Craigslist and the Art of Escaping Death
Several days ago, I came out of retirement and completed yet another successful Craigslist transaction. Yes, five years after my “maiden voyage,” I’m proud to say that I’m still alive (read that line in Eddie Vedder’s voice please).
Theoretically, if everything went according to plan, this really wouldn’t be all that big of a deal. You post about your new/used goods, arrange a simple meeting, and make the exchange. And everything should work in theory.
But it has NEVER. BEEN. THAT. SIMPLE.
Allow me to explain.
While many websites typically offer digital badges, gold stars, and various other miscellaneous incentives for completing transactions, the rewarding part of Craigslist can be explained with one word: ESCAPE.
In other words, somehow you weren’t brutally murdered while hawking your used electronics behind the Taco cart in a CVS parking lot. And for that you should feel proud.
After my latest transaction, I know I’ve still got it; I still feel like some sort of fancy escape artist.
There was, however, a time when my escapes were perhaps narrower than they should’ve been.
Not surprisingly, this phase also happens to coincide with my days as an “aspiring musician.”
The whole saga started when I decided to purchase an affordable beginner’s guitar at my local Guitar Center. I quickly picked up on some simple chords and intro riffs, so naturally, I started looking at more guitars on Craigslist.
After replying to a late night post for a magenta-colored Warlock bass guitar, I jumped in my car and headed to a simple trailer in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. You see, I just HAD to have the guitar that evening.
As I knocked on the screen door of the dimly lit trailer, I was greeted by a rough voice with long stringy hair and an unkempt mustache. Over the course of the next few minutes, we settled on a price, and I headed home to unleash my inner rock star.
While the guitar was still functional, the daylight revealed that the neck of my new guitar was cracked. I, on the other hand, was still very much intact, and would have to move on and consider the incident a lesson learned.
I then crushed Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water.”
Even though I really enjoyed killing an assortment of alternative intro riffs, it came time for me to move to Charlotte, and I realized that my aspiring musical career realistically wasn’t going to join me on the road (or anywhere for that matter). So these instruments had to go.
Desperately needing to get rid of a simple effects pedal, I ended up driving to a potential buyer’s house one night so he could test it out.
Encouragingly enough, the house stayed well-lit as we chatted about guitars and he tested the pedal. After about 20 minutes he handed the guitar over to me and asked me to show off a little bit.
“Well…uh…the intro to Smoke on the Water…it sounds cool when you put the pedal on that one setting…I think maybe #15.”
(It was very similar to this video, minus the indecipherable noise at the end)
He ultimately decided the pedal was a little advanced compared to what he was looking for.
Eventually I ended up selling it on eBay, earning another positive feedback that couldn’t even light a candle to the awkward in-home demo I had just attempted a week earlier.
In due time, the U-Haul pulled away from Craigslist Lakeland and the rest of my belongings subsequently beckoned ever so softly to Craigslist Charlotte.
This was a good opportunity for me to start anew. Gone were the days of dimly lit trailers and in-home demos. All of my transactions now occurred in high-traffic, well-lit locations (within walking distance of an ATM). But as I settled into my real job, I decided the adventures of Craigslist weren’t worth the hassles, even if they had been minimized. So I stopped.
Nevertheless, as I started preparing for another move, I discovered that I had no viable option but to put my hat back into the ring, and I reluctantly texted an unknown identity.
“I’ll be the guy sitting at a table with a Scottie Pippen jersey on.”
Fifteen minutes later, a small family and their three friends anxiously surrounded my seat at Caribou Coffee asking me questions about my used MacBook.
On this particular day, the sun was out, and I could see the ATM from my strategically picked table. There was just the right amount of apprehension on both sides. Just the right amount of absurdity. And just a slight feeling that somehow something could still go wrong and I wouldn’t escape alive.
After about 30 minutes we exchanged goods and payment, and I calmly thanked the family for their cooperation. The whole scene was predictably awkward.
I watched as they exited first. I slowly collected my belongings and lumbered to the door. My reward had finally materialized in my mind, as I escaped with one thought in my head.
Yes, I would live to sell another day.