from The Columbia Spectator, October 28, 2003

West Siders Get Freaky on Craig's List
By Victoria Loustalot

I discovered a new form of procrastination when I became a Craig's List user. Prior to my introduction to world of online classified ads, AOL Instant Messenger was the procrastination weapon of choice. Now, when it is 2 a.m. and I should be writing the paper that is due in seven hours, I am no longer avidly watching away messages. Instead, it's the postings at that provide the necessary distraction from schoolwork. Craig's List, created by Craig Newman in 1995, posts want ads for jobs, apartments, furniture, women, men, babysitters, free stuff, and even missed connections between strangers. Started in San Francisco, the site's popularity led to Craig's List web sites for cities across the nation.

Naturally, each city brings it own quirks to its site. In New York, Broadway tickets, modern art, pet-sitters, models, and futons dominate the sale section, while sex, photographers, and actresses rule the services section. The site feels like a citywide eBay, but without the hassle of bidding.

Craig's List works on a first-come-first-serve basis. Easy to navigate, the site boasts an efficient search engine as well as a calendar of events. And for authentic Craig's List groupies, there are even t-shirts.

Like all of Craig's cities, New York has ample apartment and job postings. Under housing alone, there were 44,987 postings last night. An overview of the job section revealed postings for employment in finance, advertising, engineering, politics, and television.

For the lazy ones among the Columbia student body, Craig's List has the potential to be a gold mine in searching for that perfect internship. But beyond being a valid resource for shelter and income, the entertainment value in the housing and job section is low. It is the area reserved for personal ads and free stuff that proves to be the most riveting, particularly after midnight.

I am ashamed to admit I lost an hour of my life browsing the personals, and even more embarrassed to admit I don't want that hour back. I had to laugh at the male poet who picks his nose and longs for a hot woman, who (surprise, surprise) also has a sense of humor. Reading about the 33 year-old self-described sexy business man looking for a muse with whom to share dinner, drinks, smiles and weekend getaways was almost too tempting to pass up. The best, however, was the ad that read simply, "I am one hot badass. E-mail me." What's not to like?

Humorous personal ads are practically a guarantee, regardless of the source, but Craig's List seems to bring out the hilarious in all its categories. For stereotypical starving students who seem to have only recently come to fully grasp the concept that money cannot be wished into existence, the "free stuff" section is quite enticing. I found numerous ads for free concert tickets (the bands, however, were suspiciously not named), free portraits (one man claimed he had just gotten a new camera and wanted models to "test out his new equipment"), and even one giving away a hamster straight from the womb ("his eyes are still closed!").

However, the one I could not resist responding to in the name of in-depth reporting was the ad entitled "free room to have sex." I was sure I had discovered the solution to sexiling.

Less than 10 minutes after dashing off a short e-mail, explaining that I was very interested in the ad and wanted more information, I received a response. Posed as a list, the e-mail named seven contingencies. If I accepted the offer, my guest and I would have access to a private bedroom; we would not be left alone in the apartment, however, because the owner would be in the living room where she promised to be either reading or working quietly.

Guests are guaranteed privacy and safety, the bedroom is available weekday afternoons and early evenings, and there are no charges, gimmicks, or cameras, and no menage a trois. Photos and personal stats are required.

But the real clincher is the seventh stipulation, which the owner slyly slips in at the bottom of the e-mail.

"I do this because I like providing a place for good looking couples to [have sex]. Age and orientation do not matter to me, but my offer isn't for fat people."

The city's Craig's List brings out the best and worst in New Yorkers. Ideally, the perfect apartment, furniture to fill it, job to pay for it, spouse to share it, and pet to pee in it can all be found at Craig's List. However, intermingled with these perfect purchases are the apartments, couches, jobs, dates, and pets from hell.

Proceed with caution and a sense of humor.