When Craig Newmark started emailing lists of upcoming local events to his friends in 1995 (because he still had a few years before the Hamster Dance would dominate the chain letter circuit), I doubt he imagined the world he would one day create. A world that brings people together, replacing the newspaper classifieds with simple columns chockfull of hyperlinks that make dreams come true. What other site can bring together lonely hearts, renters of unfurnished apartments and a gal who really needs to get rid of a couch? It’s soft, red and free if you come pick it up. Only a few stains. Serious replies only, please.
Craigslist has something for everyone. Online dating? Sure! Looking for something less serious? You’ll find no judgment here. Can’t seem to find a good deal on a used tuba? If you don’t want your son to resent you for crushing his hopes and dreams, you had better click “musical instruments” under the “for sale” column.
I love Craigslist’s simplicity. No fancy formatting. No logo. Not a capital letter to be found. A site this humble appeals to the people. I like visiting a homepage without thinking, “Oh, so you think you’re better than me with your fancy colors and your RSS feed?”
I have a special place in my heart for Craigslist. When I was sixteen, I found a desk on Craigslist. I had never picked out my own furniture, but I wanted that desk more than anything. Stubborn as I was, am, and always will be, I replied to the seller. Before long I had an address and convinced my mother to drive me the forty-five minutes to a small house covered in ivy and surrounded by flowers. My mom stayed in the car as I slowly approached the front door. I knocked. No response. I knocked again, but there was still no response. Dejected, I turned to leave and found myself face-to-face with an old woman covered in dirt. She smiled, missing several teeth and small-talked me all the way around to the backyard. She took me through the back door and into her living room. A part of me expected her to feed me to her parrot, but instead she offered me cookies and helped me carry the desk to the car.
I know, I know. You’ve heard the stories about predators and criminals trying to scam or lure users into bad, bad situations. Sadly, many of them are true, but I refuse to give up when there is good to be found! I recently packed my bags and Oregon-trailed my way to Las Vegas for the summer. Homeless, jobless and far from home I turned to Craigslist for help. I couldn’t believe how many great options there were for me to explore! Some of the posters specified exactly what they wanted in a roommate, which made it so much easier to narrow down my choices. One seeker wrote:
We are 4 guys, students, professional sports betters, even a street performer you would recognize, 20s, 30s, we have Wi-Fi, linens, not enough privacy for a female and if you are over 40 your self-esteem would not permit this. We’d hope you are educated, personable, honest, sense of humor, like us.
That upfront honesty saved me the embarrassment of admitting that I am a woman and the fear that I wouldn’t meet their standards. Imagine if I were a 42-year-old man without a sense of humor? Yikes.
I also found some Good Samaritans, like this fella:
Are you struggling, having a hard time, living paycheck to paycheck. I am too. Are you homeless or losing your place of residence? Perhaps we can help each other out. Share my 1 bedroom apartment rent-free. This might be only until you’re back on your feet or long term. I cannot help everyone. I have a desire to help a young woman in need of help is all. If you are seeking a sugar daddy please move on. This is only for an honest good gal.
Rent-free? What a deal! Being a relatively honest gal myself, an offer like this was hard to refuse. If only his apartment had been closer to my internship! Just my luck.
Once I’d found a place to live, it was time to find a job. There were even more postings to peruse! Overwhelmed but excited, I dove right in, ventured first to the “tv/film/video/radio” jobs. Immediately the post titles called to me.
“CASTING BIKERS LOOKING FOR LOVE!”
“Are you in the middle of DRAMA that can be solved by a DNA test?”
“ Need a female who can answer the phone in a pizzeria.”
“ BUSINESSMAN SEEKS HOT DINNER DATE.”
“ Get a COOL job for the HOT summer!”
“Comedian/Actor to Play Rabbi at Live Events.”
“Girls that are new to Vegas & need help making $”
“ WOULD YOU SHAVE YOUR HEAD FOR $1,500 CASH?”
“New girls that have never bartended before to bartend at mansions.”
There were so many people looking to hire dancers, actors, and models, too! It is so refreshing to find a community that really appreciates the arts. Much to my refrigerator’s disappointment, I am still unemployed. No job means plenty of time on my hands, but a gal can only beat Candy Crush so many times before craving something more. Okay, I still haven’t beaten Candy Crush, but I’ll get there someday, Mom! As I’ve learned from the city-centric sitcoms that raised me, it’s hard getting by without a buddy there for you when the rain starts to fall. I thought I’d be fine, since it never rains in Vegas, but I found myself wanting to go where everybody knows my name. Instead, I made my way back to Craigslist, where nobody knows your name unless you include it in your post. On any other occasion, I would have stayed in a galaxy far, far away from the “personals” category. Desperate for comrades to sharpen up my defunct trivia team, I clicked on the safest of the sketchy selections. As it turned out, “strictly platonic” was harmless. Much like my run-ins with “housing” and “jobs,” these lonely users seemed perfectly genuine in their search for friendship.
“Let’s Have a Fun Monday (Your Place)“
“Nothing Wrong With Being Friends!”
“Why is it hard to find good friends?”
“Tonight 420, Henney and red box movies.”
“Do True Friends Really Exist In Vegas?”
“I can help with your pain.”
“Do any Republican girls want to hang out?”
“What is wrong with everybody?”
“Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?”
Places to live, potential employers, a network of friends just waiting to meet you, and you can get it all for a few clicks on a keyboard? Bring me your men, your women, your young, your socially awkward, your fetishes, your unwanted dressers from IKEA and I will send them to one sacred haven.
The power is in your hands. Craigslist can cause problems. Craigslist can solve problems. Take Robert, a self-titled “Ghost Writer” in Palm Springs.
Want a Novel….Short Story….Auto Biography…?…..I’ll write it for you…your way…give me a call….Robert.”
Now there’s a guy who just wants to help people. Plain and simple, he asks for no recognition. He does good work out of the kindness of his heart. He may be a bit slow when it comes to meeting deadlines, but he has stuff going on. I don’t know, important stuff. Don’t worry about it.
You can’t always get what you want, but if you’re willing to sift through the sketch and the shady, you might just get what you need. Just be sure to tread lightly because a pervert may have written the post you’re reading. Or your grandpa. Or Robert. I should remind you that no part of this was written by Robert, but if you need any writing or you’re ever in Palm Springs, give me a call. Give him a call. Trust me, Craigslist is important. Why else would Weird Al write a song about it? So get yourself on there and post a classified of your own, but do not contact me with unsolicited services or offers. Thanks.