My Hopeless Love Affair With Craigslist

by Joshua Michtom

In my younger days, I was cursed with an undying and irrational optimism in matters of the heart. Although I was neither very attractive nor particularly charming, I managed to cling perennially to a wisp of hope that some clearly unattainable object of my affection might, against all odds, choose me. The trouble was, my unrealistic hopes were realized, not frequently, but frequently enough to keep me optimistic in the face of repeated failures. This was sporadically wonderful and mostly sad. My experience with Craigslist has been the same, although, happily, the effect on me has not been nearly as depressing.

Generally, for the things I most covet and hope to get cheaply, Craigslist is unavailing and labor-intensive: I have pored over hundreds of listings in search of a ride to Philadelphia when everyone, inexplicably, was driving to Montreal. When I desperately needed a serviceable four-door car, I could find nothing but awful, rust-eaten, homemade-spoiler-bedecked coupes. In short, the ‘list is often better for idle browsing than for targeted searches. (I love idly browsing Craigslist.)

But! Craigslist has its treasures, and every now and then, when I want something so odd and generally expensive that I know with near certainty that I won’t find it within my price range — that it doesn’t even exist nearby — it appears. For example:

Five years ago, I really wanted a cargo bicycle for grocery shopping and to carry my two small children. Cargo bicycles are usually expensive — like $1,000 expensive — so I surfed Craigslist idly, contemplating how far from Connecticut I would be willing to drive for a great deal (“Ohio’s not that far!”). And then, one of these appeared in the marvelously named town of Moosup, Connecticut, for $150 — that is, over $1,000 less than retail:

In addition to kids and groceries, it was good for giving rides to members of Hartford’s city council after a few beers.

Yesterday, after a long Craigslist drought, lightning struck again. You see, I am in a marching brass band, and marching brass bands are a lot better when they have at least one sousaphone. The problem with sousaphones (aside from being enormous and totally absurd) is that they cost a fortune. You pretty much can’t get a decent used one for less than $1,000, and good new ones cost as much as a car (although they keep their value a lot better). So my bandmates and I pursued leads here and there in the hopes of acquiring a loaner, scanned Craigslist and Ebay from time to time, and in the mean time contented ourselves with trombones and euphoniums. And then yesterday, for the inexplicably low price of $300, I became the proud owner of the enormous brass instrument shown at the top of this post, which I can sort of play.

And in this way, Craigslist will continue to string me along and keep me scrolling with irrational hope for another handful of years. And you, dear readers? What strangely cheap wonders have kept you in Craigslist’s thrall?