Friday, October 7, 2011


I am grateful that my wife did not go to the office last Thursday. Else I would have come home to a house of ash. She decided to stay home at the last minute. I had turned on the dryer at 7:00 a.m. before I took the kids to school and made it to the office. At the tail-end of a meeting at 10:30 a.m., I received a frantic phone call from my wife, telling me that the dryer was on fire. 

I hung up, called 911, and sped to the house, speed-dialing her over and over again. No answer, but I figured it to be a good sign when I came within the vicinity of my house but saw no smoke hovering over it. Speeding into the cul de sac, the fire engine, firemen, and neighbors made an awkward arc around my house. And there was my wife, peeved and holding my littlest. That was all I cared about.

After giving them a big hug, I turned my attention to the firemen who were tossing heaps of clothes, half soaked, half ash, onto the lawn and wrestling the burnt dryer out of the laundry room. Main evidence of my wife's having bravely fought the fire was the pool of water all over the laundry and kitchen floor. 

When she noticed the fire, she had unplugged the dryer, doused it with container after container of water from the kitchen sink (which she found frustrating because I had recently installed a water-saving contraption that restricts water-flow from the sink). Then she called me. 

The damage could have been worse. Besides the house smelling like a campfire, the dryer was gone, the laundry floor ruined, and over thirty articles of clothing incinerated. So far, the home owner's insurance has been amiable.

So Sharilyn and I have talked about the "what ifs." What if she had gone to work or taken a nap or any number of scenarios. That got old after thirty minutes or so, relief trumping all of those negative calculations. 

The one thing, however, that has stuck with us is the reality that we are not immune to freak accidents or reasonable accidents for that matter. While an odd situation like a dryer fire initially makes you extra-vulnerable and jumpy (you see the potential for dryer fires everywhere), for us there was the shedding of that suburban smugness that attracted us to this house in the first place.

When you feel too safe, you don't think like a normal human should. You can't. You don't take reasonable caution. You don't take note of the little, errant judgments you make. You don't "double-check" yourself. And a little bit of the "you" you want to become dies. Maybe you want to lose weight, or learn a skill, or be a better dad. But you are prevented from doing that because you have no ability to tap into those natural reserves that allow you that. You have been disarmed of your unregulated skill-sets by the comfort police. They are lying dormant within you.

The comfort police tell you that if your yard is artificially green or greener than your neighbors, well, you are that much more immune than they are to the things that happen to people who don't care as much. When you are immune, you do stupid things like, I don't know, not locking your doors at night when you go to bed, leaving your purse on the front seat of your car when you dart into the gas station, paying your taxes only when the letters from the IRS get aggressive.

When we are comfortable like that, we are willing too shell out money for gym memberships whose services we don't use, magazines and newspapers we don't read, food we don't eat, and toys our children don't play with. Of course not. These items serve one purpose only: they are parts of that comfortable environment we create that act as a buffer between us and that real world to which we have grown unaccustomed and are afraid to encounter. We don't want stirred up within us the need for those unregulated, atrophied skills that initially got us to this level of comfort in the first place.

So what comfortable things have I given up? Well, defunct electric and electronic equipment is the first thing that comes to mind (after all, I don't want another fire).The day of the fire, I tossed a vacuum cleaner whose cord had frayed in two places and I also tossed a toy upon which my littlest daughter had injured herself. Yes, we felt leaner and meaner  again. And it feels good.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


So I had this China cabinet for sale on Craig's List this past spring. I get a phone call from a lady in my town who wants to buy it. But she wants if for half price.

Me, "Sorry, I can't do that."

Her, "But my husband just left me."

Me, "Mmm. I'm sorry."

Her, "He took every last thing I had. Including my China cabinet. It was handed down to me by my mother. Your's looks just like it." Oh, crap.

Me, "Mmm, I'm sorry. I can't let it got for half."

Her, "It reminds me of my mother."

Me, "Mmm, I'll take off a quarter of the price?"

Her, "He took all of my money."

Me, "Well, my China cabinet is special to me, too. Sorry."

Those of you who frequently sell items on Craig's List know what I mean about these kinds of conversations. I don't like having to ferret out who is really down on their luck, who is really a victim, or who is really too incompetent to execute a minor business transaction. I'm on Craig's List to make money. Not to make friends. Not to counsel. Not to be a "blessing."

But you can't avoid these kinds of conversations if you allow others to contact you through email or phone (even though you ask people to text). I've collected an assortment of strange, "textual" conversations from Craig's List Creepers. 

Craig's List Creepers are people who shop on Craig's List under the guise of buying but end up conversing without a sale. I have recorded a few below (Keep in mind that I live in Tennessee. All mispellings and grammatical flaws are "as is" in the texts I received):

Craig's List Creeper, "Trade?"

Me, "Trade what items?"

Craig's List Creeper,"What d0 you have texted several ads"

Craig's List Creeper, "Is it a 360"

Me, "What?"

(That was fruitless. Here is another):

Craig's List Creeper, "Will u give me the dimensions please?"

Me, "Of?"

Craig's List Creeper, "Dimension of the end pieces."

Me, "I have a credenza and armoire for sale, but I don't believe I have any end pieces."

Craig's List Creeper, "I thought u had an entertainment ceter"

Me, "Ok, That's the armoire you are talking about. Indonesian wood?"

Craig's List Creeper, "I have lost my mind it is the credenza that I want the measurements on"

Me, "Ok.Well, it is about 5 feet long and almost two feet wide."

Craig's List Creeper, "Sorry 2 wide thanks"

(Understandable. Here is another):

Craig's List Creeper, "Does the ak47 airsoft come with a battery? And how many FPS does it shoot? I am seriously interested LUCKIESS GUY EVER"

Me, "Yes, it does come with a battery. I am not sure the FPS, but I am certain it is well over 300."

Craig's List Creeper, "Does the airsoft ak work good and is it full metal (except the wooden part of course) $nake in the Gra$$"

Me, "Yes."

Craig's List Creeper, "And how much do you want for just tha ak+ accessories and clips? i dont want the flags or the mini guns $nake in the Gra$$"

Me, "$150."

Craig's List Creeper, "Good. my sons bday is may 28 and he wants a new ak. let me think about it. i will get back in touch $nake in the Gra$$"

(I don't know if he changed personas throughout the conversation, but I am certain I was speaking with the same person. Who wanted a customized, Ak-47 with an actual wooden Ak gun stock. For his son.): 

Craigs List Creeper, "I am very interested in your credenza if you still have it. Thanks"
Me, "Yes."
Craigs List Creeper, "I am in a meeting right now. I will call asap. Thanks"

Craig's List Creeper, "Do you know how long it is? Is it cherry finish? I am going to send you a picture of my desk and see if you think it matches. I live 2 hrs away, but I will take it if it matches."

Me, "Yes, it is a cherry. It looks like a match."
Craig's List Creeper, "Great. Would Wednesday afternoon work for me to come and pick it up? What would be a good time? I can put an address in my GPS."

Craig's List Creeper, "Did u get my message about tomorrow?"

Me, "Yes. That will work. The address is (my address). Let's make it for 3:30."

Craig's List Creeper, "Can u measure how long it is? I am hoping to be able to drive my car and not my husbands truck."

Me, "72x20x30 (inches). I am not certain it will fit in a car. You might want to bring the truck."

Craig's List Creeper, "Thanks!"
Me, "You are welcome. Feel free to pick up tomorrow or Friday."

Craig's List Creeper, "Sorry I haven't got back with u sooner. We r still without power and my phone has been dead. I have had family members injured and some with homes destroyed. I would love to have the credenza, just not sure how soon I can get there. If u need to sell it, I understand. Thanks."

(We had a series of tornadoes throughout the span of this conversation, and Alabama was hit badly. She still seemed interested in the credenza, and I had the sneaking suspicion she might still be wanting it. For free. Here's another one on the Ak-47):

Craig's List Creeper, "Do you still have your air soft guns
Me, "I have my AK."

Craig's List Creeper, "How much Jake"
Me, "$150 for AK, scope, and six or so clips."
Craig's List Creeper, "Can you send pic Jake"
Me, "Battery too."

Craig's List Creeper, "How much you want Jake"
Me, "$150 for AK, scope, and six or so clips."
Craig's List Creeper, "How much you want Jake"
Me, "$150 for AK, scope, and six or so clips."

Craig's List Creeper, "Where do you like at Jake"
Me, "Are you interested in buying it?"
Craig's List Creeper, "Cash or trade Jake"

Me, "Cash."
Craig's List Creeper, "Where do you live Jake"
Craig's List Creeper, "I want it Jake"
Me, "Can you come get it on Saturday morning?"
Craig's List Creeper, "Where em you live Jake"

Me, "I'm with the Marines in Parris Island until late tomorrow night. I will give you my house number when I get back."
Me, "Still interested in the AK47."

Craig's List Creeper, "Yes where do you live at
Me, "I live in Franklin. Let me know a time when you are ready to see it and I will give you my address."

Craig's List Creeper, "Could you meet me Jake"
Craig's List Creeper, "Could you meet me somewhere.
An work just text Jake"

Me, "I can meet you today if you can't drop by. Just let me know where."

Craig's List Creeper, "Huh Jake"
Me, "To see the AK 47. If you can meet today I will send you my address if that works better. Just let me know."
Craig's List Creeper, "Can we meet Jake"
Me, "Sure. You let me know when."

(Jake must have had mental problems. I don't know why he had a phone).

Through texts like these, I soon lost my long-sufferingedness and resorted to "Yes", "No", or a simple "Item has been sold" to avoid superfluous details of unnecessary, short-lived relationships with people whose motives I could only scrutinize by spelling and grammar. My inbox is full of the ambiguous intentions of people who say they want to buy but who end up having short conversations with me like we dated before. 

Every once in a while, however, it is not necessary to scrutinize the meaning of a text.

Yeah, pervert.

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