Here's my latest guilty pleasure: reading the "Missed Connections" section of Anchorage Craiglist. If you aren't familiar, these are mainly a collection of posts written from one stranger to another about a shared romantic vibe that never turned into anything. They're a little like old-fashioned personal ads, only rawer.
A caveat: Given the impulsive, random, spelling-challenged world of the Internet, some of the posts are terrible, obscure, profane, or, on occasion, obscene. (Pro-tip: Don't surf this listing at work.) Those are the boring ones, and they are easily ignored. The other posts, the ones that tell a little story about our city and the people in it, I find irresistible.
Each day a dozen or so posts pile up like bottled messages thrown in the sea. Mixed in with ads for all the things being bought and sold --the washing machines and two-bedroom apartments and gently-used baby clothes --Missed Connections is its own little marketplace, trading on longing, flirtation, loneliness and hope. Often, posters write about fate.
"My missed connection: have I met him? Did we miss each other due to timing? Perhaps you're the one that passed me at the grocery store, or on the hiking trail ... rocking out to music in my car while going on a drive and we had a quick glance at each other?" wrote a 47-year-old woman from the Valley this week. "Do you ever question why some people cross our paths? Is it fate? Did I take a wrong turn?"
Of course not all posts are so introspective. Many are just silly, which is always entertaining. Take this one to Jacob at the Northern Lights Fred Meyer:
"You were my checker at 5. I bought tofu and smiled at you."
Others are earnest, like this 26-year-old woman who wrote this month to "Sean? Shawn?" who she met at the airport. "Your smile, stature and charming good looks left me speechless and flustered. Thankfully I gained the gusto to find you in the baggage claim and introduce myself. I also realized that I probably should have given you my phone number along with the flier I gave you for the event this weekend... Here is to hoping our paths will cross this weekend! You were carrying perhaps a mandolin case? I feel my chances are good."
And this one, from a 65-year-old woman, looking for "her marine."
"I loved you back in 1968. We were both stationed at NAS Jacksonville, Fla. I am single and would like to at least see you again. (You went to Viet Nam with a gunny named Jefferson)."
The best ones make you laugh:
"Gorgeous girl, Coastal Trail, (just north of Earthquake Park): Just a couple of hours ago. We were on opposite sides of the trail and I smiled and said hello. You smiled, then turned back and waved hello. You were so pretty. I turned around a minute later but never caught up to you. You must be fast. I'm, obviously, not. Oh well. I have other redeeming qualities."
Others might be an over-share, like this one, from a guy with a girlfriend looking at a woman who was not his girlfriend at Blockbuster on Northern Lights: " You had a conversation with the cashier about Doctor Who. ... I just had to say that you are unbelievably beautiful, with the greatest smile I've ever seen. Almost literally took my breath away. I know you'll never see this, but I had to say it."
Good posts have a sense of place, reminding us that love can blossom anywhere. Even, say, at the Seward Meridian Tesoro in Wasilla:
"I showed you from the customer side where you keep the soft pack cigarettes, you told me I was good. I thought you were cute and kicked myself all the way home for not saying anything."
Or at the Sunglass Hut in the 5th Avenue mall:
"You were the only one working ... dressed to impress in all black perched at your podium with an iPad. I went out of my way to go in the store just to check you out. But then something interesting happened, you were very attentive and nice..."
I would finish up this column with a paragraph about how Missed Connections captures something universal about unexpected connections with strangers and love and fate, but the post below puts it better than I can:
"I was dashing through Carrs this morning to pick up donuts for my coworkers and brushed past you three times. You were wearing an orange construction vest and joked with me about having way too many donuts for one person at the self checkouts. Every time we passed each other and I shyly glanced up, you were looking straight at me.
"Sometimes in life you come across people in a store, on the street, or in a crowd for whom eye contact and acknowledgement of a bizarre,unexpected connection between the two of you is completely unavoidable. You were that person for me this morning, whoever you are, and it put a smile on my face all the way to work.
"Maybe you read these, maybe you don't. I just wanted to put this into the world and hope it reaches you. Thanks for the smile."