1. “So you still want a bike?”
2. It’s your 22nd birthday and dad’s feeling generous. Become a pogo stick in the movie theater lobby after reading dad’s text. Remember there are kids around, their eyes wary. Board the escalator. Don’t scare the kids.
3. Compile 7 weeks of research to find a bike that meets all your requirements: credible company, hybrid, 17″ frame, reasonable bargain. Find a Trek FX 7.3 on Craigslist going for $300. Plan to haggle the price like it’s a Middle Eastern bazaar or the Middle Ages–some flour for your rooster. Give the phone number a try.
4. Flounder as an operator infroms you that the recipient party is deaf. She’ll interpret. Give it a go.
5. He says it’s his girlfriend’s bike, who bought it two years ago “tops.” Ask for $250. He’s quick to settle. Have that single second mind pry where you debate whether his girlfriend is also deaf. Bless your friends for teaching you to Brita Filter yourself.
6. Call the owner of the local bike shop to make sure you’re getting a good deal. Feel supreme when he says that bike typically sells new for $650. Feel obscene that you may be swindling a deaf man.
Get over it because can’t he look these things up on Google too? Plan to meet at D.C.’s Union Station.
7. Go gaga over bike gags. Send Snapchats of your basket and bell purchases. Spend money because you’re a sucker for cute, who loves blogging with coffee and peanut butter nearby because your a cliche.
8. Run your Craigslist dealings by your dad. He tells you to write up a contract, a sort of, receipt. Agree because you’ve seen enough Judge Judys and People’s Court to hear him out.
9. Email the seller for the bike’s serial number so you can search it on the National Bike Registry and bike index. When he doesn’t respond after a cushiony three days, start to snoop. Find a bike on the stolen section that matches the description of the seller’s bike. Note that the bike went missing the same day the seller posted and around the same area in which he lives. Feel briefly caffeinated.
10. Discover Hal Ruzal. Buy a $100 bike lock out of fear of becoming that person who discovers empty air where their back wheel should be.
11. With soaring blood pressure, become your mother’s daughter and pack your backpack with pepper spray. (As if you’re going to blind a deaf man?!) and call a police station in D.C. for a police escort. Practice shadowboxing for a moment. Feel silly stick your fists into your pockets, kiss the mezuzah and prepare to meet the man with a notebook in hand.
12. On the Metro, devise a name for your bike. The bike is technically a women’s bike, because it doesn’t have that carbon bar violating your leg space, but you can name your transgender bike whatever you want. Want “Rauol.” A strong Parisian name suitable for the type of character who’d pull a bottle of rosé from a wicker basket and invite you to dine on his estate.
13. Dream of estates.
14. Scout for policemen along Union Station’s outer perimeter. Pick a spot between two guards and a bike shop, just in case you need the bike evaluated.
16. And walk.
17. Call Twice. Email Thrice.
18. Realize he never gave you his cellphone number.
19. Answer your mother’s phone call. Debate whether to clue her into your frustration. Get out ten measly words: “I’m meeting this guy who’s selling his bike on Craigslist.” Get stopped short and flung into a tornado of motherly monologues:
“Do not go anywhere with that man. If he tells you that his bike isn’t here, it’s somewhere else, don’t go anywhere with him. Do you hear me Ellie, do not get into THAT MAN’S CAR!!!…”
*INSERT Peanuts teacher/foghorn*
20. Too much. End the conversation quickly, clumsily.
21. Wilted and rejected, crawl your way back to school bike-less. About 15 minutes later get a call from Rauol’s captor. Learn that there was a family emergency, so he wasn’t able to make it. Realize the double-edged sword of hoping he’s telling the truth, in turn noting how horrible it sounds to wish harm on his relative. He doesn’t give a reason why he didn’t contact you sooner.
22. If you still wish to buy the bike, he can come to you. Yes, outside your local police station is fine, but he doesn’t have a car either, so he’ll Metro. Fine. You ask for his cell number. The interpreter responds that his cell company cut him off because he couldn’t pay his bills.
23. With the final red flag raised, tip your hat, say “thanks but no thanks”, and hightail it out of this Craigslist crapshoot.
24. Call your sister and dribble about your crushed dreams of Raoul and creme brulee. Pucker when she tells you that if he desperately needs the money, you can probably get him to go lower on the price.
25. Though you’re crushed, brush off your torn kneecaps, and think of how G-d saved you from pawning a questionably stolen bike. Then, when you’re calm, cool and collected, hate shame Craigslist. Nothing like customer feedback.
In the market