In the weeks leading up to our recent move from suburban Wynnewood to Center City Philadelphia my wife and I concluded we needed to divest ourselves of some possessions. We were motivated by more than a desire to reduce the overall load and thus expense of moving; several pieces of furniture we owned had either outlasted their usefulness or we had come to the conclusion they were never very useful in the first place!
To our surprise, nearly everything we owned, especially furniture, was a candidate for deaccession. Having heard of craigslist for years, I decided to investigate what was involved in listing our items for sale there. To my delight, the process was simple and the cost nothing.
Among the items failing to meet our criteria for surviving the move was an antique wooden baby crib we rediscovered in our basement. It had resided there, disassembled, ever since our last move nearly seventeen years before. We brought it upstairs, dusted it off and began to reassemble it, no mean feat since it was put together with dowels and grooved slots rather than hardware and had two rows of spindles on its long sides that had to be aligned in order to fit the top railing on them. After 45 minutes we had the piece reassembled and I photographed it for posting that evening, a Sunday.
Monday morning I turned on the computer in my home office at 7:30AM and there was a response that began the way nearly every inquiry about a listing on craigslist begins: was it still available? Unlike the live auctions on Ebay where the bid status and remaining time are clearly posted, one never knows if an item on craigslist is still available unless, of course, it has been sold and the owner, not wishing to receive more emailed inquiries, deletes the listing.
I replied to the email informing the sender the item was indeed still available and provided my phone number suggesting she call. Within minutes I received another email asking whether or not it was too early to call. "Of course not," I replied. "Aren't we communicating now?" A few minutes passed and the phone rang. It was Sally.
"I love the crib. It reminds me of the one that was in my grandmother's house. When can I come see it?"
"Anytime you would like," I answered. "I work at home. When would you like to come?"
"Fine. I will send you directions. Where are you coming from?"
"You're kidding," I blurted out.
"No," she said. "We just moved here from Spokane, Washington. Where is Wynnewood?"
"Just outside Philadelphia, clear across Pennsylvania," I said, simultaneously looking up "Steubenville" on Google maps.
"Great. We are just on the other side of the Ohio border. I've never seen Pennsylvania," Sally enthused.
"Well, I cannot say the trip across the Pennsylvania turnpike is exactly enchanting," I warned her.
"No problem. Send the directions. I will be there Thursday."
I hung up and appended directions from Steubenville, OH, to the directions to our house I already had pre-saved on my computer. I emailed them to Sally.
A few hours later my phone rang. It was Sally.
"My mom and I had to drive into Pennsylvania this morning to pick up a used laminated countertop we are installing in my sisters's house. Anyway, we figured we were already in Pennsylvania so we might as well keep on coming. Can we come today?"
Flabergasted, I said, sure. Sally further informed me she had left her house before my email with the directions arrived. I told her to take the turnpike all the way east and call me when she was approaching the Valley Forge exit. From there I would walk her through the rest of the trip. I glanced at my watch and calculated she should arrive some time around 4PM.
Four o'clock came and went and no call from Sally. At 4:30 I called her cell phone.
"Sally, where are you?"
"We just passed through Fulton County," she replied.
Again, I consulted Google maps. "Fulton County!! You aren't even half way here. What happened?"
"We got lost getting from the place where we bought the countertop back to the turnpike."
"The hard part comes on this end," I moaned. "OK, call me when you hit Valley Forge."
At 6:45PM the call came. Sally handed the phone to her mother who wrote down the directions. I told her to call me as she approached our street and I would meet her outside. Our house was one of several in a small group of Tudor homes known as English Village and it was confusing to visitors as to which driveway belonged to which home.
As she approached the house Sally dutifully called and I went outside. A minute later a huge double-cab pickup with a camper on the bed rounded the corner. I waved and Sally pulled over. Out jumped Sally, all 5'2" X 5'2" X 5'2" of her. Next came her mother, all 5'1" X 5'1" X 5'1" of her!
They were covered in plaster dust, which Sally explained came from some of the demolition work they'd been doing earlier that morning at her sister's house. The camper was also covered with dust and mud as well. Clearly it had seen some hard living.
"Would you like to come in and use the bathroom?" I asked.
"Sure, but can we see the crib?"
I took them into the living room, where the crib was standing, and Sally immediately exclaimed, "It's gorgeous!"
They freshened up and we took the crib outside and carefully loaded it into the camper, which was occupied by a ten foot long laminated kitchen countertop that projected part way out the back of the truck. After the crib was loaded and secured Sally asked me, "Do you have any other antiques or old things for sale?"
"We do have a quilt I was about to list."
"Great. Let's see."
I brought out the quilt and opened it up. Sally never hesitated. "How much?"
"One hundred dollars," I said.
"I'll take it." Sally's mother peeled off another two fifties from the roll.
While all of this was going on my wife ascertained Sally was 32 years old and the mother of eight children. They had moved from Spokane to Steubenville because they were Catholic and they wanted to live in a community where there were more Catholics. She could have stopped in Chicago, I mused, but I thought better of saying anything.
When everything was paid for and loaded Sally asked where there were some restaurants and motels near by where they could spend the night. They also asked if Valley Forge was worth visiting. I told her there were plenty of places to eat and stay nearby in King of Prussia, PA, and that the area was also convenient to Valley Forge. I looked up some names of motels in King of Prussia, gave them directions and off they went.
I calculated by the end of this little excursion Sally and her mom would have driven at least 700 miles or more to buy a crib and quilt, would spend a large sum on gasoline for a vehicle that probably got 8 miles to the gallon downhill, spend a night in a motel and eat at least a few meals in restaurants. I also concluded they appeared pleased as punch about the whole thing and so were we.