A multi-part entry from observations at an auction house. Starts here.
New members at the AHSC have to participate in a number of initiation practices to become a member in good standing. First, initiates must obtain their identification cards.
Wanting to maintain the role of participant-as-observer on my first day of observation, I asked directions to the clerk’s office and made my way into a tiny office tucked away in the comer of the auction barn. A small sign hung below the counter stating, “Thou Shalt Not Whine.”After assuring the lady behind the counter that I was not there to whine, I dutifully name and address on a clipboard and picked up my card-number 144. It was a white 3.75″ x 7″ card with the number handwritten with a thick black marker along one edge. I tucked it in my pocket to have it ready for a bid. Getting one of those little cards had always seemed to symbolize a right of passage to me. Children don’t get bid cards. Adults do. With a bid card, I could enter the world of the AHSC as a card-carrying member. He who has the card can, if willing to pay enough, win the bid. Like getting your membership card for the country club, the bid card becomes the member’s identity card when it comes to buying anything at that particular auction. Having that card made me official and granted me a sense of belonging. While it reduced my public identity to a mere number, it gave me the basis on which to reveal my true identity to those I choose.
While a visitor to the auction can get along without a card, someone who wants to become a part of the AHSC community must get a number card to enter the first stage of membership and be eligible for the second stage that includes another important ritual of the auction community-the bid.
To be continued next week…
Copyright 2001 Michael Shead
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