I was recently trying to find a way to be a more productive citizen of the world, so I visited Helena Craigslist and checked out the Rants & Raves section. That’s when I came across a discussion that cleared up, in my mind, some of the most serious issues plaguing mankind today.
Craigslist.com, in case you don’t know, is where you go if you want to buy a vintage armoire that has been hand painted with all the Looney Tunes characters or, alternately, to get a new cape. The Rants & Raves section, however, is a kind of salon where people come to say all kinds of intelligent stuff, so over the years it has become my go-to source for all news and in-depth political analysis.
So, like I said, the other day I was looking for answers when I stumbled upon this Jan. 30 post by a woman who identified herself as Wilma.
It was titled “The start of something great” and started out like this: “Hello there, Helena, my name is Wilma ( not my real name ) and I am from the good ship lolli pop. Silly, I know, however, I love to look on CL and find it to be somewhat boring, and mostly negative. I have decided that I want to take every opportunity that I can to post about all the goodness I experience here in town, and on my outings elsewhere too.”
Then she said all kinds of positive stuff about Helena without breaking her paragraphs.
This was posted at like 5 p.m. and by 6:27 p.m. someone who identified himself as Barney Rubble responded with a post titled “Re: The start of something great” that read: “I would love to hear what you have to say, but I cringe at the thought of trying to read through another one of your posts. Obviously, you failed grammar because your post is just one long paragraph. If you intend to keep the attention of your reader, please learn to break your writing into more than one paragraph. At least your spelling appears to be correct; I’ll give you credit for that!”
The next day, Wilma replied by telling Barney thanks for the advice but that his posting supported her point that CL (Craigslist) was mostly negative.
This is where the debate really hooked me. I’d been watching the Republican primary debates and hadn’t heard any arguments this rich and nuanced.
The next post was from Barney and it was titled “Dear Wilma” and it read in part, “Very often, an individual will perceive a constructive comment as being negative even if it encompasses the truth … I guess what you read is just a matter of perception and what you focus on.”
I had previously been thinking that our entire political discourse about how best to deal with gross economic disparity and joblessness and recession was just a miasma, but then came this riveting Wilma-Barney tet-a-tet that just made me realize our leaders are totally missing the point. It’s not about GDP. It’s about CL. Specifically how people should be using the CL Rants & Raves. If only we’d focus more on being positive and/or pressing the return key one more time to create paragraph breaks in CL Rants & Raves posts. If only.
I though the debate had already taught me how to fix all the problems of the world, but then there was another totally unexpected post titled “Thanks Wilma,” this one from someone who called himself Bamm-Bamm.
It started like this: “I, for one, applaud you for your positive, fun and entertaining post. Who cares about the format of the paragraphs. Your positive and generous spirit shine through and I look forward to more positives from you. Keep ‘em coming Wills.”
Just when I thought me, Wilma and Barney Rubble were the only people paying attention in this FUBAR world, I found others to join the club of HUMANITY!
Then Barney Rubble wrote in part to Bamm-Bamm: “Of course, you do not mind Wilma’s one, long paragraph. Nor by the content of your writing do you care about spelling. No wonder–you haven’t graduated from the sandbox, yet. Nothing negative was ever written about sweet Wilma’s post or about Helena, just her writing style or rather the lack thereof.”
Then Wilma posted again with something titled “Accomplishment.” Here she claimed Barny’s last post proved that she had done what she set out to do, which as to get people talking about the positives.
“Even Barney’s constructive critisism (sic) means so much to me, and I am not being sarcastic,” she wrote. “After all, isn’t that what I started this quest for?”
When had I forgotten that I always grew up wanting to have a quest of my own? I’d forgotten to care and had only been dedicating my time to trying to eradicate poverty — and that was only ever at best a goal!
Then someone posted a thing called “forget that guy, Wilma” and it brought up a whole other mindblowing theory: “I am reading your posts to each other, and it did appear good ol’ Barney-( who must be a woman, and is also writing the post to Bamm-Bamm) is defensive, condescending, and a know it all. And probably uses big words to make himself (herself) seem smarter than anyone else.”
All my life I thought there were equal percentages of male and female jerks, but now I learn otherwise from this unnamed theorist. Imagine my embarrassment. I immediately called that girl who sold me Girl Scout cookies and told her I wanted a refund since she was at fault. She started crying and asked what she had done and I said, “Everything, apparently.”
Well, there were posts the next day titled “Wilma’s Fan Club” and “Wilma, there’s one in every crowd!” and then one titled “Re: Wilma’s Fan Club of One,” then “Introduction to Grammar,” “Advanced Grammar,” “Grammar for Grannies,” “Please Proof Read,” “Remember Your English Teacher?” It was all top-notch stuff.
By then it was February 5, and I thought the world’s problems had finally been solved. So I burned my voter-registration card and called Red Cross to tell them, “It’s cool. You can all come home now.”
So it was really terrible when, on February 15, Wilma posted a thing about how she had watched a movie called “The Grey” and had eaten a hamburger. The next day a post showed up titled “Dinner & A Movie.”
“Wow,” the latter post read, “I am at a loss for words to describe the detailed depth of your reporting. I can almost smell the ambiance of stale beer entwined with hamburger grease and catsup, and fresh-popped, movie theatre popcorn infused with spilt, soured soda pop emanating from the sticky floor. It is truly a Pulitzer in the works. Congratulations ahead of time!”
I had to call the Red Cross again.
“Sorry,” I said, “but it looks like we Helenans haven’t quite ironed things out after all.”