Great Expectations: A Craigslist “Fail”

Great Expectations Cover
Great Expectations: A Craigslist “Fail”

June 15th, 2015

Today I opened a wound, stitched it up, and nursed it with cream: I experienced a minor failure.  I’m still grappling with whether or not I should call it that, but it upset me nonetheless.  Here’s what happened:

Since Saturday I’ve been housesitting for my cousins, playing with their 70 lb standard poodle Willy, drinking cold home-brewed kölsch straight from the tap (thanks Chad) and just generally noodling around.  The nextdoor neighbors hosted a yard sale over the weekend, so yesterday I strolled over and bought a classic cork dartboard and some cool fabrics for $10.  I immediately tasked myself with building a backboard for this new fixture, and went on Craigslist to look for cheap carpet, something to wrap over plywood and protect our drywall from errant needles.  Nothing really looked too appealing or convenient, so on a whim I searched for “inflatable kayaks.”  In case you didn’t know there’s a big ol’ river running straight through Portland, and each time I glimpse its broad blue waters I want to jump in.  A second-hand, storable boat seems more safe and practical.

I got several hits, and one looked especially attractive: a modest orange two-seater with a paddle and pump included, listed at $75.  At the time, I took only a mild interest, sent a query and continued browsing.  Then, my mind started to wander…

Me, frugal old Jack, proud boat owner!  And for under $100!  On steamy Saturdays, while my friends and colleagues are sipping overpriced sour beers and complaining about their stupid jobs, I’ll be island-hopping with my noble skiff, a packed cooler as my passenger, a couple of books and a towel in tow.  Every weekend a new adventure, a fresh perspective, a hot tan…and all for less than a Doobie Brothers ticket!

I haggled a little.  I always do.  By bedtime we agreed upon a $60 pricetag, a 2pm meetup the next day, and our respective first names.  Jack and Janine.  A fellow J: it was meant to be!  A palatable narrative grew inside my head.  Janine would see that I’m a non-threatening, fun-loving guy, we’d chat a little in her front lawn while I deflated and quickly inflated the self-bailing Tahiti Classic.  She’d be impressed, I’d be effusive, we’d both be appreciative.  Is this not the Craigslist experience we collectively dream of?

The next morning, complications.  Janine hitched the price back up to $70.  Considerable interest.  She said if that’s okay and I show up it’s mine at 2.  I said Makes sense let’s do it and I continued with my errands.  I got cash-back at Freddy’s, exactly $70, I was ready.  I started making lunch at my apartment.  I should’ve seen it coming, though, the email, beginning with I’m afraid…then the news I dreaded, the abrupt period, the first name, again, as though she wanted to make it personal.  And of course, she mentioned that she got her original price.


Crestfallen, my day – my week, my summer – crumbled.  I nestled into the sofa, and for a good half hour I was bummed.  I mean c’mon, that italics paragraph sounded pretty good!  I even felt personally betrayed by this Janine, although anyone would have done the same in her situation.  I felt silly, and sincerely disappointed.  When I got back to Chad’s, I leashed up Willy, gave him a good belly rub, and already slightly consoled I walked down to the Dairy Queen and bought myself a dilly bar.

It’s weird, this “Craigslist fail” that I’m sure most of us have suffered at some point (if you’ve been a victim of serious fraud, I do not mean to sound flippant.  That would really suck).  A day ago I had no knowledge of any brand or model of inflatable kayak, much less this particular vessel, and now it’s all I can think about?  That isn’t right.  At the beginning of our correspondence I told myself I’d bail if it went above $60; now what would I give for it?  $80?  Would I do 100?  Is it the boat I wanted, or the bragging rights?

Those aren’t quite rhetorical: yes, the boat would have been nice.  But what nagged at me are all the things I could have differently, could have conveyed better: for example, I had plenty of time that morning to go pick it up.  In hindsight I would’ve gladly paid the sticker price, or at least been happy with just a few bucks off – a deal is a deal.  I suggested 2pm because it made for a nice full day of errands, with time for a leisurely lunch break, not because I wanted to stoke the competition and claim my prize.  I only wanted the bright side, the ease, the great expectation and prompt fulfillment, and even now I’m ignoring the possibility that a used inflatable kayak bought from a stranger could pop after a couple floats.

You never know.  In fact, expectation often leads us astray.  Earlier this week I was having a ball playing darts at the nearby Horse Brass Tavern (hence, the dartboard purchase) but left my ID at the bar, having used it as collateral for the darts.  I returned the next morning to pick it up, and for some reason the same scenario rolled through my head: me explaining myself, the barkeep saying Oh yeah?  Well where did the dartsend up? and me stammering then becoming irate at having to pay some bullshit charge just to get my ID back and lying to him that I stepped out for a phone call or a smoke and I can’t account for my friends’ negligence and I can only apologize for my own.  Reality: I told him what’s up, he said Virginia? and I said Yep and he handed it to me and I left.

Jake and I talked about this tendency to psyche yourself into anticipating totally irrational, often confrontational behavior.  He asked me how many times a perceived bad situation actually ended up as bad as imagined – I couldn’t tell him, couldn’t come up with one example.  No wait, one – the Public Serpents show in 10th grade.  It’s too long to explain here, but anyone reading this who knows what I’m talking about, you know what I’m talking about.  Anyway, it seems like the axiom “nothing goes as planned” is fairly accurate, and when things do go loosely according to your expectations, it’s the slight quirks and false starts that prove most memorable.

Will I remember all the events and emotions of today?  Probably not.  Will I remember all the money I did or didn’t spend?  Probably not.  Will I remember the dilly bar?  I don’t know, maybe, but I learned that if you need a pick-me-up they are only $1.49, and they don’t disappoint.

And if you are reading this and looking to unload an inflatable kayak, please get in touch.



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *