Honolulu Lite


Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Miscellaneous ads tug
at the imagination

There's an under-appreciated form of literature that, like haiku, generally amounts to only three lines, yet it packs in all the hopes and disappointments life has to offer.

These mini-stories of human aspiration and misery can be found in the daily newspaper classified advertising section under the unlikely heading: "Miscellaneous items for sale."

Beneath the three lines of stark type exist stories of true heartache and conflict, quests for perfection never achieved, a landscape of dashed dreams and delusions unveiled.

Other classified ads are shallow and literal. Behind every "boat for sale" ad you can hear the echo of a voice nagging: "I told you you'd never use that thing. It's just been one problem after another."

But the "miscellaneous items for sale" ads grab the heart. Recently someone was trying to sell a cricket cage and a bunch of crickets for only $10. You can imagine what happened here. Owning a cage full of crickets seemed like a great idea at the time. The cute chirp, chirp, chirping, the music of nature brought into your house. But after a few days, your neighbors are ready to kill you. And late at night, you are ready to kill yourself. The chirp, chirp, chirping ... My god, does it ever stop? You have to admire the restraint of the person selling the crickets. He didn't kill them. He didn't use them for bait. He toughed it out but, damn it, he's had enough. I mean, I don't know that for a fact, but the back story seems plausible.

And that's part of the fun of the "miscellaneous items" ads: You get to fill in the blanks.

Such as, what's going on with the guy selling two years' worth of "Playboy" and "Penthouse" magazines? It smells like someone just got engaged and is reluctantly turning over a new leaf.

Other people are selling decades of old National Geographic magazines. Pity the person with a subscription to National Geographic. You can't throw them away. They are too nice. So you stack up year after year, until you are crawling through tunnels of mountains of National Geographics to get from your front door to the kitchen. You know you have to get rid of them, but you can't throw them out. They must be worth something, you think.

The numerous ads for mechanical rowers, treadmills and universal gyms share the same depressing universal theme: The machines won.

The "like-new" guitar and instruction tapes for sale seem to sing: The dream of making the band didn't work out. It's back to the gas station.

The ad selling a drum set has a different beat. I see a father telling a teen, "I told you if the neighbors call the police one more time we were getting rid of those things."

And tell me that the ad selling the "diamond engagement ring, unused" doesn't bring a lump to your throat.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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