Few people can argue with the victorious feeling of finding the exact item on Craigslist for which one was searching.
In my case it was a black bookshelf, six feet tall, with five adjustable shelves. Bingo.
Oh and the irresistable price tag of $20. Double bingo.
That is more or less the end of the fun of Craigslist: you find the item. You email the owner. You wait in anticipation for them to say they haven’t already sold it.
Then the work begins.
Where do you live? Where should we meet? How am I going to cart a six-foot-tall bookshelf back to my house?
The seller of this bookcase gave me her address and said to arrive around 6:30PM. I had plans at 7PM on the other side of town, but as any Craigslist crawler knows, if you snooze, you lose. I confirmed that I’d be there at 6:30PM.
“Oh and just a FYI,” she noted, “I don’t actually live there anymore. I have renters in this house. They said they’ll put my bookshelf in the backyard and you can just pick it up.”
“Oh, and one more thing,” she said. “Can you pay me via PayPal? Like right after you pick it up? Since I won’t be there?”
Clearly this is an exercise in trust. We both know I could pick it up and disappear without paying her. I know I wouldn’t do that, but she doesn’t know I wouldn’t do that. Craigslist transactions are full of this kind of blind faith.
It occurs to me shortly after making these arrangements that a six-foot tall bookshelf may not fit in our SUV. I loathe the idea of borrowing someone’s truck, or worse, going there in our SUV only to find it won’t fit and we have to return with someone’s truck.
Mike suggests we buy some twine so we can tie down the hatch if the shelf won’t fit inside, so I stop by Home Depot on my way home from work. Who knew there were 15 different kinds of twine? I am not a twine expert, but suddenly I am comparing rope widths, impact resistance, and cotton versus poly. A phone call to Mike in the middle of the twine aisle solves my problem, and I leave with something called Heavy Duty Jute.
Four hours later, after work, Mike and I hop in the car headed for Leschi.
Everybody in Seattle knows the tricky thing about the affluent Leschi area — it classifies as Leschi immediately after you cross over Martin Luther King Jr Way. Before crossing over, however, the neighborhood is notoriously sketchy, a combination of First Hill, the International District, Denny Blaine and Garfield High. So when someone says they live in Leschi, you’re never sure if they have a two million dollar home or bars on their crack-house windows.
Guess which side of the tracks my bookcase was on?
Technically, it was one block east of MLK Jr Way, which put it in wealthy Leschi. That doesn’t stop Mike from second-guessing the legitimacy of the deal I’ve arranged.
“This is the house? The orange one with the porch falling off the front?” he asks me, incredulous.
“Yes, that’s the address,” I reply.
“Seriously?” he answers. “This whole situation looks like an invitation to get robbed. Didn’t you say she doesn’t live here and she wants us to pick something up in the backyard behind a fence? Seriously?”
After a bit of back and forth, Mike decides to go look in the backyard and see if there is actually a bookshelf to be had.
He comes back to the car with the biggest I-told-you-so face he’s ever sported. I immediately call the owner.
“Oh, it’s not?” she asks. “Did you check on the deck? I bet she put it on the deck. Call me back if it’s not there.”
“Did you look on the deck?” I ask Mike. He stares at me with a less-than-enthusiastic expression.
I put his wallet and cellphone in my purse so there is nothing of value in the car (oh wait, I see his brand new golf clubs in the back…best not to mention). We both approach the fence and push the door to the side to reveal piles upon piles of garbage. There are boxes everywhere, sacks of trash, an old couch, several discarded chairs…but no bookshelf.
After wading through the garbage, we get to the backyard and look up at the deck; it’s on the third floor.
“You have to be KIDDING me,” Mike says as he stares up the three flights of rickety wooden stairs.
We walk to the top of the deck where, both a blessing and a curse, we find the bookshelf. It’s in fine condition and it’s exactly what I wanted, so as if I had found a mangy dog that needed a home, I daintily ask, “Can we keep it?”
Mike rolls his eyes and tells me to grab one side of the shelf. We hoist it up and begin the arduous climb down three flights of stairs — beginning with Mike almost falling through the first one because it was rotted.
We huff and puff our way to the car and I have to laugh at what I am willing to put us through for a $20 bookcase. I have no doubt that my husband is silently cursing my thrifty ways.
The miracle of the situation is that it fits in the back of our SUV without any need for my Heavy Duty Jute twine. Nevermind that we have to move my seat so far forward that if we have a collision the air bag will kill me. I don’t care; I have my $20 bookcase.
I read plenty of design and Do-it-Yourself blogs where the authors tout their garage-sale/thrift store/Craigslist victories as though the money saved came without a real cost. Nobody ever mentions the backyard transactions or three flights of stairs.
Nobody until now, that is.