Thursday, January 10, 2008


Schadenfreude: (German Noun. Pronounced Sh-ad-en-fr-oid) The taking of joy in someone else's sorrow or misfortune.

Tonight, Nathaniel and I watched PBS's "Antiques Roadshow". We've been fans for years: when we lived in North Carolina, Saturday afternoons were often spent with pizza or sushi, a cold beverage (beer for N and a glass or red wine for me - not chilled!) and a new episode of "Antiques Roadshow." It became tradition, as Nathaniel would spend the morning reading, doing work around the house, and listening to NPR, while I would usually be finishing a workout of some sorts. By mid afternoon we were ready to relax together, and so watching Roadshow became "the norm" (this was pre-cable...we hardly watched TV anyways, but sort of fell in love with Roadshow).

As I walked through the door this evening, I was pleasantly surprised to find Nathaniel studying with the Roadshow on in the background.

He winked at me and said, "Watch with me! One lady got told that her painting - which she thought was worth a lot of money, was hardly worth anything! It's great!" He sounded so enthusiastic, and I couldn't help but laugh.

And that, sports fans, is one of the key reasons we watch Roadshow.

It sounds awful, and I hate to admit it. But... it's pretty funny watching people's responses when they learn that their previously-thought-of-priceless-treasures are in fact, priceless. Not worth a bit. Nada. ZipZeroZilch!

Appraiser: "And what do we have here?"

Lady-Full-Of-Herself (LFOH) (with puffed-up hair, flaring nostrils that she looks down the appraiser at - even though she's shorter than he is - bright red lipstick, penciled eyes, lots of gold jewelry, and wearing a Mumu): "This here antique wardrobe chest was passed down through generations. When we moved across country, this came with us. One relative saved it from a fire, while another relative polished it daily with a soft-damp cloth. My Great-great-great-great-(insert-your-own-word-here)-Grandfather bought this at an antique store that was owned by Martha Washington's second cousin's daughter's best friend. We LOVE it, and would NEVER sell it, but we want to know how much an antique heirloom like this is worth. For INSURANCE purposes, of course." She winks.

Marit's thoughts: Insurance purposes, my butt. Humbug. She wants to know how much the darned thing is worth, so she can sell it and get her grubby little fingers on lots and lots of money.

Appraiser (nervously, with trepidation): "Well, then, ah - I'm glad to hear this, er, wardrobe has a lot of sentimental value for your family ---"

Marit's thoughts: There it goes, the "S" word. Sentimental. Oh boy! This should be good!

LFOH (takes a small step towards the appraiser and raises her voice. Affronted): "Well of course is has 'sentimental value'! It's been in our family for years. We can trace our relatives back to the founding fathers of this country, and we ALL had noble lineage from Europe. In fact, my Great-great-(insert-your-own-word-here)-Uncle Hubert refinished and varnished the wardrobe himself. He added years to it - years, I tell you."

Marit's thoughts: Ha! She said the "R" and "V" words. Refinished and Varnished. Something that ANY good antiquer knows they CANNOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES do. If it needs work, NEVER do it yourself. Take it to the professional. Come on Lady! You wouldn't have your pampered son fix your car just because it's a Jag and you've got a 'noble' family! Think!! Duh.

Appraiser (fidgets and is nervous, but determined to make his point): "Madam - while we here at Antiques Roadshow appreciate all of the hard work you and your plethora of relations have made to restore this wardrobe, I want you to focus on the, er, 'Sentimental Value' it holds for you and your loved ones." (speaks with more conviction, stronger, louder) "I've discussed your item with my colleagues, and while we appreciate the effort you took to bring your lovely piece to our show, we feel that it's worth more as firewood than as an 'Antique Wardrobe'."

LFOH: Audible Gasp. Brings her hands to her throat, affronted.

Marit's thoughts: Hurrah! She's getting what she deserves! (Thinking that "she's ALL that" just because she has some gaudy makeup to match her gaudy wardrobe!).

LFOH: Silent. Speechless. (A producer is seen hovering in the background, in case she stops breathing. They are used to this - they see these reactions all the time, from people who believe THEIR items are priceless heirlooms, only to discover that they are worth nothing but "sentimental values").

Appraiser (plows on, unscathed by her reaction. Nods, and winks. Seems jovial, oddly happy by the turn of events and LFOH's reaction): "But you hold onto the Wardrobe. Don't sell it and definitely don't burn it. It obviously means alot to your, ahem, family, and has evidently been in, ahem, your family for decades. Even though the wood is less than 50 years old and can be traced to a pine grove in Connecticut. But because it evidently has so much meaning for you and your priceless family, you should hold onto those beliefs. Don't bother insuring it, as you really NEVER CAN PUT A PRICE ON these types of heirlooms. Ahem." (clears through, coughs, and gives a small smile which goes unnoticed to LFOH).

Marit's thoughts: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

LFOH (shocked. Has turned pale. Lipstick seems not as red. Hair seems less puffy. Even gaudy jewelry doesn't gleam quite so much. Mumu is deflated. But lips quiver, stiff, and she is ready to fight back): "Well, honey!" (jabs her finger at Appraiser). "Honestly that doesn't make one itty-bitty-bit of difference. We've always contended that this Wardrobe will forever stay in the family. In our hearts we KNOW the TRUE value of this Wardrobe is priceless, and we don't need some show to tell us otherwise." (gives a cold smile).

Marit't thoughts: LFOH has just lost the battle.

Appraiser (LFOH has just lost the battle! But decides to be nice. This will, of course be on TV. He needs to be polite, but works hard at hiding his smile): "Thank you for sharing this, er - lovely piece. This is the classic example of what not to bring next time. Our viewers will certainly be grateful." (thinks to himself that he and HIS colleagues are grateful. Because now they'll have a lot to joke about off-camera.)

Marit's thoughts: Hee Hee Hee Hee Hee Hee!

LFOH: (Shocked. Speechless. Gives a half-smile towards the camera, tries to think of something "witty" to say, but can't think of anything).

CUT AWAY CAMERA - segment is over.

I know, I know. I'm horrible. We're horrible. But half the reason Nathaniel and I watch Antiques Roadshow is for the people and their reactions. The other half is, naturally, for the antiques (we've learned a lot). People watching AND learning about neat, historic, old stuff. Or in some cases, cheap imitations.

And we have a great time together, joking and laughing. Can't be beat.

Nathaniel always quotes the speech and dialogue in "Indiana Jones: And the Last Crusade" when Sean Connery's character, Dr. Jones Sr., is heartbroken at the thought of a broken, priceless, Ming Dynasty Vase. "It breaks the heart," he sorrowfully comments.

"And the head." Dr. Jones Junior aka Harrison Ford comments, as he rubs the back of his neck where his father cracked the vase.

FYI - it was a fake. The vase, that is.

But Antiques Roadshow is a lot of fun. Yes, we enjoy seeing the different reactions from people, when they learn the value of what they brought. Some are happy, some are upset, some are surprised, others are just plain overjoyed. I assume that there are those - like the lady above - who go to Antiques Roadshow with the sole purpose of stoking her already overly-inflated ego. Others just want to go and find out a little more about their things, their prized possessions.

The map in the study, an old teddy bear, a lump of clay, an old cane.

They all have stories. They are all antiques, are all precious to someone. Yes, even the Wardrobe.

And if I was in the same spot, what would I do? Who am I to judge? Knowing me, I would probably bring one of my favorite things. A bunch of worthless junk to some poeple, but totally priceless to me. No replacement value, because nothing can replace it - to me she is one of a kind. I would talk about sentimental value, discuss traveling the world with her, and bring along a tattered journal and a few photographs to document our journeys.

Appraiser: "What do we have here?"

Marit: "Priceless, well-loved, well-used artifact, circa 2004. Manufactured in France? Or the US. Somewhere of the sort. It had to be made by someone, right? The 51 means something...perhaps the size?"

Appraiser: "Well, it's obviously been well used. The wheels look well worn - see, you can tell by the spokes that aren't trued, and wear on the rubber of the tires. It's a little dirty, but a good, professional cleaning could do it wonders. Make sure you take it to someonw who knows what they're doing, as this means so much to you. You may want to get a few of the parts replaced, as they tend to break down and stretch with wear. You do realize this would be worth a lot more if you didn't use it so much, right."

Marit: "But I love my bike. Why in the world wouldn't I use her? I appreciate your recommendations, but I'll do what I'm supposed to do with it. And I think I'll start by riding her home. Thanks a lot, I appreciate the opportunity to share my bike with your audience!"

Appraiser: "Thank you. Remember, next time you get one, be sure to keep it in the original wrapping. That way it'll be worth more 50 years from now."

Marit: Is already riding off into the distance, oblivious to what the Appraiser is saying.

So there you have it. Antiques Roadshow is lot of fun to watch, to learn from, to make fun of, to laugh with, to observe. But mostly, I just like meeting Nathaniel's eyes and hearing him do his best Sean Connery impression. That holds a lot of sentimental value for me.



Pedergraham said...

Whenever someone in my family does not feel like dusting or cleaning off furniture, we always back them up by reminding them that they don't want to disturb the "patina", and hence the value. That's our little family joke that we learned from Antiques Roadshow. I always love the furniture and the toys.

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