Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Deal or no Deal -- An account of my Craigslist transactions

What a piece of work is man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! -- Hamlet quote (Act II, Sc. II).

Human beings are such fascinating beings, and the more you know them the more you realize they are perhaps the most intriguing creature in the universe, apart from invisible aliens, of course. My recent knowledge about humanity is totally based on earthy experience though and has nothing to do with aliens, spaceships, or robotic creatures. Recently, I have had the fortunate chance to meet a sea of myriad humanity--some strange, some nupson like, some smart, some more balatronic than can be described, and a handful of standardized normal specimens. 

My fortunate encounters with this sea of eclectic Homo sapiens hitherto unknown to me were the result of the ads I posted on Craigslist. My husband and I are on the brink of a big move and needed to sell the furniture and other items of our household; hence we created an account and listed the items that were for sale. Think of a time before a big storm when nature usually sits breathless resting itself for the big strike. The initial moments after we posted the ads seemed similarly benign and calm to me. And then the storm came striking the shore first in the distance and then started spreading, its boom and uproar broke reboant on our lives. We received calls in great profusion; the phones never stopped ringing. I felt as if I was running a call center in India, a task, you are fain to think, coming naturally to Indians. Unfortunately, I don’t belong to the revered clan, and after a brief period of forced enjoyment, began hating the task only to forcibly starting to like it when the thought of Jacksons and Lincolns crossed my mind. To cut the long story short and head to the crux, much to my dismay, I attended the calls. Some of our stuff sold pretty easily and we thought that the rest would go effortlessly as well. Only it didn’t.

After the first week of grand success, I began to think of myself as a Craigslist diva with tips and tricks under her belt ready to unleash at a moments notice. I assured my husband who had started to think of Goodwill and Salvation Army already, to cool down and let the cash flow. Tell me- after turning off the hypocritical signal, of course-- is there a better charity than self-charity? Besides most of my household stuff cost a good deal of money, and I didn’t want to let them go without some compensation. Call me human or sub-human; I am practical when practicality calls. So, there I was ready to pocket a truckload of cash, but my (ig) noble intention took a ghastly turn in a few days.  My cecity to the inefficiencies and fallacies of humanity, that hadn’t bothered me much before now, took an illuminated turn. I saw the light, if you know what I mean. In case you don’t, take a look at the two priceless responses to my postings that I received in my inbox: the first is a reply to our posting of a chest of drawers, and the second a response to our posting of our dining table that included an area rug for free. Here, I must tell you, that the first one was harder to digest than its successorJ. And these two were just prologues, previews, if you will, the real show was yet to come.

When I look back at my Craigslist encounters with the express intention of creating a list of characters that deserve some kind of award or special recognition for the marvelous character traits they effortlessly displayed, I find myself grappling in a sea of candies unable to decide which one to eat and which one to not. But in a story there can be no more than one protagonist, one antagonist and a couple of very important characters. Hence I have condensed my list and have drawn out the finest few who deserve due mention in my humble blog post for their extraordinary character and nature. I wish I had peacocks and monkeys, or at least Dundies to present these glorious few with because, to me, they are the epitome of small town virtues, the real mirror, and the microcosm of the world they came from; and they are chosen here based on the degree of weirdness they displayed.

The first position has to go to a woman who came to visit our abode to check out the stuff we had for sale. But she put a lid on the proceedings as soon as she had walked into our apartment. She was a middle aged white lady with distinctly southern looks, disheveled straw colored hair, and wore a pair of baggy trousers and a plaid shirt. She came with a child, a thin, pale looking individual that had an undeniably hungry look in its eyes. The lady appraised my husband and me for a second or two, judging us from head to toe like a medical practitioner would inspect an immigrant that had disembarked at Ellis Island than anything human. With every passing second she grew paler, until a time when she looked positively vampiric; doubtless convinced that I was a wicked witch of some kind, she held the child tightly by its hand. She fumbled, and in a word of two said that she would talk to her "sister" who wanted to buy the "things" from us, and would come back later. The poor lady had forgotten, probably under the grip of fear, to even see what we had for sale; but we thought it would be better to let her go. Her sister never called and neither did she.

The second position goes to another lady who called us one Sunday forenoon and inquired about the couch we had for sale. That morning I had shoved the telephonic duty to my husband and waited to judge his professional skill at dealing with weirdoes, or should I say, masterpieces of humanity. He started off naively, innocent as he was -- an academic in every sense of the word, he is an angel in human form-- but even angels have breaking points; innocence is short lived. The lady that called us asked my husband a series of questions about the couch to which he replied correctly; to my amazement, he gave her a long of positive points about the couch, which I believed he was too inattentive to notice. But while I was correcting my viewpoint, the woman on the other side continued her conversation with my spouse. I heard him tell her that the couch was in perfect condition and that we still use it. To this the woman gave a sharp yowl, which despite being only faintly audible, struck us like a steam hammer. "What do you mean you use it? How do you use it?" she questioned with marked displeasure. Both my husband and I were at the time under the impression that a couch is a necessity, not an accessory in a home. My husband told her in a few words about our daily couch using technique on which she brooded for a trice. Conversation continued with more questions thrown at us regarding the material of the couch, its warranty, the years it had spent in our home, etc. Finally, the tête-à-tête ended with her telling us that she was looking for something different and my husband apprising her the sacred words that you get what you pay for.

Ultimate consternation, however, came in the form of an Indian lady, a fine female who snatched the third position in this list from other worthy contenders.  She called me no less than six times about my fancy professional series microwave oven, and every time she wanted me to lower the price. I illuminated her with the fact that the ad contained the words "price non negotiable"--which, I thought, she had inadvertently missed-- but she wouldn’t have it. I guess she felt that being an Indian undoubtedly qualified her to a deserving special discount; she went on with her appeal. Somehow overcoming the strong desire of shouting at her, I calmly informed her that I had no intention of giving her any special discount on the already heavily discounted price. Later that week, she called again having seen the ad reposted on Craigslist, and this time my husband picked up her call. She asked for the same discount to which my husband, despite my vehement disapproval, agreed, and gave her our address and arranged a time she would come to pick the item up. Only that she never came. When the appointed time had passed we took it for granted that her watch followed the Indian Standard Time and decided to wait. After an hour of two if breathless suspense, my husband called her and she said that she had found another "good" microwave oven and wouldn’t come. That evening, after a trying few weeks, I realized that enough was enough, and ended up giving away our stuff to a friend. All that remains are going to Goodwill and Salvation Army in a few days.

P.S. My sincerest apologies go to the following gracious and worthy contenders who didn't make it to the weird list: the African American family that came to buy my bamboo rug and ended up mentioning that the bamboo "thing" wasn’t a rug at all, and wished I had been more specific in my ad (which said "Bamboo Area Rug for Sale" and included the quality of the material in the specification list too) about the material; to the Chinese gentleman who wanted to buy "everything" I had provided I gave him all for the grand price of fifty dollars; to the young lady that emailed me about my area rug to whom the sentence "all items must be picked up" made no sense, and who wanted to give me ten dollars less than the price asked for provided I meet her at a designated place with the item.