Most people who go to Craigslist are not in search of literary stimulation. Other kinds of stimulation, for sure, but the average Craigslist ad reads like an indictment of the American educational system. Spelling errors, grammatical gaffes, use of the word “prolly”—Craigslist is a foul sewer of linguistic offal, where full sentences go to score some krokodil and hit rock bottom. If people write the way they talk, then Craigslist says we talk reel dum.
However, there is a genre of Craigslist ad that strives for something higher, something beyond mere lucid communication. There are, believe it or not, Craigslist ads that are fun to read. They’re compiled in a section called “Best of Craigslist.” So when I needed to sell a set of wheels from my Bronco, I decided to aim high with my listing. I wouldn’t just sell my wheels. I’d join the Best of Craigslist.
After way too much effort, my chef d’oeuvre was ready to post. I’d done research on the SR-71 Blackbird program, the Buddhist concept of renunciation, the International Olympic Committee, calf implants, the Rolling Stones’ 1989 album Steel Wheels and the trigonometry of circles. I double-checked that the southern terminus of the Red Line is either Ashmont or Braintree, which was relevant to a digression about G-suits and space planes. I made sure that I spelled Thomas Kinkade’s name correctly. There would be no Craigslist sloppiness here.
I imagined I’d write a tight paragraph and call it a day, but the end product spanned more than 700 words and included four photos—three of the wheels and one of Kim Jong Un on a roller coaster, a reference to a section involving metallurgy and tensions in the South China Sea. Sample sentence: “Forged in the belching foundries of darkest Pittsburgh, these wheels were hammered into form by taciturn, sooty-faced craftsmen whose gnarled hands reshaped ore first hewn from the rugged fjords of Scandinavia by murderous Vikings.” I prolly went a little overboard.
I posted the listing—four wheels for $80, which is a pretty solid deal if you ask me—and then put the link on Facebook and Twitter. Soon the listing was picked up by several websites, including Yahoo Autos. I know from experience that if Yahoo commenters got the first look at the Mona Lisa, they’d say, “Did a blind guy paint this ugly dude?” and “I want my 10 seconds back.” The first comment on my wheels, however, reads, “Slight grin.” Slight grin! By the standards of Yahoo comments, that’s like a restaurant getting three Michelin stars or Simon Cowell handing a record deal to a karaoke singer. One Twitter user opined, “Greatest Craigslist ad of all time? Perhaps.”
The rest of my day was consumed with responding to feedback on the wheels. Via Twitter, I was asked, “Would you consider an even trade for a pair of ‘mom’ jeans said to be worn by Susan Sarandon in Lorenzo’s Oil?” Well, of course. On Facebook, a friend of mine asserted, “I think you overshot your audience. Just a bit, yes.” Of course there were facetious offers involving Western Union money transfers and international shipping. What I did not get, at all, were any actual offers to buy the wheels.
Thus I was overjoyed to find a message in my inbox that responded to the actual ad. When I opened it, though, it read, “That is one of the most badass Craigslist postings ever! Well done. If I lived closer, I’d be a buyer! The Wu Tang reference killed me.” I was beginning to wonder if anybody believed I actually had anything to sell, or if the wheels were merely my Craigslist muse, my excuse to write things like, “You don’t mount tires on these wheels. These wheels mount your tires.”
Finally, I got a message with a phone number from a real person interested in the wheels. We texted back and forth, and it turned out they wouldn’t fit his truck. That, it transpired, would be the only authentic inquiry I’d receive, because that night Craigslist deleted my ad. I’m guessing the problem was the Kim Jong Un photo, which I pulled from Google Images and might’ve been copyrighted. I don’t know how you get non-copyrighted photos from North Korea, unless you’re friends with Dennis Rodman.
So the bottom line is, I still have the wheels. A friend of mine helped edit the ad to conform to Craigslist expectations, so the next time I post, it’ll read, “wheels, black will fit ford trucks or maybe somthing els??????? Call or txt $80 no scammers.”
Perhaps my Best of Craigslist ambitions didn’t get rid of my wheels, but my moment of Internet fame did teach me that you can’t sell Breaking Bad to a Duck Dynasty world. The medium is the message, and the message is dum.