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In which I have an eBay auction relapse

Can you remember when you were young and your grandparents, aunts and uncles sent you packages in the post?

There would be a call from the bottom of the stairs to come and claim the parcel addressed to 'Miss' or 'Madam', although I always envied my brothers in this regard as theirs were marked with the infinitely cooler 'Master'.

Despite, or perhaps because of this 
precocious introduction to the postal 
system, I still feel that swell of excitement at the back of my throat when the DHL man knocks at the door.

I think we all do. It explains the 
explosion of the subscription box industry in the US and the rise and rise of online shopping. Convenience is a factor of course, but so is packaging: dinky little coffers, delicate tissue paper, delightful ribbons and bows...

The post is so boring without packages. "Anything interesting?" my mother often enquires as I rifle through each day's delivery, as though there might be a letter from my secret lover in Paris, or a legal notice from a solicitor administering the estate of my long-lost and dearly departed squillionaire uncle.

Nope, just bills, charity pleas and the occasional mail-merged offer from the local gym giving me just 24 hours to sign up at this drop-down price (I've received the same letter at varying points for the last three years).

Mercifully, there is the occasional 
parcel to break the monotony. My 
beautiful aunt still sends me parcels all the way from the U-S of A addressed to 'Miss Katie Byrne'. The other parcels I order. And lately I've ordered quite a lot.

You should never get complacent when you kick an addiction. I know this because I thought I had freed myself of the pernicious grip of eBay and its 24-7 auctions. Now I'm back with a bang (and a whimper).

My poison way back when was vintage clothing, with a special interest in hats from the 40s and 50s. It was like going into the labyrinth. Every search and seller opened up 
dazzling new possibilities, only it was hard to find my way out.

Even the distant footsteps of my boss didn't derail me.

I knew all the tricks: always bid in odd amounts as that extra penny is sometimes all it takes to get you over the line; look for auctions that end while the US is sleeping, and exploit spelling mistakes - you wouldn't believe how many 'vintage kamonos' I picked up for next to nothing.

It had all the hallmarks of an addiction. Impaired control over behaviour: "Oh. My. God! A Russian USSR Sauna Hat! I'll have to call you back." And preoccupation with behaviour: "I'll have to skip dinner - one of my eBay auctions is ending."

There was a rock bottom moment: the day my '70s' Ibiza-style kaftan arrived. It was in fact a size-22 moo-moo - the billowing garments worn by obese people in America.

And there was an intervention: the day my family bundled my recent purchases into a black sack, bound for the charity shop. "How dare you!" I screeched, clutching the size-22 moo-moo to my chest. "You can't take my hobby away from me."

Immediate gratification is another hallmark of addiction. Winning an auction gave me that instant dopamine rush, but there was delayed gratification, too - the exhilarating wait for the parcel.

It was all about the surprise stowed inside those padded manila envelopes - one of the boons of spending half your wages on eBay is that you're never quite sure what's inside the package when it arrives.

Granted, some items weren't exactly as described (polyester photographs very well), while others came complete with the musty smell of the home from which they were sent. One item was wrapped so haphazardly that I'm surprised the Bomb Squad wasn't alerted.

But eight times out of 10 I was happy. Some sellers even sent me sweet little notes wishing me luck with my purchase.

And now I'm back. It started with a simple search for a 1950s' beaded skullcap to wear to a wedding. In and out. One last job. I could do this.

And then I saw the "Very soft silky velvet 1940s' WWII era, glamour turban. In excellent vintage condition". And the "French black felt wide brim day hat with hat pin". And the "Powder blue pillbox feather hat".

The hysteria of old was rising up from my toes so I took a moment to brace myself and consider how I'd deal with this situation responsibly and logically.

I'll just have to buy all of them, I reasoned. And open up a vintage hat shop in city centre Dublin...


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