My friends and I have a deal. Probably most women do. If one of us dies suddenly, the survivors must bleach or eradicate the stray facial hairs from the deceased. I’m sure men have their own similar pacts.

My family has an unspoken agreement that all white elephant exchange items shall not make it to auction if any of us leaves behind enough stuff to warrant a sale on that scale. This includes any stray velvet paintings and the Elvis tapestry that found its way into our wedding gifts. We’ve all giggled through enough estate auctions to know the mixed legacy we could leave behind should the Crying Elvis make it to a wagon alongside the carnival glass. See, now I’m pretending we actually have carnival glass — bases covered.

Auctions are addictive. I attended my first auction, as an adult, around 14 years ago and was immediately hooked. These events are a study in sociology as well as anthropology. At its base, each auction is a reflection of at least one part of a human life, what that person valued or at least owned at the time that the lot was compiled for auction. There is a reflection of the era in which they acquired each item. During the sale, you witness what is sought after in the present. One person’s leisure suit may be another’s tuxedo, or visa versa.

Auctions are a sort of social event. Around Putnam County, you usually see a certain crowd show up early. They register for bidding, buy their coffee and donuts from the food truck and fan out in different directions.

Around here, women and an occasional family unit snag chairs in front of the jewelry/glassware wagon. Occasionally, they even bid on something. If it’s an estate auction, there is often a group of men hanging around the power and hand tools, all of them wearing high caps with seed firm and Caterpillar logos. They kick tires, rifle through boxes of socket wrenches and then cross their arms to talk in deep monosyllables amongst themselves.

Some individuals in both circles will go through lot boxes and attempt to rearrange and/or switch things from one box to another. One of my favorite local auctioneers has a hawk’s eye for these shenanigans. His dress-down alone is worth the price of admission. Once the jewelry and tools are gone, one group of collectors settles their bill, leaving behind the furniture and appliance shoppers. Unless there’s a car or a house up for bid. If there is an automobile or real estate on the block, most everyone zeros in on that bid, whether or not they’re putting their number in the ring. For weeks, months, even years afterward, people will toss out the day they saw so-and-so’s Le Sabre sell for less/more than Blue Book value.

I was on my way into the office for a couple of hours on Saturday when I saw trucks parked at the Fairgrounds in Ottawa. One of those little red signs with the arrow on it came into view. One quick left turn later, I was parked in the overflow lot. I saw my friend Gabby walking out of the Merchants’ Building with two concrete urns in her arms. It was her first auction, she said, and she was just buying these for a friend. An hour later, she was still there. The chair she was interested in had sold for more than a dollar, her limit.

I remember the days of the dollar limit, Gabby. I left the this weekend’s auction with a riding lawnmower with a 50-inch deck.