Thursday, May 16, 2013

Craigslist and my Inner Cavewoman

Perhaps it’s a nod to my hunter-gatherer ancestry, but a good find on craigslist is as satisfying to me as I can only imagine it would be to catch my dinner.  Look in any room in our house and you’ll find something brought to you by Craig: a paper shredder, a bookshelf, a set of model horses, a space heater, a racquetball racquet, a gas grill, a pair of rain barrels.  The list goes on.

Given my blunt aversion to shopping, why do I love craigslist so much?  The bargains and the zero-harm nature of finding treasure in other people’s trash are part of it, sure.  It appeals to my frugality and my environmental conscience.  

But there’s more to it.  craigslist takes a mundane provisioning expedition and turns it into an adventure.  A purchase on craigslist often involves travel to an unfamiliar destination, connection with a personal story, possibly entrance into a personal space, and importantly, trust in lieu of a money-back guarantee.  

Now, like all adventures, shopping on craigslist does not always go smoothly.  En route to the gas grill of our dreams ($50, including a full tank of propane – yeah baby) was a stopover at the home of a couple whom Paula could only describe as “chain-smoking hoarders.”  They had listed a grill for sale, but since the only passage through their apartment was a narrow path between skyscrapers of boxes, to actually remove the grill from their apartment would require hoisting it over a 7’ wall – by yourself, since both husband and wife claimed disabilities preventing them from helping with the lifting.  craigslist is not a bird in hand.  You have to love the chase, to have more appetite for a good story about hoarders than for the efficiency of a one-click shopping experience.  You have to like yourself some weirdo.

craigslist is one of those things that makes me think the Interwebs aren’t completely sucking the life out of us.  It connects people with an efficiency that is not possible in the absence of sophisticated algorithms – but the connection is ultimately human.  It takes thousands of strangers living within a 10-mile radius and gives us access to each other’s garages and basements.  We meet people we wouldn’t have met, sometimes living just down the street, because of a serendipitous symbiosis that probably wouldn’t have materialized in a pre-online world. 

I wax poetic a lot about connection, but when I read that suicide has surpassed car crashes as the #1 cause of injury-related death in the US, with social isolation as a suspected contributor, I can’t help but believe that these connections matter.  

The next time you are in the market for a push mower, concert tickets, or a Baby Bjorn Potty Chair, why not spare the air?  Put the Reuse in Reduce/Reuse/Recycle, and meet a neighbor in the process.  You might enjoy the hunt as much as I do.  And you might make someone’s day.

If you've got a great craigslist story, share it!