I find myself often wishing for the days when one could make one gigantic red circle around an interesting ad while some peppy music plays in the background. One could be seated at an outdoor cafe over the same cup of coffee for hours with one's khakis rolled up to the calf, tapping the pen against one's teeth, the world a friendly face with sparkling smile. Afterwards, if the meetings and apartments turned out to be duds one could enjoy the satisfaction of writing a large "X" over all the once promising ads. What tangible closure!
Not that I had the pleasure of doing such a thing that often. When I was old enough to be looking for those life needs in the newspapers, the world was on the cusp of being completely electronic but my brief foray into the satisfaction of a red X made its mark (pun completely intended) on my brain. Craigslist, though in its infancy by the year 2000, was how I ended up finding a variety of things. The less said about that the better.
Still, it is my go to for a lot of things. One of the following statements is a lie. I most recently bought an awesome secretary desk from an ad I found on there. When I left my Jackson Heights apartment six years ago (I just stifled a sob) I was able to sell bits and pieces of my belongings, relatively painlessly through there. I have friends who buy and sell and rent apartments through there. A few of my NYC apartments I got through there. I've successfully had anonymous sexual encounters through there.
Overall my experiences using the site have been positive, despite a few horror stories I've heard. Craigslist was a pioneer in the process bringing people who need and want to give things and putting them in touch (kind of ) anonymously enough at first to dip the toes comfortably in before jumping right in. I've always liked that about the site.
Because there is often dirt in your fries, here's what I never liked about the site: the lies and lying liars who tell them through their ads. I don't think I need to expound on this point: if there is a will to lie, sites like craigslist (and you can go ahead and insert any and all dating sites) provide the way. The latest reminder of this occurred recently when I answered an ad for an apartment.
The photographs provided in the ad made it look charming and rustic, even down to the tin roof and wooden beams. It was advertised as being "walkable" to a nearby village, known for its adorable shops and acclaimed restaurants and the ad highlighted the neighborhood's name, an obvious nod to the surrounding affluence. The asking rental price was alarmingly low but the proof was in the pudding: the photographs.
Well, I called the provided number and I told the landlord, "I'd like to come see the apartment you have for rent but I will be out of town until Monday." His response was "You might want to fit this one in before you leave. I'm already getting a lot of calls about it." He served up a plate of hot, steaming panic at missing out and I swallowed it in one gulp. "Okay." I said, "Can I come by today?"
Before leaving, I Google mapped and street viewed the hell out of the place. One of the red flags I should have picked up on then and there was that there was no street view of the actual building. This apartment is situated on the property of a working marina. There were plenty of photos of speedboats and sailboats and the administrative office of the marina, but none of the apartment building. No matter, I thought. This will be a secluded spot on the water and it will be ideal for writing, something I'll have plenty of time to do since the rent is cheap enough to relinquish at least one job. I could have summer parties on the water and maybe borrow a speedboat for my more 80s inclinations of drinking champagne with a white suited man in Ray Bans and sockless ankles in topsider shoes. Ah, my exciting new theoretical life! And it would all be here, in this affordable water mansion!
Well I drove there one late afternoon. It was gray and almost sundown. I could go into minute detail about what I experienced there, maybe describe to you the sights and smells of a small boat marina in winter, maybe lay out the features of the erstwhile boat mechanic cum real estate agent as he looked at me with simultaneous boredom and impatience. Instead, I will employ the only words I have found to be accurate when I later called everyone I know to describe the "apartment" to them (the quotation marks are intentional): Do you know how in a Law and Order: SVU episode when, say, a hooker is murdered and the detectives are tasked with investigating her life and are led to her apartment. In those episodes she's always a sad, neglected woman with estranged (or no) friends or family and she lives in a hovel, one step away from a crack den with falling apart walls and a decor that can only be described as "shanty"? Well, this apartment that I saw? That's where she lived. Alternately, it was the "apartment" of her murderer, a loner sociopath who collects blood soaked underwear from his many victims and stores them between the rotting wooden beams and the rusted tin roof. So there you go. This "apartment"s description should have read either "a murdered hooker's shanty" or "a sociopath's blood soaked underwear storage facility". Though not literal, they would have given an accurate feel for this apartment.
And so my theoretical new life will have to wait. I also need to get my hands on an actual red pencil. I could technically just go around circling things and then crossing them out. It might be time better spent than on craigslist.
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