The “free” page on Craigslist is a fascinating and confounding place. This section could also be aptly named “large and heavy.” Free concrete utility sink anyone? Just come and get it out of my basement! Don’t get me wrong, the majority of what is listed as “free” on Craigslist makes perfect sense. There are couches and mattresses and sand. There are pianos and wood chips and clean fill. I once listed a rose bush that I wanted removed from my front yard, but couldn’t justify just ripping it out and tossing it. Within a few hours I had someone excitedly coming to dig it up. Please, be my guest! Things like that make sense—not right for the thrift store, but perfectly good items someone could use. Then, there are those items listed that perplex:
“3 c vacuum bags: size c vacuum bags they are the wrong size for our vacuum if you could use them they're yours”
“Repti Calcium: Container of Reptile Calcium. Expires 03/15. Used one teaspoon.”
“Free Envelope Of Coupons (NW Milwaukee): I have a thick envelope of coupons.”
I don’t understand this. The few times I’ve sold things on Craigslist, it’s work: responding to people, trying to decide if they’re murderers, finding a time to meet/get murdered. The wad of cash at the end of the sale was almost not worth the effort. Surely if I had 3 unneeded size C vacuum bags I would just throw them in the Goodwill box in the basement. I would NOT list them for free on Craigslist. How could that possibly be worth the effort? There’s not even a wad of cash at the end. And it’s not like I’m giving away baby formula or diapers or something people really need. I’m no baby expert, but I’m pretty sure no infants will be saved with vacuum bags. This is perplexing stuff.
Then again, maybe someone wants those vacuum bags. Maybe it’s not so perplexing after all…
A fellow thrifter and colleague of mine occasionally peruses the “free” listings on Craigslist, and one day he appeared at my classroom door with a note that said “neckties” with a phone number scrawled beneath. My heart skipped a beat and my knees got a little weak with excitement.
I called the necktie-stranger to inquire: Can I have your necktie collection? This man had lots of questions for me and seemed suspicious of my motives. He gave me the impression that others had been hounding him all day for these free ties—was it possible that they had? I told him that I, in fact, recycle old neckties into purses and wallets and after a lot of explaining and reassuring he declared that I was the chosen one who would receive his beloved neckties. Great, I said. I asked if I could pick them up the following day. No, it had to be tonight or else he could just give them to another interested party. I waited for him to specify which dark alley I should go to. What if this necktie-stranger turned out to be a necktie-strangler??
That night I drove to a suburb with my pregnant friend for protection. The house looked normal enough. I rang the bell and an older woman appeared with a large box filled with neatly folded neckties—a lot of neckties. Her husband was not at home, she told me. Her kind but distracted small talk gave the impression that she did not want to chat nor did she want to kill me. Whew! I offered money and she declined. Minutes later I was skip-walking away with this huge box of over 70 cool, old ties:
I hope this necktie-stranger, whoever he is, knows that I love his ties too. Perhaps this was his goal, to find someone with a mutual-appreciation for them. And who among us wouldn’t want the things we truly love to go to a good home? Maybe knowing someone else loves your things as much as you do is all the payment a person needs.