Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making Craigslist, checking it twice

“Still available and in good condition?” came the promising response to my ad on Craigslist, the free online service that connects you with people of varying degrees of sanity to buy and sell items of varying degrees of brokenness.

I’d posted an ad earlier that day in an attempt to sell my 2003 Toyota Matrix, a car that had served me well over the years, but was not designed to handle a growing family that is often toting a dog, a baby and a stroller the size of an SUV. When we roll out of town for a weekend trip, we leave a trail of popped rivets behind us, like Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs. (Figuratively speaking, of course. I don’t know if cars actually have rivets, but if they do, mine hasn’t popped any. Especially if you’re interested in buying it.)

Incidentally, are you familiar with the story of Hansel and Gretel? The happy ending (spoiler alert!) is that the two kids murder the old lady who tried to eat them and end up back with the dad who tried to kill them by abandoning them in the woods in the first place. If I was a therapist, I’d advertise on the rear book jacket. No wonder we, as a culture, have switched to Dora the Explorer.

My wife Kara had already taken care of the haggling part of buying a bigger car, a feat she’d performed entirely over email. We’d read that this was a better way to do business, safely removed from the glower of the salesperson and their entreaties to increase your paltry offerings, lest you enrage the manager behind the curtain.

“They just asked if we wanted floor mats, too,” Kara said to me from behind her laptop.

I’d always assumed, incorrectly, that a floor mat was a part of the vehicle. Yes, we’d like floor mats, and we’d also like to upgrade to the package that includes a steering wheel.

In the end, Kara drove a very good bargain, so it was my turn to chip in and sell our current wheels. Enter our friend Justin Thurston, who sent the response to my Craigslist ad.

“Fresh fish!” I yelled, writing a thoughtful response to Justin, explaining the wonderful condition of the car and laying the groundwork for a business relationship that would benefit us both.

A few moments later, Justin replied again: “Good to have your reply. I am justin thurston from Vancouver, WA. andwould have loved to come and inspect it at your place myself, but I ama UNICEF work and presently off Haiti where there flooding and


I can understand how a 2003 Toyota Matrix would be really helpful in that situation, but I began to suspect that Justin was not being completely forthright with me. The rest of his message explained how helpful I could be if I just sent some very personal financial information his way.

Justin’s email baffled me in the way that most spam does. When I’m sending out an email to ten other people in my department at work, my finger hovers over the mouse button, twitching, as I proofread the note countless times, worried that coworkers might make warranted inferences about my intelligence if I mix up “their” and “there”.

If you’re a spammer, and your email is being sent to ten million people, wouldn’t you at least run it through a spellchecker first?

Anyway, if you take anything away from this column, I hope it is this: 2003 Toyota Matrix, power windows and locks, excellent condition. Dog and baby only barfed in it a few times. All offers considered, especially ones from actual humans.

You can verify your checking account information with Mike Todd at


  1. Another great one. You often start my mornings off with a laugh. Thanks for that, and keep it coming, please.

  2. Poor Justin! Now he's totally stuck in Haiti without a Matrix. You're heartless, dude.

  3. Bleets -- You made my week. Thank you!

    Amy -- Dude, you are funny. I bet he'll find a way to complete his humanitarian mission without the Matrix.