May 22, 2003
High Bid

ytd: 305.40

suzanne1656 is on my tail again.

The online auction is winding down to a close -- four minutes/seventeen seconds left to go, last time I hit the refresh button -- and I see that she has once again managed to inch past me in the bidding. It's maddening. All week long, I've been riding this auction virtually unchallenged ... the lone player on the field, no opposition to speak of, confident of certain victory, yadda yadda yadda ... but at the last minute, this annoying interloper has insinuated herself into the action. She appeared this afternoon, out of nowhere, and immediately doubled my bid. We've been at war ever since. Now every time I check on the auction, I find that she's snaked me again, usually by some ridiculous, illogical, picayune amount. Frantically, I type in an incremental increase -- I see your forty-three cents, suzanne1656, and I raise you a buck sixty-two and a half-eaten Cherry Newton -- and I hit the "Bid" button.

Then I minimize the browser window and return to my soil density reports.

This is my virgin foray into the world of eBay buying and selling. I've goofed around on the eBay website occasionally, over the years, performing random recreational searches for lunchboxes and Liddle Kiddles and Five Man Electrical Band albums.  But until now, I've never found anything I wanted badly enough to actually bid on. The registration process has always struck me as unnecessarily complicated: it's worse than the DMV. The one time I attempted to navigate through the labyrinth of forms and passwords and legal disclaimers in order to register, I gave up halfway through in complete frustration. But the main reason I've avoided eBay, all these years -- the real deterrent, beneath all of the phony-baloney excuses -- has been plain old garden-variety fear. I was afraid of getting hooked. I know myself, and I know how my little muddled addict's brain works. I was afraid that all it would take is one successful auction -- one mint-condition Beany & Cecil lunchbox, purchased for a song on a rainy Saturday afternoon -- and the next thing you know, I would be parked in front of the computer 24/7 again, frittering away the grocery money on lunchboxes and Liddle Kiddles and Five Man Electrical Band albums.

No thank you.

In fact, I probably would have been content to steer clear of bidding on eBay forever -- keeping my sanity AND my savings account intact -- until last weekend, when I was running a routine Internet search for a product I'm interested in. The search led me to a seller on eBay. As a matter of fact, it led me to several sellers on eBay, one of whom had the exact product I was looking for  ...  brand-new, still in the box, for relatively cheap. In other words: not only did eBay actually have something that I wanted ...

... they had something I wanted very badly.

I registered my new eBay account, right there on the spot. It took two pots of coffee and half a Saturday afternoon, but I managed to get all the way through the registration process this time. I bookmarked the item I was interested in. Even though the auction had already started by the time I arrived on the scene, I followed David's advice and didn't place a preliminary bid. "Wait until the last day," he said. "Monitor the auction for a while, decide how high you're willing to go, and start bidding on the last day." And that's what I've done. At the beginning of the week I only checked occasionally -- once in the morning and once in the evening -- just to make sure that the item was still available (it was) and that there were no challengers on the horizon (there weren't). Everything was moving along just fine, until suzanne1656 showed up out of the clear blue sky today, with all of her show-offy stars and icons and smiley faces attached to her user name (denoting that she is one of the *Cool Kids* on eBay), bolloxing things up but good.

God, I hate suzanne1656.

I glance surreptitiously around the office. This entire operation would be a heckuva lot easier if the auction weren't ending in the middle of a workday ... but what can you do? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm not about to pass up The World's Greatest Deal, simply because I'm stuck sitting here in the Dirt Company office on a weekday afternoon. (I'm not worried about getting in trouble, should someone spot me lollygagging in front of the Internet. We ALL lollygag in front of the Internet on slow days like this. I'm worried that they'll see me lollygagging and figure it means I'm not 'busy' and decide to unload their personal filing on me.) Once I've made sure that none of my co-workers are lingering in the lobby, waiting to dump four years' worth of dusty file folders into my *In* Basket, I bring up the eBay window and take a quick sneaky peek at the auction. One minute and eleven seconds left to go ... and no new bids from suzanne1656.

I'm still riding on top. Whew.

And what exactly IS this object of desire that the two of us are warring over, you ask? This Holy Grail of the Internet? This treasure beyond measure?

It's a fifteen year old electric hairsetter.

But not just any fifteen year old electric hairsetter. This is a Clairol Lock 'n Roll Electric Hairsetter ... possibly the finest electric hairsetter ever manufactured. *I* should know. I've been using electric hairsetters for almost 35 years -- every make, model and brand name under the sun -- and this is the only setter that has ever been able to do a thing for my fine, limp, overcooked-spaghetti-noodle hair. The Lock 'n Roll went off the market in the late 80's or early 90's: you can't even buy replacement rollers for it anymore. The one I'm using now -- my third Lock 'n Roll -- was a miraculous thrift store find, several years ago. I paid seven bucks for it at Value Village, and it has served me well through nearly a decade of Zip Code changes, marital status changes, lifestyle changes, hair color changes. Recently, however, the rubber in the rollers has begun to degrade -- half of them have fallen apart completely, and the rest of them are hanging by a thread -- and lately I've noticed that the heating element doesn't seem to get quite as hot as it used to. Plus the entire hairsetter is shellacked with nearly ten years' worth of grime and DNA and petrified styling products. I've known for a while that it was time to replace it, but the idea of replacing it with anything but another Lock 'n Roll was too depressing to contemplate. It's like they say: once you've gone Lock 'n Roll ... you never go back.

suzanne1656 obviously feels the same way.

With less than a minute left in the bidding, I decide to go for broke and leave the browser window wide open, so I can monitor suzanne1656 and watch the final countdown. (If anybody asks, I'll say that I'm bidding on soil inclinometers.) Tension mounts. Excitement builds. The suspense is excruciating. Finally -- the fourth or fifth or thirty-eighth time that I hit the refresh button -- the results are announced:

"Bidding is now closed," it reads. "The winner -- by a half-eaten Cherry Newton -- is secraterri."


Giddy with reliefm flush with triumph  -- Take that, suzanne1656! Hope you enjoy setting your hair on RAG ROLLERS!!  --  I close the eBay window. As much as I would love to lollygag further and savor my victory, it's time to unplug from the Internet and plug back into the soil density reports. Later tonight, when I get home from work, I'll PayPal my money to the seller and make arrangements for shipping. Yes, I've just paid four times as much for this hairsetter as I paid for the last one ... but it's worth it. If all goes according to plan, I should have a shiny, clean, straight-out-of-the-box Lock 'n Roll Hairsetter in my hands (and in my hair) by the end of the month.  Then I can ceremoniously trash the old one, right after I cannibalize the few remaining useable rollers. 

I've got to admit: I'm very pleased with the way this whole thing has worked out. Obviously I still have a lot to learn about eBay, and about the bidding process -- how do you get those all of those show-offy stars and icons and smiley faces next to your user name, anyway? -- but overall it has been a satisfying experience. As a matter of fact I'm so pleased with eBay, I'm thinking that I might go back and place a bid on that Beany & Cecil lunchbox I saw listed last weekend.

Unless suzanne1656 is bidding on it, too. In which case I'll probably just plunk down the eighty-five bucks, right there on the spot, and be done with it.

Who needs the aggravation?

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~ nil bastardum carborundum ~

the five man electrical band album will have to
wait until NEXT payday.