Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Craigslist Experience: More than a One Night Stand

I’ve recently been indoctrinated into a new and exciting community: The Craigslist Community. I must admit, my entrance was neither graceful nor fully desired. My apprehension about joining this virtual community was centered around the fact that it was, well, virtually casual. Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against virtual communities, per say. If I did, it would be rather hypocritical of me to be a Weekly Gumboot contributor and a Masters student completing my degree online. The difference, I think, can be demonstrated with the following ‘continuum of a relationship’ analogy: Craigslist is kinda like a one night stand. The connection between individuals is short, sweet, and superficial. The ‘boot is akin to a committed relationship – a sustainable marriage of ideas (from everywhere) from a dedicated group of individuals (I suppose this would be a rather polygamous relationship, but you get the picture …). It was this (presumed) starchy superficiality of Craigslist that kept me at a safe (virtual) distance from the site.

And then I caved. A series of unfortunate events in a chaotic move to the ‘Drive (of a scale and scope not dissimilar to those that confronted Mr. Snicket) propelled me into the Craigslist world. And I saw that although the relationships that are cultivated are indeed brief, they are meaningful nonetheless, and can contribute to a kinder, more considerate, and better connected community.

A few Craigslist jaunts to exemplify:

1.) The Australian Mattress Seeker.

In my move, I had a mattress that I no longer needed. I posted it for free on Craigslist, and got a response from an Australian backpacker-type who had just arrived in Canada, and had no furniture or money to her name. She really wanted my free mattress, and was willing to trek over to Kits, in the rain, and attempt to transport it back to the hostel she was staying at downtown. By herself. Without a vehicle. Don’t ask me how in the world she was planning on doing this. In a display of good will, two friends and I delivered the mattress (along with pillows and sheets) to her downtown. The gratitude she displayed was payment thrice over. And in her eyes, Canada is forever golden.

2.) The Anti-Community: Antique stores.

Antique stores, to me, exemplify everything a community should not be. Having some antique furniture that needed to be sold in the move, my partner and I went down to a few on the Drive. The owners at each were rude, arrogant, and pretentious: “Antique Pine? [insert shudder]. You will not be finding anything of that style here”; “Now, let me teach you a lesson about second hand dealings, dear”. The stores either refused to even have a look at the desk and chair we had, or tried to low-ball us beyond belief. All in all, a horrible experience. One Craigslist posting and two hours later, they were both sold to a delightful woman, at a reasonable price. They were exactly what she was looking for, and it was a pleasant experience all around.

3.) Recruiting into the Craigslist Family.

Posting my outdated stereo system (almost antique material itself, with tape decks and all) on Craigslist, I didn’t expect to get a whole lot of bids. And I didn’t. But the one I did get led to a perfect sale, a delightful chat with the buyer, and a new recruit into the Craigslist family. A grandmother whose grandson had broken her stereo system was looking for a simple one that would play her old tapes as well as CDs. It was her first time on Craigslist, and I hope I represented this community well. Mary came over to pick up the stereo, and while she was waiting for a cab to get back home, we had tea and had a great conversation about life, love, the universe and everything. Like me, she was a bit apprehensive about the whole “Craigslist thing”. But after her positive entrance into the community (getting tea and some free CDs out of the deal), she emailed me to thank me, and to let me know that she no longer felt intimidated by Craig or his list.

So to all of you Craigslisters out there – I implore you to uphold the good name of this community. Whether your experience remains a one night stand or develops into a deeper relationship, be kind, be honest, and be open to the possibilities that may come before you.


Theodora Lamb said...

Here, here! Way to court 'Craig and his list,' Michelle!

John Horn said...

Again, that dastardly and ambitious Theodora Lamb beat me to the punch! Well played, ma'am.

Michelle, I couldn't agree with you more about the anti-community nature of antique stores. Craigslist, in my opinion, is one staggering example of how technology is changing the world in a positive way. Gone are the days of haggling with crafty shopkeepers over desks and lamps and mirrors. Now we get to do it with each other!!! And, hey, it's a beautiful thing.

Kurt Heinrich said...

Michelle - I'm reading a book about Bond Traders making it big. I think your Craigslist moxie might recommend you to be one.