Dec 29 2007

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Published by at 12:17 am under Family,Technology

I just had an extremely scary realization.

Ever since there was an Internet I’ve sought approbation from strangers on it. I don’t know why. I didn’t even know I was doing it. But there you have it: the hideous truth. I’m pretty sure it all started on eBay, where each day I’d watch my positive feedback numbers climb. I’ll never forget the first praise I received. And I’ll never forget the night my tally rolled from 99 to 100. I told my family. I took pictures. The blue star by my name was a source of deep pride.Since I haven’t being hanging around eBay for a few years I assumed I’d outgrown this approval thing. I was wrong. After I uploaded my video of Stella to YouTube this week, I went back to see if anyone had watched it. They had. I checked again today. When I saw that someone had “favorited” it, I nearly shrieked for joy. They liked it; they really liked it!

I get creepier. Recently I wrote a spontaneous user review of a product on Amazon. I wrote about an electric teapot. I don’t care about electric teapots and I may not even care about the people who shop for them.


I should’ve seen the warning signs this summer when I wrote my first review, about an electronic timer. I lovingly entitled it How a Polder Changed My Life. 10 of 10 people found it helpful.

I’m going to change the subject now. La la la la la la la la.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Thanksgiving 1999 was a watershed time for me: my father introduced me to eBay. He had already been tromping around there for several months, picking up cast-iron tractor seats by the dozen and railroad date nails by the hundred, and the occasional antique dynamite blaster. With patience he guided me through eBay’s intricacies. He shed light on the mind of the desperate bidder, using me as an example. He taught me the value of strategic lurking. And he tried to help me understand a cardinal truth: There’ll always be another item like the one on which you’re overbidding.


I come from a long line of acquirers of useless objects, so I suppose my affair with eBay was inevitable. It became my everything: my inspiration to wake up early, my reward at the end of a long work day, my companion into the wee hours. As many as three and four packages started to arrive at my door each afternoon.

They say you can find anything on eBay, but in eight years of searching I’ve never found my holy grail: a dolphin lamp like the one Katie got me at Goodwill.


For better or worse, my quest has led me past many other bright and shiny objects now in my possession — some the first piece in what would become an entire collection. I marveled at how eBay so tangibly evoked my childhood as I stumbled (and bid) upon long-forgotten artifacts, like the 1956 Econolite motion lamp depicting a John Bull steam locomotive and the 1964 set of monster stickers just like the ones I’d plastered all over my bedroom door.


Within months my house was swollen, like an old golfer’s belly, with eBay detritus. In fact, I started running out of things to want. I added final items to collections, like the hundred hand-tinted linen postcards of America’s first motels.


In desperation I resorted to buying useful items. For inspiration I checked on what friends and family were buying. I even checked on my enemies — those who routinely materialized three seconds before close of auction to outbid me — and placed bids on what they wanted.

I wanted revenge. It was personal.

Here’s some advice: When you have lost all hope of ever wanting another thing, try a search of your own first name. You might discover that in Brooklyn in the late 1800s there was a tin can manufacturer whose lithography is beautiful and collectible.

“How shallow can a person be?” you may ask. “How could someone waste money when there is such need in the world?”

It is an excellent and important question, to which my response is: “Pity me. Imagine the magnitude of the emotional and spiritual void I’m trying to fill.”

There have been benefits to my time on eBay. I am now something of an expert in motion lamps. I got some good cardio-vascular exercise while watching devious creeps outbid me. And can you believe that over 200 people have left feedback telling me how much they appreciate me? 211 people, to be exact. That’s more than admire any of my peers — even my own bonny brother.

Oh, bloody hell! I just went online to fact-check, and discovered that my brother has insidiously crept up on me so that he’s only one vote behind me. Oh nooooooooooooooo! What do I do?!?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

In closing I’d like to excerpt Weird Al Yankovic’s brilliant eBay parody:

I’ll buy your knick-knacks. Just check my feedback.
“A++” they all say. They love me on eBay.

I’ll buy your tchotchkes. Sell me your watch, please.
I’ll buy. I’ll buy. I’ll buy. I’ll buy. I’m highest bidder!

Junk keeps arriving in the mail from that worldwide garage sale…

I haven’t bought anything on eBay for a couple years now. I changed. It changed. As it became mainstream — a successful business — that dusty-attic feeling of discovering hidden treasure vanished. Prices went up. Automated “sniping” made it easy for people to blast you out of the water with a high bid at the last second. No need for revenge; it wasn’t personal any more.

One of the saddest moments of my life was when Dad asked me to close out his eBay account. He couldn’t get to his computer anymore because of the progression of his ALS. I’d known he was dying, but I think that’s when I first really understood.

2 responses so far

2 Responses to “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”

  1. kathy says:

    You interested in selling any of those motion lamps?

  2. GA says:

    Possibly… if it were easy and painless, and if I didn’t lose money in the process. Send an e-mail via the contact form, if you’d like:

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