Maybe Craigslist is better than the newspaper after all

by Brian Clarey

Look at you… yeah, you…the one reading this column. Holding a newspaper in your hands like… like some kind of monkey.

Flipping through the pages and smudging ink on your chin like a fat kid at the cupcake buffet. A newspaper. Of all things. Newspapers are dying, don’t you know. Dinosaurs. Going the way of Tang and Old Spice. Those of you reading this column on the internet know what I mean. It’s just that… nobody reads the damn things anymore. And why should they? Everything you could ever want to know is right there at your fingertips, updated in real time.

I mean, everybody’s got a computer, right? Or at least an iPhone. Yep, convicted felon

Ted Stevens’ series of tubes has plundered every chamber of the daily newspaper in a manner so methodical and thorough the old rascal himself probably appreciates it. Sports scores, stock quotes, real estate ads, obituaries, wedding announcements… even crossword puzzles play better on the internet. And the entire classified advertising business, once the sweetest plum of all, reserved solely for the newspaper industry, was swept away in a virtual instant by a man named Craig, who did it all for free. Or so they’ll tell you….

I could sit here and make fun of Craigslist all day, and to be honest, that was just what I intended to do. So I spent the good part of an afternoon sifting through posted pictures of male genitalia in the personal ads, looking for something even mildly amusing. I found exactly one: a 63-year-old man offering a trip to Cherokee and a three-night stay at Harrah’s. “I am looking for ladies with an open mind and preferrably [sic] younger than I am,” the ad reads. “I promise you a fun time. If you like facial you will love this.” And so on. But another funny thing happened as I made my way through Craigslist: It drew me in, this fascinating tableaux of the human condition. Almost every single ad — even the boner pics — has a poignant subtext to it, like the large lot of office supplies offered in the Free section: desks, cubicle walls and file cabinets. “You can give it away, donate it for a tax break, sell it, scrap it or whatever but I need it gone as soon as possible. YOU MUST TAKE ALL!” the ad reads, and the emphasis is theirs, not mine. “If you cannot come to my dock and move ALL from my trailer to yours and haul away in one trip then do not reply. Preference given to the one who can get here the soonest.” Whomever posted this ad wants that crap gone yesterday, and I imagine there have been a lot of heated discussions around that house about it. Then in the Rant and Rave section, among the various posts about things that suck, there is a long treatise by the mother of an autistic son who defends her decision to put her child in a T-shirt that draws attention to his condition as a way of explaining his sometimes… uncooperative behavior in public. “I feel like the shirt explains his behavior to people who look at him and wonder why he’s acting the way he is,” she writes. “He has another shirt that I bought him that says ‘I am more than Autism.’… “The absolute best shirt is the one I bought my three year old daughter that reads ‘Please pardon my brother’s behavior, he is Autistic. Unfortunately I have no excuse.’” This is human drama, people! Hell, this is better than a newspaper! There’s a couple in Archdale looking to swing. An older gentleman with a younger wife, new in town, having trouble making friends. And how about this one: “You: Tall, blondish hair, black Nike shox. Me: Goldish coat & fur rimmed hood, long black hair with bangs, light brown skin. We met eyes a few times in Ed Mckay’s Saturday evening around 7ish.” Unrequited love! Is there anything so piquant? No wonder Craigslist is killing newspapers. You just can’t get this from The New York Times!

And here’s a little taste of our times by a former teacher with four kids to feed: “I’m a retired military member with very little retirement income and this month I got screwed out of a considerable portion through the VA…. I’ve not been able to obtain a teaching position and have been working a very low paying job, working 7-days a week 10 hours per day and still unable to make ends meet. I got behind on my rent, was taken to court to pay past due amount, which I’ve done and still continue to pay now, going without heat, food, etc to satisfy my obligations, however, myself and my family are being faced with eviction within a week, even though I continue to pay.” It’s… it’s the stuff of life, is what it is. It’s real. It’s vital. I’m even starting to rethink the 63-year-old horndog looking for some young stuff to take to Cherokee. Poor old guy is probably a widow, probably been lonely a long time. He just wants to go to the mountains for a couple days, play some slots and get his ashes hauled. And he’s willing to pick up the tab for the room. What’s the harm in that? Forget newspapers; Craigslist is way better than anything you can get on television, in a movie, from a book or on the radio. Craigslist is probably the only form of entertainment I’ll be using from now on. The only substitute is actually going out and talking to people, listening to what they have to say, interpreting their stories so you can understand, relate and communicate them. Which, by the way, is what newspapers do every day.