Do you ever order something on Craigslist and then worry that the person you're buying it from might be a serial killer?
But I'm getting ahead of myself. As I recently wrote about, my Older Son is obsessed with the Nintendo Entertainment System (circa 1985). He'd been saving up all his money to buy one and it was time to order it.
You would be right if you guessed that this would be a hard-to-find item. You know, it being 2012 and all. So after shopping online and comparing prices, I found one reviewer who recommended buying from Craigslist.
Genius! We could get lucky, and we might not have to order each piece separately and pay all that shipping, and it just felt like it might be a more trustworthy source. "Mint condition" online can mean anything, but it's harder to embellish if the person has to look you in the eye and hand it over.
So I checked and sure enough - a "good condition" NES with TEN GAMES and a controller for only $60, and just a few exits down the highway. Sold. I emailed the person and they quickly responded.
It was somebody named Jimmy, and he said I could have it but someone else was supposed to buy it at the end of the week. I said I didn't want to take it from someone else, but he said the person was aware that might happen.
I don't know if this is standard practice on Craigslist but Jimmy seemed so matter-of-fact about it, I just went with it. My husband Dave said, "That's on Jimmy, not you." Plus it was too good to be true and my son saved all his money and he wants it dammit!!
I emailed back that we'd take it and we started the endless stream of when-can-I-meet-you-and-where emails. Jimmy couldn't see me on Wednesday because it was supposed to be raining.
Now Dave was getting a little concerned. First the guy goes back on a deal and now the rain is a problem? Why couldn't he let Dave pick it up on his way home from work? Well you can't go on Wednesday Dave, and neither can Jimmy, because it might be raining.
Then Jimmy suggested we meet in a public place. Yes, that sounds great! I'd rather do that than end up at the backyard where you bury the bones. Just the thought of going to some stranger's house who I'd met online made me wish I'd gotten the fancy cell phone with the GPS.
Jimmy gives me the address: 666 Bliss Ave.
666?! I yelled to Dave, "He wants me to meet him at 666!!! What do I do?" At this point Dave was just laughing at me and said, "If it's a public place, you'll be fine."
We agreed, I would meet Jimmy Wednesday at 6:00 at 666 Bliss Ave. His last email asked for my phone number "to make things easier." I ignored it.
Wednesday evening came and I was running late. I didn't want to miss the meeting because not only would I be letting my son down, but it felt like if this deal didn't happen I'd never get another one this good. I ran out the door without even grabbing a coat.
I found the address easily and was, of course, twenty minutes early. I started scanning the people in the area and the parked cars. Which one was Jimmy? There's a guy in a van with a cage who looks like he's waiting for his case worker (in fact he was). A few nice ladies and gentlemen walked by to the use the ATM, and almost all of them said hello (making me think they all might be Jimmy, but also putting my mind at ease that this was a nice community with a lot of witnesses).
There was the one kinda strange guy who walked by three times with no obvious purpose. Then a battered old car pulled in. The middle-aged driver had on a green shirt and green tie, with his elderly mother in the passenger seat. Could be Jimmy.
The police car parked a few rows away was soothing my nerves, even though I looked like a suspicious loiterer myself and was about to hand over a wad of cash to a stranger in a parking lot.
At exactly 6:00 a truck towing a small paver pulled in. The driver jumped out and headed right for me. Well, it could be him, clearly he owns his own small business, and he's making some extra money on the side. He probably meets a lot of people who are renovating and need to get rid of stuff.
Nope. He walked right by too. So I'd been standing in front of the Bank of America for 25 minutes with nothing but a light turtleneck on, freezing. I considered going in the bank's lobby (and felt I might be a little less exposed inside the building) but I didn't want Jimmy to not see me and drive away.
At 6:05 I see a teenage boy ride up on a bike. He makes a big circle around me but ends up pulling to a stop in front of the other end of the bank. He has a backpack on but carries the "don't look at me" face of a teenager. Could it be? I approach him and ask, "Are you Jimmy?"
He brightened immediately. "Yes!" I introduced myself and he stuck out his hand to shake. He seemed like he could be my best friend's son. Totally sweet, quiet, very businesslike, adorable. I wanted to hug him.
And yes, I did feel like a total fool. So that explains the problem with the rain...
I asked him why he was selling the system, thinking maybe it was his own. He told me that he goes to garage sales and buys up all the video systems and games. I was impressed - this kid created his own job, and it's based on something he loves. I commented, "You've got quite a nice business here for yourself."
I think he was worried that I was accusing him of gouging or something. He said with concern, "But you're getting a really good deal here, with all the games and stuff, if you look on Amazon they're like $12 each."
I told him I know, it's OK, and that it was for my son and how excited he was going to be. We chatted for a while more. He told me about his YouTube channel and said he could always get more systems if my son decided he wanted more. I told him that when I was a kid I had an Atari, and a Super NES, and some other system I can't even remember the name of (he did), but that I got rid of them.
"WHY?!" he half-shouted, exasperated. I said, "Because I was a grownup! I wanted to give them to somebody who would enjoy them!" If only I knew that would be my own son someday. Jimmy was still upset with me. He knew that since I was a girl, my systems would have been in really great shape. He sighed, "Boys just beat the crap out of everything." Don't I know it.
We finished up, he rode off, and I worried that he was riding his bike on a busy street at dusk and hoped he would get home safely. I was proud of him for being so all-around industrious. And I will email him when we need our next system, or any other video game expertise for that matter.
Don't you just love a happy ending?