The Insider’s Guide to Life: The 10 People You Meet on Craigslist

ColumnRead it while it lasts, no reasonable offer refused!

Fact: Every job I have had in my professional life I have found on Craigslist. I’ve sold a Volvo and bought a Jeep on Craigslist. I’ve rented apartments on Craigslist. I’ve furnished apartments many times over thanks to Craigslist. I’ve even sold furnished apartments for friends on Craigslist. I’ve found housekeepers, movers, interns, writers and staff on Craigslist. Tired of an electronic? Off it goes to Select Neighborhood/Bypass This Step. So over my latest fashion acquisition? Have I got a deal for you, sfbay.craigslist! Just about the only thing I haven’t done on Craigslist is date. Somehow the idea of finding true love in the same domain I can pick up Slightly Damaged goods lacks the romance I require.

I’ve moved house four times in four years, redecorating each time, meaning I’ve become exceedingly skilled in the art of “Why the hell did I buy this?” and “How fast can I get rid of it?” The most foolish purchase was a vintage lightbox I bought last year for no other reason than it seemed like a vintage lightbox would be a pretty cool thing to have. After it sat around looking stupid propped against my fireplace for a few weeks, I sold it for more than it cost me. Hey, I cleaned it.

But far more fascinating than mid-century modern knockoffs, remarkably excellent vehicles, the endless Ikea, and questionable camping accessories are the owners who come with such transactions. There are 10 kinds of people you’ll meet on Craigslist, and I’ve met them all. Why buy new when you can buy used and study the rich insanity of your fellow man, I mean, tread more gently upon our fine planet?

To my disappointment, San Francisco has presented far fewer specimens of forensic interest than Los Angeles did, which will reaffirm what San Franciscans already know about themselves while going unacknowledged by Angelenos, because, like. Still, I’ve managed to learn a lot in my years with Edit/Post/Delete. Herewith:

Nervous Guy

And I’m talking disconcertingly nervous. Coughing, trembling, flash-bout of halitosis nervous. He will definitely want to use the bathroom. Someone this new to the internet should really not be purchasing from it. Like, relax, Guy, you’re buying a pack of blank CDs still in the impenetrable wrapper. I promise they are completely clear of any and all data and have also been screened for Homeland Security bugs. Why am I selling? Maybe I think CDs are ugly. Maybe I feel like a chocolate croissant from Tully’s and was too lazy to get up and go to the ATM because my computer was in my lap.

Knock knock, it’s your New Best Friend!

She has lived, oh sweet Jesus how she has lived, and you are going to hear every last leftover morsel of it. Including the part about the boyfriend in prison. And the unemployment. But thank God for everything every day, because life is wonderful! Yes sirree, even with the poisoning because the landlord didn’t replace the carpet. You know there’s a law and they still won’t replace it. And the troubled son. And the pregnant daughter. And the contagious airborne infection but I won’t cough on you or anything, I’d have to lick your silverware! And could you maybe take $10 off the asking price, because there’s this scratch here? Ha, it looks like I did it with my keys, doesn’t it! Oh, heavens. Hey: Never stay with a man who hits you, honey. You trust your friend Tracy on that. I should charge for advice, let me tell you what. I picked the wrong line of work, honey, the wrong line of work. Hoo, boy did I ever. Do you have a boyfriend?

And did you ever pick the wrong email inquiry to respond to.

The Hi-Mai

Voicemail: “Hi, Sara, this is Trish. [Long sigh.] So, I just got home and looked at the cabinet again and while it’s really, really beautiful, and I totally get that it’s an antique, so it’s not going to be perfect, I noticed a small smudge and it’s probably something that would come off with cleaning but I don’t want to ruin the varnish and the ad said the cabinet was ‘impeccable.’ I’m sure you can agree with what I suggest. [Sound of keyboard clicking.] I think it’s fair for you to refund 50% of the purchase price because of the smudge which you didn’t note. I know the smudge is underneath the cabinet so people won’t see it, but I just think you should honor what you advertise because I was sold the cabinet under false pretenses. [Sound of man mumbling in background.] The smudge is located in the inner left underside corner and it’s basically like a sort of dust? And I’m sure it would be very costly to have it professionally cleaned because it’s at least as big as a dime, or maybe even a nickel. My Paypal is, so I’ll just look for the refund today. If I don’t hear from you in the next thirty minutes I’ll bring the cabinet back for a full refund. Thanks for your help! By the way, I really do love it!”

You Think That’s Hi-Mai? Ha!

“Hey Sara, it’s me again. Trish. So, great news! The smudge came off when I touched it! Yay! I am so excited. So I’m just wondering if you could tell me what you think would look best: my Tiffany tulip vases or the Eames birds? Jeremy hates the vases but his mother gave them to us for our wedding, and I feel like it’s rude not to have them out somewhere, you know? And since it’s in the hallway, it’s not like a really prominent place. They used to be on the mantle in the great room and he didn’t even mind! Anyway. I just emailed you pictures of the cabinet with both the vases and the birds. Let me know which you think looks better. Oh, I took a lot of pictures, so you have to add me on Drop Box to get the file. I’m TrishHiMai on Dropbox. Don’t you love the cloud? K, talk soon!”

Visual Voicemail exists for a reason.

The One You Never Meet

As in the flake who never shows up, or bails ten minutes before meeting, or reschedules three times and still cancels. Sub-genre: The One You Never Meet Who Gets Mad at You About It. Very special.

The Negotiator

This isn’t the garden-variety negotiator who wants to skim a $20 break on your asking price. Anyone with any sense will try to low-ball. The Negotiator takes it to the cement. Example: I have literally had a man show up to buy an eighty-dollar item, shake on the purchase, look me in the eyes with a straight face, and say, “I just have a five dollar bill on me.” He went to get cash but never returned. I later discovered he had helped himself to my screwdriver.

The Negotiator is also exceptionally skilled in the bait-and-switch. You show up for a chair and next thing you know you’re arguing for nine minutes about why you don’t need a table. You’re literally reduced to justifying the table you already own, which you thought was a stable thing in your life in the sense that you’d never have to really defend it, that’s probably on some level why you bought it, but here you are standing up for your table like it’s the Constitution. Which is hard, because The Negotiator has a plan for how you can buy hers and sell yours and it will not only save you money and time, it will make your life vastly better because didn’t you say it’s pine? You know how pine doesn’t hold up. It wouldn’t be her choice, is all.

The One Who Has Read the News

Craigslist is dangerous. A craven den of perversion. An abyss of theft. A chasm of death. You get it. Craigslist is so dangerous, Sue (not her real name) insists on meeting in an extremely crowded and inconvenient public place like Union Square’s north corner or perhaps the Moscone Center at 4:30 p.m., Howard Street side. No bigs, you think, makes total sense. But Sue also has set up a Craigslist-only email, and refuses to give out her number, which makes the whole process of giving her money a little difficult, but you’re accommodating, because after all, the girl thing. Sue will only text you directions of the meet-up location thirty minutes before said meet-up via web-based SMS service, and if you make eye contact or touch her pepper-spray-clutching hand with the cash, let alone your own actual, living hand, she will call the cops on you. Or her boyfriend/lesbian friend with the bushy haircut. Who is hiding behind the tree. Watching you. With a camera.

The Guy Who Makes You Want to Duct Tape Your Soul Shut

Somewhere along the line, this bloke either contracted Asperger’s from one too many TV dinners or simply determined blinking was irrelevant to his interests. You show up and he just…stares. He will at some point inform you that he has Googled you; he really likes that poem you wrote when you were 19 as an undergrad, so, do you ever talk to your friend anymore? And did you ever find out about the Native American symbolism thing when you were 15 and Jesus Christ the indexing goes back that far? That’s if he hasn’t called you directly after you emailed him to tell him the item has already sold. You reprimand yourself for not removing your phone number from your email signature. You realize you’ve done this aloud. “Oh, that’s not how I found it,” he says.

The One With Absolutely No Clue Whatsoever

“Divine velour cushions on this deluxe oversized stuffed armchair, bought in 1984, just $400! Ottoman sold separately! Beautiful pastel pink, coral, gray, and teal floral pattern with swirls on a faded blue background with ivory dots. Only a few worn patches on the sides. We have loved sinking down into this designer piece from Levitz for decades.”

“Take a look at this AMAZING!! Shabby Chic style end table. Originally bought at Target six years ago!! Good and sturdy, I think it’s made of wood? I painted it white a while back, but I like how you can still sorta see the black through it!! Very vintage-y!!! Asking $60. NO LOWER OFFERS YOU GUYS.”

“Selling my black leather sofa because my GIRLfriend thinks it looks like a bachelor pad LOL. My loss is your gain. Buy the engagement ring while you are at it LOL.”

“Shelving priced to move I don’t have pics really nice style very cool and goes in any apartment really great kinda modern no calls you pick up.”

The Good One

The guy who takes your apartment in a flash who turns out to be really cool. The walking buddy who is a soul mate of the highest order, holding all your darkest secrets safely in her heart, year after year. You didn’t even want a walking buddy. You don’t just…walk. That’s not something you were in the market for, and yet, you did it and she showed up and that was that. The girl who buys your lamp who ends up writing for you. The one who rents out the place next door but really nurses you through a breakup, a move, and the meandering anxiety at all the strange and strangely good things of your life. The dude who knows everyone in the neighborhood and perennially has your back, or your bill.

Which perhaps makes me The Collector.

The Insider’s Guide to Life is back from summer hiatus, exploring topics such as media, culture, sex, living, and anything else, including Craigslist. Cheers and spellcheck!

Image: blvesboy