Missed Direction

So many surprising things can follow “m4w.”


Read this Craigslist missed connection, then come back.

Lovely right? I spent much of the afternoon emailing this to everyone that I knew. (And hat tip to Andre for spotting it first.)

The best part of this story is that it could stand alone as a piece of short fiction. But its strength comes from its context. Because you’re viewing it as a Craigslist post, it establishes certain expectations from the reader. Since it’s a missed connection, you assume that this is a real experience and that the intention of the post is to find someone in New York.

The piece escalates when the writer and his missed connection ride the subway up and down all day long. At this point, I thought about how cute and unbelievable this story was, to stare at someone that long and not talk to them. But by the second half, the piece moves into surreal territory, as days and suddenly years go by. The sudden realization that this was a piece of fiction is somehow both jarring and delightful. The surprise is the main charm of this piece, and it’s derived entirely from the fact that it’s written as a Craigslist post. It’s a place you’re not used to seeing a deliberate piece of fiction, let alone something so sentimental or lyrical. (Gawker wrote about it too, copying/pasting the entire thing into a post of their own, which I feel robs readers of what makes it so effective.)

Maybe it’s just similarity it has to the Times New Roman-on-a-white-background aesthetic of Craigslist, but this piece reminded me of Candy Box, a seemingly mundane text browser game that turns out to be so much more. The context of Candy Box — a plain text page with a single button — slowly unfolds into so much more.

The anonymity of the author is another interesting thing to consider. Since it’s a Craigslist post, there was a reply-to email address. I sent him/her a note.

“This was so extraordinary. Who are you?”

No response, but gosh, it’s almost better knowing less.

Kevin Nguyen is a founding editor of The Bygone Bureau. His only marketable skill is an above-average knowledge of European geography. He has been useless since the introduction of the atlas in 1477. Reach him by email or follow his Twitter account.