The First and Last Time I Will Ever Use Craigslist

I drafted this post over a year ago, but never really felt comfortable sharing it online. I know it’s probably just all in my head, but I am 100% convinced that last fall, I was almost murdered by a would-be Craigslist killer.

*****

The title says it all. I am still trembling in fear for what almost/could have happened last night. It was a bizarre set of circumstances that perhaps I let my mind run too far with. Or maybe they were all legitimate concerns and I literally dodged a bullet. I’ll try to piece together the story for you.

So last week, my POS car died on me. She was a 1999 Pontiac Grand Am; a real beaut. I took it to a repair shop to see what the damage was, and it was unfortunately totaled. The engine would need completely swapped, so seeing as how the car was 13 years old, it was not a repair that I wanted to move forward with. Having little value as it sat in the mechanic’s parking lot, I opted to snap a few pics and put it on Craigslist in the event someone would want it for parts. If I didn’t get any hits, I’d just call a junkyard and have it scrapped for a couple hundred bucks.

I posted the ad at around 9:30 on Monday night. I was completely up-front with the condition in the ad, listing everything I could possibly think of that was wrong with it. I slapped a $500 price tag on it just to see what would happen. To my surprise, I got 14 inquiries on it in less than 12 hours.

The next day, I was on the phone for quite a while calling these guys and trying to arrange times for them to come take a look at the car. (Have you ever tried to arrange a time to meet with a potential Craigslist buyer? It takes a logistical expert to cater to all of their ridiculous demands and impossible time slots.) One guy in particular was very interested, and he lived/worked in my area. We had arranged to meet at 6:15 that night and he was going to tow it away. Shortly before we were supposed to meet, he backed out at the last minute. Frustrated, I went back to the list and started calling the remaining people who had expressed interest. Here’s where it gets interesting.

The first person I called back was a guy we’ll refer to as “Ted Blackwater”. I called this Ted Blackwater fellow and left a voicemail. About 45 minutes later, as I’m on my way to get a haircut, I get a call back from Ted. I’m driving, and answer his call. Now, I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but just by the sound of his voice, I could tell this was a rough dude. He sounded like a 350-lb black guy; a total junkyard dog. Really gruff, really loud. He was extremely abrasive, asking one demanding question after the next. It was honestly a scary phone call. But, he did seem interested in the car. When he asked when he could come see it, I told him that a couple guys were coming to see it after I got off work tomorrow, so I offered to keep him on-call based on how those appointments went. He didn’t seem pleased with that plan, replying with “Well where does my phone call rate?” Meaning, what makes these guys so special when you’ve got an interested buyer right here in front of you? He proceeded to offer to come by that night and pick it up, $500 cash in hand. Against my better judgement (yet desperate to get rid of this thing), I agreed to meet him. But as I said, I was getting a haircut, so I couldn’t meet until around 9:15. He lived about 35 minutes away on the east side of Indy, so we agreed to meet at the auto shop at 9:15.

As I pulled up to the salon, I started to get second thoughts. So I’m about to meet an aggressive, gruff stranger in a secluded parking lot at 9:15 on a weeknight? For $500? Something didn’t smell right. I called my dad to run the plan by him, and his radar went off as well. He recommended that I call a friend to come along with me. Embarrassed that I’d seem like a total wuss in making a call like that, I soon started to see his point and agreed that I should probably have someone come with me. So I called my buddy Ron to see if he could tag along. He’s slim, but he’s about 6’3″ so I figured he would be my best choice. He agreed, and said he’d meet me at the lot at 9:15. I instantly felt better about the situation.

So as I’m waiting for my turn in the chair, I wondered what would happen if I Googled “ted blackwater indianapolis”. I plugged the search term into Google to see what would happen. My stomach started to turn as I saw the first couple sentences of the top Google search result. I’m not going to link to the article, but it basically said “Indianapolis man Ted Blackwater sentenced to 30 years in prison.”

Ted Blackwater? Prison?  Whoa. I had to read this article. However, when I clicked it, it took me to some mobile-friendly page that didn’t even display the article. I couldn’t read anything. Slightly panicked, I texted my wife and told her to Google “ted blackwater indianapolis” from a PC and read the top search result. I wasn’t able to convey to her just how panicked I was via text message, so she replied that she was getting the baby ready for bed and would do it when she could.

As I finally got into the chair, I asked for a speedy cut, as I still needed to get back to my house to pick up the title to the car as well as the keys so that I could meet this guy. I’m still not totally freaking out at this point, but I am a tad nervous, with thoughts of the “Craigslist Killer” dancing in my head.  I finished my haircut and started heading for home. Half-jokingly, I called one of my best friends, Jordan, to give him what I explained could be the last call I ever make to him. I explained the situation, and he laughed it off, singing Craigslist’s praises for all of the success he’s had with it. I felt better after the conversation, so I was looking forward to getting home and making the late-night exchange.

When I got home, my wife was upstairs putting the baby to bed. I went upstairs to kiss them goodnight, then grabbed the title and keys and was about to head out the door. Just as I was about to open the door to leave, the glow of my PC in my office grabbed my attention. You know what, maybe I should read that article before I head out. You know, just to put my mind at ease since it’s likely to be nothing. I Googled that infamous search term and pulled up the top result.

My jaw dropped.

The news article I had pulled up was basically a story of the shady past and eventual murder conviction of a man named Ted Blackwater from Indianapolis. Ted was an accomplice to a murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Whew, he’s behind bars. It’s obviously not the same Ted Blackwater then. Not so fast, Tyler. At the bottom of the article, it said that Ted’s sentence was reduced and he was released from prison last year. He now works as an auto mechanic in Indianapolis.

WHAT?!

So a guy named Ted Blackwater spent two decades behind bars for murder…and there just so happens to be another Ted Blackwater living in Indianapolis who is an auto mechanic and wants to buy my junker car??? (Note: The real name of this guy was really unique, so that’s why I was 100% convinced that it was the same guy.) And he wants to meet ASAP in a secluded parking lot late at night???

Holy shit. Holy shit. Holy shit. I absolutely lost it. I’ve never felt a sense of panic like I felt that night. All the while, my wife is still upstairs probably assuming I’ve already left the house. I called my dad and briefed him on what I had just read. He absolutely agreed that this whole thing was just too weird. Why is this guy dying to meet me to see this car at such a late hour? He recommended that I just not show up and ignore the guy. I wholeheartedly agreed and called my buddy Ron to tell him that the meeting was off. I looked at the clock, and HOLY SHIT. It’s 9:15! The guy is probably already at the repair shop, just waiting for me! What I am going to do? He drove 35 minutes to just get stood up? He has my phone number. He knows my name. He could Google me and find my home address. Are the doors locked? I’m seriously panicking.

I ran upstairs and briefed my wife on what had just taken place. She started to get scared. I didn’t know what to do. Do I call the guy and just explain that I’m no longer comfortable meeting him? Do I call and make up a lie that my hair appointment ran long and now I have to take my daughter to the hospital because she’s choking on something? Do I just stone cold stand him up? Before I could think of another possible scenario, my phone rings. It’s him. I look at my wife. I look at the phone. Gulp. WHAT DO I DO???? I put my phone down and let it go to voicemail. He leaves a 10-second message. “Hey Tyler, it’s Ted. Give me a call. Bye.” Wanting to keep my line open so that it doesn’t give him the busy signal in case he calls again, I pick up my wife’s phone and call my dad again. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?! He’s perplexed. On one hand, I could just own up to it and apologize for making him drive all the way out here. But there’s no telling how he’s going to react. He could flip out and do something crazy. On the other hand, I could just continue ignoring him, and then pray that he doesn’t harass me the rest of the night. Good luck getting any sleep. I look over at my phone on the bed, and Ted is calling AGAIN. Shit. Shitshitshitshit.

He leaves another voicemail. This time, 30 seconds. I tell my dad I have to go. I picked up my phone and stared at it for a while. My wife couldn’t stand to be in the same room. She couldn’t bear to hear what Ted had to say in that voicemail. There was no doubt about it, Ted was probably getting angry. You don’t want to see Ted get angry. I opened my Google Voice app and reluctantly pressed play. I put the phone up to my ear and listen. Instantly, a sigh of relief comes over me. I’ve never experienced such euphoria. “Hey Tyler, it’s Ted. I’m not sure if you left your phone behind or what, but I’m sitting outside of my friend’s house right now. I was going to borrow his trailer, but he’s not home yet, so I haven’t even left. He should be home any minute, so I could still meet you tonight, but it wouldn’t be until about 11:00. Give me a call. Thanks, bye.”

My out. Freedom. Thank God. I’ve never felt so relieved ever in my life. Now with a sense of fearlessness, I pick up the phone and call Ted back. HE was the one who was sorry to make ME wait. The tables instantly flipped and suddenly the guy I thought was about to murder me was the one apologizing for holding me up. I didn’t even tell him that I wasn’t even at the parking lot. I just played right along with it. I told him that it’s getting late and I have to work early in the morning, which he understood. He said that since he can’t meet me tonight, and that I’ve got some guys lined up for tomorrow, that he’ll probably just pass on the car. But he told me to call him if I still can’t get it sold. We ended the conversation on a cordial note.

I called my dad and explained what happened. He was still not quite buying it. His theory:  the guy actually was about to pull something, he drove to the parking lot, and once he saw that I wasn’t there and could sense that I was getting cold feet, he decided to abort his mission and make up some cockamamie story about how he was held up and couldn’t make it out. Why wouldn’t he have called me sooner if he knew he was going to be late? He didn’t even call me until the exact time we were supposed to meet, so he was going to be at least 45 minutes late. Why was he SO INTERESTED in the car one minute, and then slowly backs away the next? All questions that I will never know the answers to.

So, all of that said, the car is still sitting in that parking lot (I think). I thought about driving by this morning to make sure it’s still there, but I didn’t. He may have stolen it. I don’t know. But I’m going to forget the whole Craigslist thing and just call a freaking junkyard and scrap this piece of crap car. I’m canceling those appointments this afternoon. I’m done with Craigslist. The Craigslist Killer is real, and is as alive as ever.

*****

The very next day, I pulled my Craigslist ad and called a couple junkyards to see if someone could tow my car away. I ended up getting $200 out of it AND I wasn’t murdered. What a deal!

Catching Up: Two Days’ Worth of Interesting Boston Bombing Links

  1. Anonymous Hacker Targeted Bombing Suspect While He Was On The Run
  2. A Redditor had pizza delivered to the Boston Police Department, BPD issues a thank-you
  3. Gunfire in Watertown: An eyewitness account
  4. Twitter users rally to help raise money to replace Dave Henneberry’s boat 
  5. Startling Find in Manhattan as Bombings Struck Boston
  6. I’ve Met the Boston Bombers
  7. Crowdfunding efforts raise big sums for victims of Boston bombing
  8. Friends of accused Boston bomber taken into custody in New Bedford, Massachusetts
  9. This is supposedly Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s Amazon wish list. There are some interesting items on it
  10. Boston bombers: FBI hunting 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
  11. Was Boston bomber insprired by Russia’s Bin Laden? Mother claims FBI tracked older brother ‘for FIVE YEARS’ after being told by Moscow of links to Chechen terrorists
  12. CBS News: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev May Have Attempted Suicide Before Capture
  13. FBI Interview Led Homeland Security to Hold Up Citizenship for One Brother
  14. PHOTO: Boston hero — Family with small children ran out of milk during lockdown. This officer saved the day
  15. Helicopter video
  16. Police, citizens and technology factor into Boston bombing probe
  17. Five Days in Boston

Jim Irsay’s Final Four Twitter Contest

Jim Irsay is giving away $15,000 and six Andrew Luck jerseys (autographed, I would assume) during Final Four weekend. He sent out the contest rules in a flurry of tweets last Saturday night, so you may have missed them. I just submitted my entries here and here, so take a look and get in on the action. I’ve embedded his tweets below.

2013 NCAA Tournament Pick’em

march-madnessMarch Madness is the best time of year, but I get sick of filling out brackets. For something different, join my 3rd annual NCAA Tourney Pick’em pool.

Here’s how it works: create a lineup of players from each of the 16 seeds. Points that each of your 16 players score throughout the tournament will be tallied up. The lineup with the most total points scored throughout the tournament wins.

A few notes:

  1. Your lineup should consist of not only players that you think will put up big points, but also ones that are on teams that you expect to make a deep tournament run.
  2. Your picks must consist of one player from each of the 16 seeds. For example, you’ll pick one player from the #1 seeds, one player from the #2 seeds, and so on.
  3. Your 16 players must consist of 9 guards and 7 forwards/centers.
  4. If the play-in games will impact your picks, then don’t submit your lineup until after those games play out.
  5. I’ll run it all through e-mail and will send out scoring updates after each round.
  6. Each lineup is $5 to enter. You can enter as many lineups as you wish.
  7. Payouts will be the following: 1st = 70%, 2nd = 20%, 3rd = 10%

If you’re interested, tweet me your e-mail address: @burnSTYLEr. I’ll create an e-mail list and will follow up in the next day or two with a spreadsheet to enter your picks on as well as how to submit payment (PayPal/Chase QuickPay). Feel free to forward this on to anyone you know. The bigger the pool, the better.

Good luck!

Here’s a Fun Idea That Would Completely Revolutionize Air Travel

PeteSebastianshow_600x360_333x200If you aren’t familiar with the stand-up comedy work of Sebastian Maniscalco, I suggest you change that. In my opinion, he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. Sebastian and another great comedian, Pete Correale, put out a weekly podcast titled ‘The Pete and Sebastian Show’. It’s always one of the highlights of my week. They both have a unique ability to turn even the most mundane topics into a solid hour of entertainment. Definitely check it out in iTunes.

This week was their 20th episode, and in my opinion, the best one yet. They talked about life on the road and offered some hilarious stories about things/people they’ve encountered in airports and in the air. A highlight for me starts at the 5:10-mark of the podcast, where Sebastian talks in detail about witnessing a guy in the seat in front of him completely lose his lunch during a flight.

While there were many great moments throughout this episode, one gem in particular came at the 1:01:01-mark. Sebastian was talking about how it never fails: when you go to take your seat on the plane, the person seated next to you is always an “utter catastrophe”. Whether that means your flight neighbor is morbidly obese, smells like they haven’t bathed in a week, whatever the case may be: you’re stuck next to them and there’s nothing you can do about it. The idea that Sebastian proposed next transcended comedy and went straight into sheer brilliance.

The essence of Sebastian’s idea was that there should be some sort of social network for frequent travelers. Every traveler would have their own personal passenger profile, complete with a photo, general background information, etc. There would be a ratings system within this network where your fellow travelers could grade you based on how good or bad of a co-traveler you were on a given flight (think eBay’s feedback system). If you were pleasant to sit next to, held good conversation (or avoided small talk altogether if the situation warranted it), 4.5 out of 5 stars coming your way. If you had horrendous breath, talked nonstop, threw up while in flight, etc., prepare to be hammered with 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Sebastian took his idea a step further in suggesting that this social network be built into the online ticket-buying process. [UPDATE: It has come to my attention that it was PETE who came up with the ticket pricing idea. My fault for mistakenly crediting Sebastian. Well done, Pete!]  When you go to select your seat on the online plane seating chart, you could hover over seats that have already been purchased and check out who you’d be sitting next to. Open seats next to travelers with high approval ratings would be more expensive than seats next to those with low ratings. Want a seat next to the attractive woman who holds pleasant conversation? That’ll cost you. Want to take one for the team and sit next to the guy with the prostate issue who has to leave his seat a dozen times? You’ll save a few bucks.

The passenger profiles might look something like this (click to enlarge):

Flight

While security/safety issues would certainly keep something like this from ever happening, it was one of those ideas where a light bulb went off in my head the moment I heard it. So kudos to you, Sebastian Maniscalco. Keep the laughs (and moments of pure genius) coming.

The intern running the @espn Twitter account is trolling us with Tebow-like tenacity

I love sports. I love to laugh. If you can combine these elements on Twitter, you’re a winner in my book. I try to work sports and humor into my tweets, and enjoy following others who do the same. However, not everyone has a knack for it. If you’d like to see a sports + humor train wreck happening on a daily basis, look no further than @espn.

It’s hard to deny the stats: with 6.1 million followers and a whopping 99 Klout score, @espn is doing something right. But humor ain’t it. When any other account irritates me to the level that @espn has, I unfollow. But I generally enjoy all of their other tweets. Their in-game alerts, stats, and programming notes are all good. However, their tweeted attempts at humor contain so much cheese that it makes me physically ill to read them. I went through their tweets from the past few weeks and have embedded the worst of the worst.

Remember, these are just from the past few weeks. I could keep going, but you get the idea. So, who’s to blame for these embarrassing tweets? Well, much like the Tebow love affair at ESPN, it’s a two-way street. Tebow gets ratings, so they feed us more Tebow. Their approach to Twitter is no different. Look at the action on some of these tweets. If you compare the RT/Favorite counts to some of their general sports tweets, these cheesy jokes are somehow well above average.

So, while I don’t think @espn will be changing their Twitter habits any time soon, there are a few things we as followers can do to slow these horrendously terrible tweets.

  1. Stop RTing and Favoriting them.
  2. Stop RTing and Favoriting them.
  3. Stop RTing and Favoriting them.

I’ll leave @espn with everyone’s favorite condescending jab: Stick to sports.

One year ago today, this happened…

Then this happened.

And this.

And of course this.

And also this.

Then this:

Which led to this.

An incredible experience that no party involved will soon forget.

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