Thursday, April 24, 2008

I Heart Craigslist

Okay, I know there has been some scary-stalker stories associated with Craigslist, but for the last year it’s been quite the source of adventure, cheap accumulation, and asset relief for me. This week in particular has been one of shopping blessings on Craigs.

Today I bought a bike from a girl named Katie in Moon Township. She advertised on Craigslist a few months ago, and in the dead of winter not many people were looking for bikes yet. I e-mailed her and expressed some interest, but without a car I wasn’t able to coordinate getting out to Moon to get it at that time. Well, she e-mailed me last week to say the bike was still available and was I interested? Luckily my always-generous roommate offered to lend me her SUV in this morning (she walks to work to save the environment and also there is absolutely NO parking in our corner of the city, which is also part of why I ditched my own car). The bike is a lovely purple, and it was just the right price. Only fifty bucks. Most bikes advertised on Craigs in this area are going for hundreds, partly b/c there’s such high demand around here with all the students and the environmentally conscious urbanites, and partly b/c there are lots of trails and an entire bike culture with many specialty bike shops. But bikes also get stolen fairly often around here for those exact reasons, so for my first bike (as an adult, that is…I haven’t owned or consistently ridden a bicycle since age 12) I didn’t want to cough up too many bones.
Katie was sweet and friendly. Blonde hair, high-fashion make-up. She said she was moving to Toronto. I told her one of my best friends lives there now. As she was taking me to her basement, showing me the bike, and helping me wheel it outside to Kat’s car, we had a nice conversation about what she plans to do in Toronto. Her husband is already there, and she’s trying to get a job in sports marketing. It was a quick, friendly interaction. I was all set to go, as I’d gathered several bike supplies earlier in the week. Two days earlier I got a bike helmet, a bicycle tire pump, and a flashing light to use when riding at night for $12 from Anna down the street. She advertised on Craigs, of course, and we had a nice correspondence via e-mail. She used to live in my apartment building, in fact. When at the bike store later, I discovered that a Schwinn helmet like the one she sold me retails for $29.99. Boo-yah!

Then, right as I was steering my new bike into my apartment and fastening my brand new bike lock (this I actually DID buy from a store) on the back, Gwendolyn called. She’s the girl I e-mailed about her coffee maker. I don’t drink coffee that often, but I’m noticing with my new graduate student lifestyle and constant study mode peppered with intermittent late-night social activity, sometimes it’s just a must. I’ve been drinking it more often lately, and I’m actually starting to like it. And I LOVE iced coffee in the summer. Figured I’d get the cheapest thing they had at Target, ‘bout $20. But, in browsing my favorite Web site, I came across Gwendolyn’s ad. She wanted to be rid of her $50 coffee maker plus 2 packages of filters for ten bucks. So I rode my new bike over to her apartment (about six blocks away), met her dog, saw her apartment, had some nice pleasantry talk, and came home with my new coffee maker. 10-cup Hamilton Beach, with all the bells and whistles and timers. Nice.

I always wonder if in less brief transactions I might get a chance to be friends with some of these people. Maybe Katie. Especially Leah who bought my car. She was about the sweetest person I’ve ever met. Perhaps the young mother who bought my bookshelf. She looked like a good time, with that wind-blown hair and that artsy tattoo on her arm. That funny, bubbly woman who bought my Coach purse. Or the kind but shy girl who bought my roller blades, riding them wobbly around the parking lot while her boyfriend looked on. Maybe even that cute doctor guy who bought my end table. Probably not the Indian liquor-store owner who bought my video camera to monitor the cash register. There was no chitchat with him as he fumbled nervously with my camera, rushing to check the front of the store several times. He had a business to run, and a sketchy one at that.

There is another reason why I find shopping on Craigs satisfying, one that extends beyond mere frugality or the trash-to-treasure finds. It is, in its own way, saving the environment. Now hear me out. About a year ago I was reading Rolling Stone at Brandon’s and found an article featuring an up-and-coming musician. I forget her name now, but there was a full-length picture of her wearing a flowered dress, a smart red jacket, and white shoes. Cute. In the article interview, she confessed that although now she’s making decent money, she still insists on buying used. Every item of her outfit in that photo was purchased thrift. She said that it’s a moral thing for her. By not buying new, she’s not adding more material to the world, and she’s not supporting sweatshops. I had never thought of it that way, but it totally made sense. Not adding more material into the world. Reusing what’s already there. Not having to cringe at the tag that says “Made in Bangladesh, where everyone is starving.” Plus I’m becoming more and more concerned with environmental issues, and this reasoning further bolstered my desire to buy used whenever possible.

And so, I heart Craigslist. As with any relationship, there are things I like about Craig and things I don’t like. I have not found the job section to be particularly helpful. The personal ads are rather sickening. The apartment ads can be frustratingly deceptive. But there are products to fill almost every need, and I’ve had flash encounters with some friendly folks. And that’s always worth my time no matter what.

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