Ester: Hello! They’re doing road work on Flatbush outside my window so it smells like the Elephant House at the zoo in here. How are you?
Rachel: Hot! It is very hot in my apartment, overwhelmingly hot. The thing about how heat rises — it’s true! I live on the top floor and it is as hot as 7th grade science teachers everywhere said it would be.
Ester: That’s rough. At least your apartment isn’t defying the laws of physics, though. That might be dangerous. Ok, so, you and I were talking about starting a business! Perhaps you’d like to introduce yourself briefly before we launch into it?
Rachel: I’m a writer who was until recently a staff writer and has now become a freelance writer, which has been alternately exciting and paralyzing. But I just got a “standing desk” (a bar table, whatever), which I feel is really going to turn things around.
Ester: Totally. And you and I met for coffee yesterday to co-work and also commiserate about how many jobs we’ve had and lost since college even though we are smart and hard-working Good Girls because New York chews people up and doesn’t even bother spitting them out most of the time, so we’re like lodged behind a molar in New York’s mouth and will be until the city decides to floss. Whew. So we were like, maybe we should start a business!
Rachel: We were! Given that we have had All the Jobs, we are obviously in a strong position to start at least one of the businesses.
In my younger days, I was cursed with an undying and irrational optimism in matters of the heart. Although I was neither very attractive nor particularly charming, I managed to cling perennially to a wisp of hope that some clearly unattainable object of my affection might, against all odds, choose me. The trouble was, my unrealistic hopes were realized, not frequently, but frequently enough to keep me optimistic in the face of repeated failures. This was sporadically wonderful and mostly sad. My experience with Craigslist has been the same, although, happily, the effect on me has not been nearly as depressing.
Generally, for the things I most covet and hope to get cheaply, Craigslist is unavailing and labor-intensive: I have pored over hundreds of listings in search of a ride to Philadelphia when everyone, inexplicably, was driving to Montreal. When I desperately needed a serviceable four-door car, I could find nothing but awful, rust-eaten, homemade-spoiler-bedecked coupes. In short, the ‘list is often better for idle browsing than for targeted searches. (I love idly browsing Craigslist.)
But! Craigslist has its treasures, and every now and then, when I want something so odd and generally expensive that I know with near certainty that I won’t find it within my price range—that it doesn’t even exist nearby—it appears. For example:
After I got back from the holidays, I noticed that the park across the street had put up two ice rinks. Yay, free ice skating! And then I remembered that I don’t have skates that fit anymore. Here’s a timeline of my attempt to get used skates.
David Raether, a former comedy writer who wrote for the sitcom Roseanne
, has a terrific essay at Priceonomics about "what it's like to fail."
In the late '90s, Raether was making really good money: $12,000 and $15,000 per episode for a 22-episode season of a show, plus script guarantees that paid $20,000, and $650,000 a year from a television studio which paid him the large sum just to come up with ideas for television series. In 2001, he was earning about $300,000 a year, and then left the business to spend more time with his family, which he rarely got to do because he was working around the clock at the studio.