the same lines as knowing someone with positive qualities that you yourself either don't possess or aren't sure it's worth the effort to develop. Anyway, I figured it was spiffy being able to donate to charity in a way that was also entertaining and I figured I would snag a little bit of everything. In the end, I spent another $68 on raffle tickets. I bought a little of everything. I even bought a ticket for the flatscreen tv despite not even wanting the darn thing. In fact, that sort of became my strategy. While everyone else went around putting their tickets in cups, I decided to just twiddle my thumbs at the table. I had looked through the list of items an there really wasn't anything I wanted. I decided that since there was nothing I actually wanted, it would be spiffy to just see how much crap I could haul home. The plan was to wait until near the last minute an then go around dropping tickets into whatever seemed to have the smallest number of entries.

Here's our table with Brian, Beelo, Jessie, and Kim. It was just my luck that we had just sat down to eat when someone reminded me that there wasn't much time left to put my tickets in if I wanted to make the cut. So I ended up leaving my nice chicken dinner and went gambling. After a while, I stopped even looking at what the item was that I was 'bidding' on. If the cup was low, I dropped 3-4 tickets in it. I will admit that there did seem to be a distressing number of Jesus items. All in all, I would estimate that I must've put in for at least 20+ Jesus items, ranging from statuary to books to all sorts of religious knickknacks. I didn't actually want any of them, and based on the paltry bidding, no one else did either.

So the auction started eventually with a set of runners bringing each basket up to the stage an then the nun pulling a random ticket out of the container. The first items leaned heavily toward gift certificates an there were oodles of raffle tickets for each. I hadn't even bothered and I'd wager that a $25 certificate probably roped in $200 worth of tickets.

It was sort of like playing Bingo. You would spread your tickets out in front of you and then hopefully one of them would match the number called out. It was probably 40 or 50 items into the auction when I won my first item.

I had won Jesus. Actually, I had not only won a statue of Jesus, but also a statue of a cross too.

I'm not sure overjoyed is the right word for my reaction, but it was nice to actually get something. It was like Jesus set off a tsunami. After that, I kept winning things left and right. I was a little worried at first that I would end up with a dozen baskets full of religious knickknacks, and by the odds I should have, but it turned out differently. Despite the fact that I had dropped tickets into every single cup in front of religious whatchamacallits, I only ended up with two of them. Instead, I actually won a lot of things that I was happy to get including a couple of huge stuffed animals that I planned to give to Maddie.

Here's a shot of everything I won in the end. It got a little insane.

As each new item came in, I set it on the bleacher bench next to our table and the row of baskets kept getting longer and longer. The runners were issuing surprised little comments like 'What, you again?' as they would haul up each successive item. I'm told by Jessie that the table behind her started to grouse and complain that I was winning so much crap. In the end I even won one of the 'Big' prizes, the set of 10 pots and pans from T-Fal. That one was pure luck since at the higher levels, the bidding was more extreme and I probably only had a 1 in 2-300 chance.

It was a lucky night all around. I actually won a lot of stuff and not all of it was useless crap. Brian and Beelo had to help me cart all the crap into the car and some of it actually had to go in the other car because it would all fit at first. When I hauled it all home I had to get more help to unload the car. As I type, all the baskets sans 2 are sitting downstairs in the living room. One of them I opened up and it was the Jesus and Cross statues. I decided to carry Jesus around with me for the past few days and take pictures of him in various places. I had bid on a set of garden gnomes that night at the auction and hadn't ended up winning. I figure that Jesus has to at least be as good as a garden gnome, right? I'll probably be posting Jesus pictures off and on for a while. I'm even thinking of taking him with me to Chicago and Gencon this summer just like that Bush plushie from a couple years ago.

The other basket was shanghaied by Shelley. Her friend's wife just squirted out a kid and Shelley was looking for a present of some sort and so she bogarted my giant teddy bear and frame. I'll admit I'm a little disgruntled about it. I know it's going to a good cause and this way Shelley won't have to actually spend much money on a gift, but I had been looking forward to giving it to Maddie. The picture frame had also been pretty spiffy and I had been thinking about adding pictures of Maddie to it and then giving it to my grandma. Oh well. I'm sure she'll be happy enough with the giant dog. Connie doesn't want to pick up any more clutter until she finishes moving into their new home so the dog's going to stay in his basket for a couple more weeks.

And so that was Tricky Trays. It was a lot more fun than I expected an I wouldn't mind doing it again. All in all, I spent $93 for a meal, some fun, and a whole lotta gobbilygook. That's a win no matter how you slice it, even if I'm not sure what I'm going to do with some of this stuff. I mean, who really needs a fondue set shaped like Santa Claus? I mean, do you feel comfortable eating cheese out of Santa's pants?
Tags: brian, tricky tray

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