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Archive for March, 2012

You are a poisonous lullaby, honey infected with plague.

Your hands that hold me conceal razor blades.

You rock me gently, smother me sweetly

Demand that I carry your condemnation.

Your silence is venomous, your words toxic

And when I kiss you, you only see Judas.

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I sold a car on Craigslist this week and wanted to pass along what I learned.  Here are 10 tips for how to sell your car quickly and efficiently:

(1) The easiest way to put together the text for your Craigslist add is to search for the specs for your car model on a site like Edmunds.  You can wrack your brain trying to remember what features your car has that you take for granted (anti-lock brakes?  a 6 CD changer? automatic windows?), or you can use the Google.

(2) Craigslist allows you to post up to 4 photos.  I suggest a side view, front view, view of the dashboard, and then view of the backseat.  I would post them in that order since the side view is probably the most instructive.  You’ll want to save 2 versions of your photos: high resolution and low resolution.  The low resolution photos are faster to load on Craigslist and will load more quickly for most viewers.  However, some potential buyers will request the higher resolution photos, so you’ll want to keep those on hand.

(3) You can put something like “serious offers only” in your ad to try to weed out people who are just  bored.  It probably won’t help.

(4) Collect some of the basic information that people will ask you about the car and save it in an email draft.  Then you don’t have to take much time when you respond to their emails.  People will ask about the VIN so they can check carfax.  They’ll ask about your mileage on the highway and in the city and whether your car has ever been in an accident.  The more intrepid and curious may even ask how long you’ve had your tires and how many more miles they should be good for.

(5) When you set the price, ask for about $1000 more than you actually want.  This gives you some room to lower the price if the person wants to negotiate, and who knows?  Maybe some poor schmuck will actually pay you that much.  If people email you asking for your absolute bottom-line price (and they will), you can say, “We’re asking for $price-on-Craiglist, but we’re open to serious offers.”  This doesn’t really mean anything, but puts the ball back in their court to tell you how much they want to offer.  You should not be the first to drop the price – they need to tell you how much they want to pay.

(6) When people ask to see the car, if you live in an apartment complex, you don’t need to give them your apartment number.  We have this invention called the telephone, so there is no need for people to know which apartment is actually yours. They can just meet you outside your building.  (I automatically sent 2 people my specific apartment number before it occurred to me that I don’t need to give strangers that information.  Sad, but true.)

(7) If they want to test drive the car, and you are female, I recommend having a guy around.  Some people on Craigslist are crazy.  If you are a WASPy American, I recommend having someone who comes from a culture that negotiates prices around.  You’ll need the back-up.  In fact, maybe you just shouldn’t talk and you should let your non-WASPy friend take the lead.

(8) About 10 people will ask to see your car, get your address, and find out what time you will be available, for every 1 person who actually comes.  Don’t plan your schedule around selling the car.  Just tell people times you will naturally be home or you’ll make yourself nuts over the no-shows.

(9) When someone decides to buy the car, ask for cash or a cashier’s check.  If they are going to give you a cashier’s check, go to the bank with them to watch them get the check.  Alternatively, call the bank that issued the check and verify that it’s a valid check before you hand over the keys.  Cashier’s checks can be faked.

(10) You’ll need to remove the license plates from the car.  If you really like the person, you can leave the plates on and have the person go to the DMV and transfer the plates to their name.  If you go this route, you should call the DMV and verify that it’s been done.  Don’t forget to take the car off of your car insurance!

 

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I’ve been reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks because I’ve never gotten to take a creative writing course and I thought this might teach me what I missed.  This week I’ve been reading about characters and I was struck by this quote:

“Characters are sometimes defined by their backstory.  And sometimes they are who they are in spite of their backstory.”

I want to give a shout out to all of those people who come from a depth of madness that you would never imagine just by looking at them.  I want to acknowledge those people who get up each day and put on their work clothes and earn a living and come home and spend time with their families, who put on a happy face and go grocery shopping and get stuck in traffic and pay taxes.  Those are my people!  It seems like no one sees that you are doing so much better than where you came from.   Living well in spite of your backstory is hard, but each day you get up and choose to make something of yourself is a day that you are a bad-ass.

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I read an article this week by an author defending “upspeak”, which is a tendency (often shown by young women) to end a declarative sentence with rising intonation.  She notes that women are more likely according to David Crystal to be early adopters of linguistic innovation, and that upspeak can be used authoritatively (she cites a study by linguist Cynthia McLemore of sorority members that I would not have cited).

Linguistic innovation does not lead to success in the majority of workplaces.  Usually conformity increases in-group status while being different is penalized.  Maybe if I worked in a non-traditional industry (like as a tattoo artist? or an interpretive dancer?) it wouldn’t matter whether I sound “professional,” but in reality there are many linguistic tricks I’m having to master to get ahead.

These include avoidong upspeak, apologizing less and not talking too much when I’m nervous.  (Sometimes you just need to “land the plane.”  And then stop talking.)  People who end sentences with a declarative tone, are unapologetic, and are not afraid of silence are viewed as authoritative.  These are arbitrary rules, and I think it’s bigoted for people to make judgements about the intelligence of a speaker because of their accent or speech habits.  However, I spent a lot of money learning fancy terminology for linguistic phenomena so that I can feel guilty in an existential sense for selling out when it comes to respecting linguistic diversity.

At work this week it came to my boss’s attention that some emails had not been sent out that should have been sent out.  Both my boss and I manage this project jointly, so when my boss told me in a stern way that these emails should have gone out sooner, I apologized and noted that I should have remembered this.  Then I paused because I expected her to apologize back.  (No, I’m sorry too.  I don’t know why I forgot that part of the contract…)  She said nothing, which irked me because it was every bit as much her fault as mine.  When I recounted this episode to my friend, she scolded me for apologizing because it made me sound weak.  I believe that’s why my boss didn’t apologize, but I also think I should take responsibility when I manage a project (as should my boss).  I don’t think that shows weakness – I think it actually protects the people who work below me.  The buck stops here, etc.  My friend was right when it comes to getting ahead, but following that stupid rule of not wanting to look sorry toasts me.  Hopefully I’ll be independently wealthy and able to quit any day now.  In the meantime I’ll be apologizing less.

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I read an article recently about Pat Conroy, one of my favorite depressed Southern authors.  I jotted down this quote he gave about growing up as a child in a military household: “We spent our entire childhoods in the service of our country, and no one even knew we were there.”

My father was a Marine, so I moved a lot as a child.  I was perpetually the “new kid” so I had to learn to land on my feet again and again and again.  I mastered how to quickly assess the dynamics in a room – who has power?  Who is a pariah?  Who should be avoided and who needs to be befriended?  I became good at making friends, although not very adept at staying in touch with them for the long haul.  There was a rhythm to our lives that involved moving in May and starting a new school in September.  Except when we had to move and start a new school in October or April during the middle of a school year.

I don’t like it when people ask me where I’m from.  I’m not from anywhere.  I don’t like it when people say it must have been “such a great experience” to see so much of the world as a child and I must be so “outgoing.”  That’s like saying that being poor must have really taught you to be resourceful about finding enough to eat – what a blessing!

The Marine Corps was the source of a lot of tension in my family, and my nomadic childhood was just collateral damage.  My parents made choices for me that I would not have made for myself.  They volunteered me to make sacrifices that I would not require of my own  children.  For instance, I would not ask my children to attend 6 different schools in 4 years in a row during middle school, which everyone knows is like Lord of the Flies under the best of circumstances.

My brother joined the Marine Corps when I was in college during the war in Iraq.  I had known about the sacrifices that powerless children make when their parents serve their country.  During those years I learned about the sacrifices that adults make when their loved ones go to war.  I learned about a different kind of helplessness, and that love can hold you hostage to the choices another person makes every bit as much as childhood does.  Being an adult is still better.

I don’t know what it is to be a Marine, but I see those invisible children who have been drafted into serving their country, and I won’t do that to my children.

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I had a really nice post scheduled for today, but I’m going to interrupt our regular programming to provide my readers with an important public service announcement:

If you talk on your cell phone while you are in the bathroom using the facilities, I.will.judge.you.  If you talk on your cell phone while I am in the bathroom and using the facilities, I will spend the entire time thinking of ways to embarrass you.  If I have to flush the toilet 3 times in a row and listen to you repeatedly say, “Hello?  One sec.  Hang on, I can’t hear you,” I will do that until you leave.

You are probably one of those people who posts inane facebook status updates because you mistakenly think that the whole world cares about your life.  This is probably news for you since you are so privacy-challenged, but I don’t want whatever stranger that you are talking to listening to me pee.   Hang up your phone!  I am categorizing this post under “social justice” because it is my right to pee in privacy.

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