Sunday, April 24, 2011

Craig's List and other social experiments

Eighty percent of success is showing up.” - Woody Allen

The eight-year-old was in the garage rifling through boxes, the three-year-old had found Isaac's room (“Here's the toy room!”), the smallest was still on his mother's hip for now, their father was talking about the computer hutch with Mike, and the people who came for the futon were inspecting bolts. It was our dinner time, our usual space to unwind, though any movement toward sustenance and family bonding had been arrested: the Craig's List people were here.

We had hosted a “give away” party for our friends the week before. They had come, dutifully, some sad, some glowing at the thought of snatching up my most prized succulents in their elegant painted pots. Books and candles, folding chairs, the streptocarpus, the solar dehydrator, tables, shelves, seeds, booze, it all walked out. Still, we were left with too much. So, against my better judgment, I placed an ad on Craig's List.

Strangely, the biggest draw was one of our dressers. We had recovered it from the garage of the last house we rented, swept out the spider eggs and repaired the drawer that had been driven into, then painted it a dark slate blue with cream drawer fronts, and bought it sparkly new knobs. Five years on, it wobbled a little and needed a new paint job. I posted it for 10 bucks. The crowd went wild.

Of course, there is the surge of excitement that precipitates that initial email of inquiry and then there's actually setting your Suburban's GPS to our address and showing up. The ten-dollar dresser almost brought me to my knees for the shear number of no-shows it conjured. But now, things were different. Here were two families perusing our various sale items – best to lump people at the same time, pull the Bandaid off zip, one, two, three. It'll hurt a lot but only for a second.

“Is this for sale??” It's the eight-year-old. He's got the roll of little plastic international flags we decorated with during the Obama party. “It's yours!” I say happily, and he clutches it gleefully to his chest. Pay back time. For all those garage sales we went to where people so very “kindly” gave Isaac huge bags of beads, stuffed animals, shit they wanted to be rid of that I didn't want any more than they did. “How about this?” the boy asks hopefully, showing me a book of traveler's quotes. “Take it!”

The kids are now rolling around on the futon someone else is looking to purchase. “Are they all yours?” futon lady asks me. “No, just that one over there. The one who looks stunned into silence.” Isaac is seated on the loveseat between two strangers, wide-eyed and quiet.

It's complete mayhem. The eighteen-month-old is on the loose now, our stomachs are growling, the three-year-old is driving one of Isaac's Lego trucks along the molding.

Before, everyone leaves, I discover a convoluted connection with futon lady involving poetry and events of some ten years back, and the three-year-old is looking hard to score something to take, just like his brother. “Can I have THIS?” he asks. He's holding our to do list. I'd love to say yes, take it, please, out of my sight forever, but I trade him for a pirate pencil.

Tomorrow there will be more of this: People who are getting some of our junk as temporary furniture, having just moved from Japan without any hope of seeing their things shipped while hundreds of thousands of displaced Japanese struggle to regain a daily life. A couple who've driven all the way from Salinas to take home my five-dollar butterfly chair. For tonight, finally, we've closed a deal or two, we can eat, maybe get our kid to bed before nine. Only problem is, we might have to dine on the f-ing dresser. Damn thing's still here, but someone bought our kitchen table.

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