Monday, September 6, 2010

On Want Ads and Wanting

Thanks to my friend, M, my interest in want ads has been reinvigorated. This past summer we were talking at a graduation party under a big maple tree. Nothing major—just catching up on his camping trip to the Adirondacks, my visits home to help my father in Minnesota, and somehow the subject of want ads came up. I like M. He takes an unconventional approach to most everything: dumpster dives to find treasures, works at a wine bar, bikes across the country, understands the need for and appeal of “secondhand.” He is smart and sensitive with warm brown eyes. It takes time, we agreed, a special kind of person—a little old-fashioned optimism and even nostalgia—to place a want ad. We both admitted to reading the want ads voraciously.

After we spoke, I began ripping particularly interesting want ads out of the paper—teeny tiny rectangles of fine print. I taped them onto index cards.

Sometimes they are strangely sad and depressing:

Sometimes they are fueled by anger and injustice:

Seriously! Society has gotten to the point where people

are stealing garden decorations? I had bought a house
had no curb appeal whatsoever and spent my
money and
sweat building a nice garden. My
grandmother gave me
her ducks she has had
since the 80’s and my mother
bought me a house
present, a cute little dragon. I
watered my
flowers one day to discover them gone!
I couldn’t
believe someone would steal my ducks and
I hope they bring you AWFUL LUCK!

Sometimes, a strange sell:

TRY OUR NO SNEEZE Black Pepper! Freshly milled
daily. 10% off with this ad. Stuart’s Spices, 2322 Lyell

Ave., Rochester. 585-436-9329.

Or, the promise of fame and glory:


Experience not required. Earn up to $200/day. 1-877-

Even though we were having people over for dinner, I simply had to call the movie extras number this past weekend. I was put on hold for a long time, but was able to get my German potato salad ready while I held the phone up to my ear. Xylophone music played, twangy and slow. It sounded vaguely like porn music. A recorded voice said, “Hello and welcome to Casting Services. We help lots of people every day. We can do the same for you.”

While I waited, I fried half a pound of bacon and saved the drippings. My potatoes boiled and cooled. Finally, when "Victor" answered my call, I panicked.

Me: Can you tell me more information about the job?
Victor: Are you eighteen years or older?

Me: Yes.

Victor: Can I have your zip code?

Me: (nervous) Yes. 14420.

Victor: What days are you available?

Me: (panicked) It varies.

Victor: (reading from a script) In order to make scenes look more
movie directors hire extras to stand in the background.
Me: Okay.

Victor: TV and motion picture companies are looking for acting,
Me: What kind of companies are these? (PORN! I thought.)
Victor: Companies such as MTV, Discovery, NBC, CBS...

Me: (to myself) Yeah, right.

Victor went on to tell me that for just $1.98, I could place my portfolio on their website and would be contacted by a casting company within 90 days. “Just any photo snapshot of yourself is fine,” he said. He had a very strong Indian accent, and I began to wonder if this phone service was based in India. When I asked if there were any other fees, he said that they keep no secrets from their clients and for just $34.90 a month, I could become a member. I asked for their website and he gave it to me: But my Internet went down. Thank god.

Later, I began to wonder what Craigslist might dredge up. Something about want ads online took away the mystique, but still. I had once put an ad on Craigslist for someone to sew kitchen curtains for me after my mom died (she could sew anything). I finally settled on someone I'll call "Mary." My first warning sign should've been that her daughter contacted me, not her. "Yeah, my mom can do your curtains," the girl said. She was maybe 20 and sounded like a smoker and a hardass. There was a lot of yelling in the background, but I thought: I love the idea of someone's mom sewing my curtains! I hired Mary, and she began to stalk me just a little. She also charged by the hour, my second big mistake.

One night I saw her at the local bar, Barber's. Her husband, a renowned (incompetent) lawyer, was ignoring her as he played darts with his friends. As soon as she saw me, she instantly scooted over and put her hand on my shoulder. "I still have the valances for your kitchen," she said. "I'll need to bring them over and double-check the measurements." This was a lie. She'd been lording the final valances over me until I'd allow her into my house again. She was lonely and sad. She was probably 50 years old and kept telling me she'd just run some moose border around her family room and that I should come and see it. Repeatedly, she'd stop by and sometimes I'd have to lock the doors and hide. Finally, I pulled the plug. I told her I didn't want the final valances. I sent her a check in the mail. Sometimes, though, I still see her at Barber's, and from her bar stool she'll wave at me and smile.

Craigslist is complicated, though. There are so many categories it's hard to know which one is suitable. One ad from the “general for sale” section caught my eye:

Female Rat for SALE (CHEAP) - $5 (Mount Morris NY)

Hi, I was holding a rat for a friend but she can no longer
her and so I am
offering to sell her cheap to a good home.
Her full name is Koko Chanelle
but usually it’s just Koko. Also, the big
reason I don’t want her
is that she seems to love biting ME. NOT
everyone JUST
me. She’s very beautiful and likes an occasional treat of

Cheesies (small pieces) and maybe a chocolate chip.
She LOVES cheerios.
I am willing to give whoever comes
and gets her a bag (like from walmart)
of her bedding so
she feels comfy until she transitions to her new bedding,

and (if I have extra) some of my homemade rat food.
I need her gone
before i get my other female for my
project for school!

I try not to, but I keep thinking of this girl with the rat. Did she get rid of it? I wonder. And what project at school requires a student to produce her own live rat?
And what is her recipe for homemade rat food?

Under craigslist "Lost+Found":

Re chewy
Chewy was missing for a week and we
couldn't find her, sad to say she was found in the
canal and someone was nice to take her tags we live in
albion but she was found past brockport

There are a lot of misspellings and grammatical errors on craigslist, which I try not to worry about. But what really nagged me about this ad was: to what end? What did it hope to accomplish or suggest or ask? Was it simply informing the general public that their dog had been found dead? Or was it an indirect thank you to the person who took the dog's tags and presumably returned them to Chewy's owner?

Finally, under "Rants+Raves":

What would Jesus do...?

for a Klondike bar?

Who would go out of their way to post something like this?
Who would go out of their way to read it?