Shortly after I moved back to Chicago, I tried to purchase some dishes on Craigslist. What resulted was the weirdest exchange with a stranger over email I have ever experienced. I forwarded the exchange to friends, who forwarded it on. Even years later, I will meet people and get introduced as “the plates email person.” One of them, upon meeting me, told me he was happy I was alive. I always knew this exchange would go on this blog, but, as the craigslist seller knew vaguely where I lived and read this blog, I waited many years and a move to publish this out of fear.
In response to an ad about dishes (now lost in time), I contacted the seller and said:
could you deliver these? I am in lakeview, so not that far….
The seller, Maria, replied:
Yes, we would be happy to deliver the dishes, especially to anyone who doesn’t have a car. I hope you don’t mind–I took the liberty of googling you and read a few entires in your blog, or should I say one of your blogs. You are quite prolific (and very amusing)! I guess it should also not be surprising that people who are drawn to the same objects should share certain values, though I can’t say I agree with all of your opinions. You’re name also sounded very familiar and I wonder if we haven’t crossed paths in some other context–I guess we can figure that out when we meet.
When is a good day and time to bring you the dishes? We’ll (my roommate Derek and I) be available this afternoon (I obviously won’t be up too early in the morning). If today won’t work for you, we’re free most late afternoons and evenings.
Thanks very much for your interest.
Hmm okay, she google stalked me. That’s weird, but that’s what I get for having a blog–I live my life pretty openly on the Internet, and I don’t say anything I would feel bad about complete strangers knowing. And, you know, she’s coming to my house and wants to make sure I am not a serial killer. Telling me she doesn’t agree with me on things is weird, but it’s all very complimentary. She thinks we’ve crossed paths? Also weird. So I replied:
Ha I actually have these dishes already! Well, a few of them. And I looove them and through the years a few have broken so the idea that I could get a whole new set is terribly exciting!Thanks for the compliment! I don’t know if we’ve crossed paths? I grew up here but I haven’t lived here for 12 yrs…your name isn’t on the email so I dunno!I have to work way out in the suburbs today, but will be home from 7-9 tonight. I will be home all day tomorrow until like 430–I have a flight at 7.Which I know is the most annoying schedule ever, but I am leaving until next tues! I am totally willing to wait till next week for them too but I assume you want to get rid of them!
Will these days work?
Clumsy dish lover,
And here is where it goes insane. She replies:
Jenny,I think everyone has had a few of these dishes at some point, and yes, it was very cool and exciting when we obtained a whole set of them. Derek and i seem to have commitment issues when it comes to things like dishes, furniture, and style in general (maybe because we really don’t have any style) but eventually ended up settling on plain white, and have been slowly assembling a set of Arzberg, Form 1382. Someday, however, I hope to acquire a fruffy, frilly, thoroughly feminine set of Limoges to appease my ever-present conflict of rational vs. romantic sensibilities.
This starts reasonably enough, but why is Derek so involved?
You sounded like you don’t have a lot of possessions, perhaps that has changed or I just didn’t read enough of your blog to get an accurate impression, so I was a little surprised you would want such a large set of dishes (not easy to move, to be sure), but you certainly seem to have plenty of friends to actually have occasion to use them, which is certainly something I find enviable and for which you also seem to be appropriately grateful.
What does a person who has few possessions sound like on their blog? She’s assessed how many friends I have and how grateful I am. Again, this is all complementary, but this is getting weird. Why is this so lengthy and a discussion of my personal characteristics? I just want some dishes! Shouldn’t I be the one to judge if I am responsible enough for them?
Though once fairly gregarious myself, due some traumatic events in my life, I don’t feel very comfortable in larger groups anymore,
Full stop. This is the moment of overshare that foreshadows it all.
and though I am not especially anxious to get rid of these, I like the idea of a bunch of amiable, hip young people enjoying a festive meal over them. As an underlying mission, I think the lost art of hosting a dinner party is due for a comeback, so I hope these will inspire you to have some good old-fashioned fun. At the very least, it’s nice to know you have an ample supply for daily use that you won’t readily run out of, no matter how many you break.
This is now definitely the longest conversation I have ever had with anyone about my usage of dishes. This must be what it’s like when you adopt a purebred dog. She’s making sure I have a lifestyle capable of these dishes? Wait, is that last line a passive aggressive way of pointing out that I am not worthy of these dishes? WHY IS DEREK SO INVOLVED ANYWAY?
Okay, so we could possibly come tonight, not available tomorrow evening, and doubt you’d want us to come when you’re trying to catch a flight, anyway. In fact, we’re trying to pay off a bill that is due tomorrow, and the amount we’re asking for these dishes is exactly how much we are short.
Hold up. At this point, I’m clear about this: This is a person who overshares, who had a traumatic life event which makes it so she does not socialize. What she does do, is collect vintage ceramics with a man named Derek. She and Derek collect things even though they can’t pay their bills. So it’s a hoarder house, right? She goes on:
I’m pretty fatalistic about these things, and somehow it always works out, so if it’s not till next week, that’s fine, too. We’ll be out and about running errands most of the day, so if you want to confirm for tonight, you can call me at 773.555.5555.I will tell you right now that I am really paranoid about giving out information, and just paranoid in general, but I actually think I have developed a specific phobia of librarians. I have a couple of friends who are librarians and know of their super-human capacity for research. I also am convinced the CIA/ aliens/ and a myriad of scammers/slackers and hackers have access to my computer and information. Not that I have much to hide, ironically, but I certainly wouldn’t want to make myself vulnerable to just anyone who I might encounter on Craigslist, and have to wonder why you (like a surprisingly large number of seemingly bright young women) would readily do that. The fact that you list as one of your professions ‘competitive intelligence’ did not help put me at ease, and though I have no idea what that even means, I suppose it could be a fancy way of saying you’re a mystery shopper.
Okay, you’re going to have to reread that a few times to get everything.
- Librarians are evil.
- They are in league with the CIA/Aliens.
- People should be frightened of the Internet.
- I am possibly in league with the CIA but also maybe just a mystery shopper.
Sorry for all the babbling. I hope knowing a few details about me makes you more comfortable about having us deliver something to your home.
So much the opposite. The overshare just comes rolling out now:
I’m 45 years old, on disability due to being bipolar, and still recovering from a family tragedy.
This is not a laughing matter. That sounds terrible. I have empathy for this. But I do not need to know this. I just want plates.
Derek is my roommate and knight in shining armor.
Our worst vice is probably an addiction to treasure hunting at thrift stores, auctions and estate sales. Occasionally we have the wherewithal to sell a few of our finds to make ends meet. Mostly, we have just acquired a lot of junk that we don’t need but are nonetheless attached to, and the longer it is in my home and consciousness, the less inclined I am to be rid of it.
Hoarding. DING DING DING. I am getting the impression that Derek is a mummified cat.
I desperately do not want to end up being one of those people, you know, with the paths through the mountains of stuff in their house and 87 cats,
Right. Not YET a hoarder.
but we do have four of them, so we are definitely on that trajectory.
Well, knowing you have a problem is definitely the first step! But once again, it turns to me:
I’m sorry you don’t like animals. They know things that we don’t know and if you pay attention, they have a lot to teach us. I like to think of pets as the ambassadors of the animal world and nature in general, some sort of cross-over artists and a link to both our less and more evolved selves. And then there is having clean floors, which, as someone who spends way too much of her time cleaning up cat vomit and fur, I can also appreciate.
We haven’t discussed my opinion of animals, but at the time, on the about page, I had a joke about how I have a pet Roomba. I don’t like animals, mainly because I am allergic to it, but I don’t make a point to write about it, so she dug deep. After this personal turn, it switches to all business:
Give us a call if you want to try to meet tonight. Or just let me know what would work when you’re get back next week.Maria
At this point, I forward this email chain to my friends. This is the email I sent:
HOLY FUCKING SHIT.
This is the craziest email exchange I HAVE EVER BEEN A PART OF. Read backwards, please. Is this person going to kill me?
They fall into several camps. One of my friends immediately replies only:
DO NOT AGREE TO MEET THESE PEOPLE ALONE. I REPEAT: DO NOT.
Another sends a non-reassuring:
She’s probably fine. She probably won’t kill you. Also, those dishes are fabulous.
But the general sentiment is looky loos who, while they fear for my safety, really just want to know what Derek & Maria are like:
WOW. WOW. I am simultaneously terrified and jealous of you possibly being in the same room with Maria and Derek. I can’t imagine what they look like–are they real? Is this real?
No, no, wait. No matter how appealing the dishes are, and or how much I might want you to discretely take pictures of them on your cell phone, there are just too many crazy lights flashing. Don’t do it. And if you do, please don’t be alone. In fact, it would be a great time to throw a party with all your many friends– friends who are trained in the martial arts and/or own weapons!
I consider meeting them at a Starbucks on my block, but hampered by plates, I will just be easy pickings. Mysteriously, none of my friends are able to come over for this potential dinner party where Derek & Maria show up. My friends thoughts turn to Derek–what’s the story there?
I think Derek is a small dog. Dunno why, just do.
Best-case scenario: Derek is the William Holden character in Sunset Boulevard. Worst-case: Maria throws acid in your face.
And what of this Derek? I’m imagining a Mrs. Bates scenario, or perhaps she’s like a Bond villain and she keeps him locked in a dungeon — I’m picturing the guy from From Russia With Love with the steel teeth.
Little known fact: she is currently wearing Derek’s skin as a mask
Several astute readers point out that early on Maria said she keeps trying to sell the dishes to no avail–“something keeps happening.” GEE I WONDER WHAT?
At this point, I realize I have basically proven Maria right, as I have emailed this wacky email chain to thirty librarians, and people who work at the American Library Association (who encourage me to call from their work number so it shows up on her caller ID).
Someone suggested bringing a friend along, and I considered my brother. He is a cop, so we’d be safe! I considered what I would tell my brother when I called him to ask him to come with me to pick up plates at a weird person’s house. I actually was more interested in meeting Derek & Maria than I was to pick up the plates.
And it was at that point I realized that if I need an armed guard to meet Derek & Maria, possibly I should not do this.
So I never replied. I did get a final, sad email from Maria:
Hi, Jenny.I didn’t hear back from you, so if you’ve changed your mind about the dishes, I won’t bother you again, I promise. I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be available most of the day tomorrow and in the evening, and not during the day again till Saturday this week, though most evenings are fine. We actually put the dishes in my car in case you wanted to meet last Thursday, so I’m really just wondering if I should return them to the garage until we set up a definite time. This is, of course, futile attempt to outwit whatever the law is that guarantees you will want them the day I put them back in storage. Not a big deal, really.
Hope you are having a nice trip and return home safely.
I just googled Maria’s email address and phone number (I am a slacker hacker, after all), and they result in nothing. Who knows, maybe this email exchange drove Maria underground. An anti-climax, but one in which I do not die.
And if Maria is reading this, I wish you no harm, I have not stalked you, and please, please don’t kill me in my sleep. I am very grateful.