I'll be moving soon and leaving the illustrious picturesque Oakland that I lambasted in an earlier post. Don't worry I haven't "made it". In fact if there was a word for a lateral move with a whiff of going backwards it would accurately describe my current experience. I have had to scale down and/or replace many of my possessions to fit into what will surely be another tiny apartment. Along with reducing the size of my home furnishings I've also had to sell off a variety of what most would call "crap" in order to help finance the impending move. Instead of having a yard sale in the ghetto and subject myself to a parade of people pawing at my personal belongings only to yield 14 dollars for an entire weekend I opted for plan B, Craigslist.
For the uninformed, Craigslist is not just a place on the internet where serial killers stalk people via their personal ads. It is in fact (allegedly) an online community advertising magazine to help you find a myriad things such as jobs, cars or the nearest swinger gang bang in your area. In recent years we have all but removed the stigma that was once associated with computers. These days everyone has a smart phone and today's youth are born with an inherent sense of where to find the nearest WIFI hot spot. However, there a few pockets of unbridled human insanity that still exist within the confines of the computer world and one such place is Craigslist.
Rather than employing a vague exaggerated comedic approach to characterize universally identifiable characters I would instead like to draw on personal experience and outline a few of the personalities that I have encountered in the schizophrenic salad of Craigslist transactions.
To prove that I am not above scrutiny I will place myself at the top of the list.
(Me) The Profusely Sweaty Salesman
I often go the extra mile to insure that what I am selling is fully operational and is valued accordingly. However, from the moment the doorbell rings and I am forced to interact with a person in a short, awkward situation I immediately become nervous. Before I crack the door open and welcome a potential buyer inside my hands begin beading with sweat. As a clammy handed person you are faced with 3 choices when someone tries to shake it. 1) Present a pathetic Howie Mandel excuse about the unsanitary nature of slapping skin and instead offer to fist bump them. 2) Quickly grasp their hand and brace for their slight but disgusted "ick" face when they grab your sweaty digits. 3) Flatly drag your hand along your pant leg in one sly motion as you bring it forward to shake, an unspoken declaration of living with hyperhidrosis.
From this point on I become the character Gil Gunderson from the Simpsons. An inept salesman with little to no confidence who invariably blows every deal the moment before it comes to fruition. On my good days I can talk somebody out of an item they originally thought they couldn't live without.
The Guy With A Thousand Obscure Questions
The guy with a thousand obscure questions never purchases anything of monetary value that would justify a thousand questions. All of his inquiries are about items that cost 50 dollars or less. GWATOQ wants to know the provenance of your lawnmower from the time it was assembled at the factory until the day you got it. He'll ask you if you've always used standard lawnmower oil or if there was a period in the spring of 2008 when you switched to synthetic. He'll ask you for all available serial numbers, he'll ask you to recite the English and Spanish instructions from the owners manual. He will ask you the tire width and the ave MPG (mows per gallon). Regardless of how many specifications you provide The guy with a thousand obscure questions will never read the ad in full and instead will ask a number of questions that have already been answered in the initial write up. After you have satisfied all of his questions the guy with a thousand obscure questions will decide that he is not interested in the item and promptly hang up on you.
Guy Who Has a Gross Misunderstanding Of What The Words "Like New" Mean
I was looking for a mattress a little while ago and I saw an ad for one on Craigers that claimed it was "barely used, like new." It wasn't a great deal but the item was reasonably priced and I was in desperate need of a mattress. So I called the guy up and asked him a thousand obscure questions. My only requirement was that the mattress be firm enough that it didn't taco when I laid down on it. The guy assured me that the mattress had been used for less than six months after which it was stored in an air tight bag. I was two towns away but I told him I'd be right over. On the way there I ran into Walmart to get some rope to tie the mattress to the roof of my comically small car. As I entered the house the smell of bleach was overwhelming. I looked around the corner and found the source of the smell...the mattress. I was presented with a scene that looked like a poorly covered up crime. The mattress sat on the ground with two giant brown stains on it where I assume an elderly grandmother voided her bowels or the body of the guys unfaithful wife was hastily dismembered on. In addition, when I sat upon the still wet bleach reeking mattress (out of politeness) I immediately sunk into a crater in the middle of it and I eventually had to roll off of the mattress like a feeble puppy learning to walk.
I apologize, this is an insensitive way to describe this guy but the image of his eroded gums echoes in my mind every time that I think of him. As I recall the guy was coming to buy an old stereo/cd player for his dad to the tune of 20 dollars. On the phone he sounded like a caucasian-surfer-stoner but in reality he was a youngish dude of Asian descent in his twenties or early thirties who sadly had the gums of a corpse. He brought five of his own cd's with him because he wanted to insure that the cd player played all the way up to track 26. For the next 15 minutes we tested out self help cd's the first of which dealt with sobriety. The next one was about self actualization and achieving your potential and the third was about how to attain wealth and power. The final bizarre incident was when he popped in the last cd (his personal mix.) He quizzed me on a track by track basis while he grooved to Cutting Crews "I Just died in your arms tonight" spliced in between Lady Gaga's greatest hits. Ultimately, he bought the stereo so win-win!
My wife was in the market for garden gnomes. All the good ones were too expensive and all of the inexpensive ones looked like butt. We suspected that anyone selling gnomes on Craigslist was probably a little crazy and we were right. When she went to the ladies door she opened it a crack and didn't seem to have any recollection of the phone conversation prior to my wife's arrival. She then told my wife to wait on the porch with the explanation "I have cats." A few minutes later amid a shuffling, slamming and murmuring of ambient noises the lady returned. She began to tell my wife the gnomes entire life story and the only reason she was parting with them was because her condo complex did not allow exterior decoration. Unbeknownst to my wife the gnomes had names and personalities too! At this point it was becoming apparent that perhaps the gnomes and this lady had a more profound relationship than one might expect from a painted cast ceramic statue. My wife offered the lady 20 dollars for the two of them, a fair price for the used garden ornaments. A little insulted the lady fired back that she would have to stick firm to her original asking price of 23 dollars, no more no less. Reluctantly my wife peeled off the extra singles and handed them over to the lady who appeared to have a tear forming in her right eye as she tentatively unclenched her death grip on the gnome boxes.
There are 30 or 40 more people that I could write about but they are mostly variations on a common theme. Honorable mentions go to: The Guy Who Tries To Sell Crap For Way Too Much, The Perpetual Flake, and The Old Lady Who Just Wants Someone To Talk To. If you've encountered an interesting Craigslist character feel free to tell me about them in the comments below.