Friday, May 31, 2013

Craig's List for Dummies

"Ummm, nevermind. We don't want it!" my roomie firmly said into the phone as I circled the parking lot. I had handed her the phone since her voice sounds older than mine. I already knew I was buying something from a male via the way he wrote his text messages. Jessie and I both had our knives ready- though how and when we thought we were going to use them remains a mystery...

I had heard of Craig's List for years. I had actually roomed with a woman my friend found on Craig's List and it had not been bliss. It could have been worse, but it definitely made me shudder whenever someone mentioned how amazing Craig's List was.

We had just moved into our new apartment and I was hunting for a larger aquarium and stand- something larger than my 20 gallon and unstable tiny stand. After price-checking the local pet-stores I was ready to search for a used item- and hopefully avoid shipping charges. It would never have occurred to me to try Craig's List, save for the fact that two friends posted (at the same time one day) on Facebook about their amazing deals they'd just gotten.

"I wonder if they sell fish tanks on there?" I thought. Surely, if people buy couches and find roommates, a fish tank or two will appear. And I was right! I finally found a picture of a gorgeous tank and since the person wanted the main form of communication to be via texting- I bit my lip and sent a question: 'Does the fish tank come with all the decorations as well?'

And so began a short conversation that ended with my saying I'd be picking it up in less than a week. The seller had even sent me a few more pictures of the tank and the decorations- which helped me to know it wasn't a picture they'd found somewhere, but something they actually owned. Elated, I got my roomie, Jessie, to agree to pick it up with me on a Thursday. (The seller said he was off on Thursday and I happened to be taking that day off as well to spend time with my new roomie before she began her first job the next week.)

The day of, found Jessie and I driving across the city to pay for and collect my tank. It wasn't until we reached the Walmart parking lot (I had mentioned that I didn't want to pick it up at his house) that I began to get nervous. This was a part of town that I did not know. Right before we turned into the lot, my phone rang with the name 'Fish Guy'. Jessie answered it for me since her voice doesn't sound like a little kid's *ahem* and told the guy we were at Walmart already. He told her he was on his way and she hung up. I began to ask questions: 'Was it a guy? I knew it! How old did he sound?' I may have even asked if he sounded dangerous...

Jessie and I both carry knives, but as mine is larger I had her take it and put it within easy grabbing distance should anything go wrong. Feeling a little better knowing the knife was ready, we parked near the garden center and began to look for a red Toyota- though what kind of Toyota I wasn't sure. Then my phone rang again- Jessie answered for me. He told her that they had just found a lost dog and he and his mom were waiting for the ASPCA to come pick it up. Could we just come to their place?* Warning bells were going off in my head and Jessie and I looked at each other for a split second before I said- 'Tell him never mind!' And turning on the car I headed for the highway. Jessie told him we were going to leave and he quickly said- that he would be there in 10 minutes or less...

I reeeaaallllllyyy wanted that tank, so I parked again after making sure Jessie was still up for waiting. As if we weren't already nervous, now Jessie and I sat in my car flinching whenever a red car came within sight and trying to act calm for each other. All kinds of thoughts were running through my mind: Do I want this fish tank that badly? What if something happens to Jessie- how could I ever forgive myself for putting her in this situation? I will stab the man if I have to.

Finally a beat-up old red Toyota truck pulled next to us. Unable to see the driver I asked Jessie if she had the knife ready before opening my door. Rounding the back of his truck I found a petite, young Hispanic boy. Already feeling much better knowing I could throw him if necessary, I gave a polite smile and we introduced ourselves. He was very pleasant, polite and respectful and began to show me the stuff I was about to buy. He realized at the last minute that he'd forgotten the plants, and I knew the mistake was genuine. He asked if I'd be willing to follow him to a bank near his place and this time we had no problem with that.

We waited while he ran and got them and came back with a girl (Jessie and I couldn't figure out if she was his girlfriend or sister). Turned out he had 6 fish tanks and was downsizing a little bit to get more money for college. We made our transaction with smiles and wasn't so bad. A security guard at the bank came outside and stared us down while we made the transaction which made me feel half-safe and half-criminal.. Anyway, minus the previous 20 minutes of panic and 10 minutes of dread, Craig's List turned out to be a good idea for me this time. But it's still not something I want to use often... :)

Here's a few suggestions for you if you're going to shop on Craig's List:

1) A picture is worth a thousand words and 2-3 are even better. Ask for more pictures if there's only one on CL.
2) Try to pick a public area for CL transactions. A busy parking lot, a bank with a curious security guard...etc.
3) Take a ninja someone trustworthy with you if you must pick an item up from a home or apartment.
4) Be aware of your surroundings- look at a map before you go, unless you know the area well.
5) Be polite- even if they end up being rude, at least you've got no regrets.
6) It is ok to leave without buying the item, especially if it is not what you were expecting. One friend drove 40 minutes to pick up an item, hated it, but bought it anyway and found someone to give it to- don't feel obligated to do that. The person selling it will find another buyer.
7) While a knife isn't necessary, consider mace or a taser...just in case.
8) Enjoy the hunt- there are all kinds of steals and deals on CL!

*Saying that I found a lost pet or am looking for a lost pet are ranked right up there with offering candy to little kids. It may be true, but usually it's not. This is why we don't talk to strangers. This is why Craig's List can be very dangerous- because everyone is a stranger. Always have a buddy and a plan! (And maybe a knife...)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mother's Day- Don't Forget!

I recently moved into a beautiful apartment with a college friend of mine. She and I have been unpacking and getting to know the area a little bit. A week ago we stopped by the library and got cards (they almost gave me the child's card) and then later in the week we found a good Asian place for takeout (priorities, people). 

I've learned how to deal with the school traffic and it's remarkable the difference 5 minutes makes. Also, Mondays are the worst.

I've also realized the importance of my Mom. Like a typical mother-daughter relationship, she and I didn't always communicate well. I have realized that I love her and respect her and that she's been a great role model in my life. I have no grandmothers anymore and none of my aunts have ever lived close enough to have deep relationships with me (though I love them dearly). That leaves my Mom as one of the sole role models in my life. True, there are some great women at church and from my college days that have helped to influence some of my choices and approaches to certain issues, but in the end I mostly reflect my Mom.

Did you know that Mother's Day is coming up? It is: May 12! While running errands yesterday I noticed a beautiful pink zinnia plant- huge and covered with blooms. Observing the price I decided: why not? After all- I love to give gifts and Mother's Day is soon! This of course inspired me to pick out a few other items I knew my Mom would like and use a basket to present them in. I'm delivering it early in the morning tomorrow on my way to work and am pretty excited to be catching her off guard with a VERY early Mother's Day gift. :) Unless she's staying up late after saying goodnight and reading this, surprise Mom!

But I wanted to remind you, dear reader: remember your Moms! I had two different instances yesterday and today that made me want to weep and actually did make one of the ladies cry.

Mother 1) She works as a cashier at Walmart. An older lady. I don't know her history. When she checked out the plant I was buying she exclaimed over it's beauty and I couldn't help giving her a big smile and saying: "It's for my Mom! Mother's Day is coming soon!"

She looked suddenly wistful and said: "I wish my daughter would remember me..."
I was unsure where this conversation might lead, so I offered: "It's only easy because she lives in town." 
"My daughter lives on my property," she said, "but she's married this guy who doesn't believe in family ties." She went on for a few moments while I empathized and said it was "horrible" and that I was sure her daughter still loved her.
Inspired, I reached into my cart and picked one of the blooms off the zinnia plant and handed it to her.
"Oh no! Don't! You'll ruin your mother's plant!"

I was quick to reassure her and say with a smile, "She won't mind- and I can't stick it back on. Please take it!" And she began to cry. She bit her lip and sucked in a sob while trying to finish checking me out. Y'all- I was ready to go and smack some sense into her son-in-law and daughter. If they only knew how much that woman was hurting!! I talked her into taking the flower and left her with a small smile on her face and mutual God bless you's! I wish I'd gone around the cashier stand and given her a hug- I regret that.

Mother 2) Not as depressing. Just a random conversation with a lady and Mother's Day came up. She was very wistful and sad- hoping that she'll be remembered by her 3 kids.

SO- You have 10 days until Mother's Day. Have you got something planned? A card? A flower? A hug? Chocolates? A book or magazine? Dinner? 

Do something for your Mom!