In the winter of 2012/2013 I was staying with friends in Austin, Texas. I was spending a good portion of time on Craigslist, looking for jobs. After watching a documentary called Craigslist Joe, I started checking the “strictly platonic” listings.
I came across an ad from a guy wanting to have drinks with a woman after work. I responded to his ad. He responded to my response. We decided to meet after work (meaning after his work). I picked a bar close to where I was staying so I could walk and not be concerned with driving after drinking or getting into a car with a stranger. I put on cute clothes and fluffed up my hair and met him at the bar.
I had a beer. I don’t remember what he had–a beer or a cocktail. We ordered an appetizer sampler platter. He was pleasant, a businessman of some kind dressed for casual Friday. We chatted. He wasn’t someone I would have spent time with normally, but we were getting along well.
Then he mentioned his wife. I must have looked at him strangely. I didn’t realize I was having Friday afternoon drinks with some woman’s husband.
Then he clarified. He was talking about his late wife. He was a widower with two small boys. He loved his wife; I could tell. That’s probably why he posted his ad under “strictly platonic.” He probably wasn’t ready to get involved with anyone or even have a one night stand. He was probably tired of hanging out with the guys in the office and just wanted to have a drink with a nice woman.
We never saw each other again. We talked about seeing each other on another Friday afternoon, but we never did.
However, his ad gave me an idea. Would strangers buy ice cream for me in exchange for my company?
I wrote the following ad and posted it in the “strictly platonic” section:
Ice Cream and Conversation
I’m a mostly broke traveling lady with a young spirit who likes meeting new people, laughing a lot, and having fun. Why don’t we meet at Amy’s Ice Cream? I’ll wear something cute and you can buy me an ice cream cone. We’ll talk about whatever is important to you, or if you’re the shy type, I’ll regale you with stories from the road. We’ll depart new friends with a fun Craigslist story to tell our old friends.
I’m not looking for sex or a romantic relationship. I’m just looking to spend a fun hour or so with a nice person who wants to buy me ice cream (although I might be open to lunch or dinner too). I don’t care what you look like or how old you are, as long as you are NICE. My life if too short to hang out with jerks!
I’m only in town for three weeks, so this offer is limited.
I started receiving responses almost immediately.
The first guy I was supposed to meet stood me up. Straight up stood me up. No call. No email. No apology. It was not a nice game he was playing.
Most guys did not stand me up, although I did not meet every man who sent me an email. Some behaved inappropriately and found themselves cut from the ice cream list. Some just couldn’t sync their schedules with mine. (I did have a life–and obligations–outside of eating ice cream with strangers.)
A couple of fellows took me out for meal. An older Latino gentleman treated me at one of those upper-scale burger joints. He seemed so lonely and somewhat frail. Another fellow took me to breakfast at Kirby Lane. He and I hung out a couple times after our initial meeting and are still in-touch through email.
Several of the guys were from out of town, visiting Austin for business. I guess they wanted to get out of their hotel rooms and do something other than go to a bar or eat dinner alone. I didn’t have much in common with most of them, but I was pleasant, and they were pleasant, and the ice cream was always delicious.
One of the guys visiting Austin was from San Francisco. He was Asian and seemed like a grown-up surfer with long hair and a laid-back attitude. He told me all about Burning Man and encouraged me to get a reduced price ticket to attend. (I looked into it, and the process to get such a ticket wasn’t as easy as he’d made it seem.)
When I told the Lady of the House about putting up an ad to meet people who bought me ice cream, she said it was one of the saddest things she’d ever heard. (I’ll admit, that stung a little.) She thinks it’s sad that there are people so lonely they’ll shell out dollars to talk to a stranger.
But I thought the whole situation was fun and kind of sweet. It wasn’t just about the free treats for me. I enjoyed meeting people who seemed very different from me and trying to find common ground. I enjoyed hearing about other people’s lives and learning what they were passionate about.
And the ice cream was always delicious.