Ramblins’ from the Hills & Hollers: Humor and pathos still found in the classified ads

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Steve Oden

By Steve Oden

The things people have to sell in classified ads and the language they use to convey the description of items have long fascinated me. I’ve written before about my addiction to scanning newspaper classified and free shoppers for interesting stuff. I am also intrigued about the written construction and wording of the ads.
Think of it this way: in 20 words or less, folks announce what they have for sale, describe desirable characteristics and/or flaws, list the price (whether fixed or negotiable) and how to consummate the transaction. Some ads tell stories, comedic or sad. Others leave you wondering what happened. I’ve long been convinced the human condition can be summed up in classified ads. So, here is the latest batch collected from various local sources arriving in my mailbox, with comments appended:
“FREE PIG . . .” With the price of pork, this ad was sure to draw attention. However, I suspected the animal was a pot-bellied pig, grown too large to be a pet any longer. My sister had one, and they are very intelligent. Theirs thought he was a dog. But the cute small piglets become hefty, belly-dragging porkers impossible to keep inside. It’s sad to think this one might have been given to someone who butchered it.
“CIVIL WAR ARTIFACTS off an ammunition wagon . . .” The obvious historical question is what happened to the wagon? The artillery of both sides in the war targeted limbers, caissons and the larger wagons carrying shot, shells and powder. The conclusion to which I jumped was that the artifacts were part of the wagon itself after the explosion. I regret not having called.
“SHRINER PARADE CAR, runs good . . .” Oh, boy, did I miss my chance. Always wanted one of those little frontward-backward clown cars that do wheelies and figure eights, without which Christmas and July Fourth parades would be incomplete. This was a five-horsepower, fire-engine red model with chrome wheels, a windshield and bumper. Only $800!
“KAYAK, only used twice. I am too big for it . . .” Brother, I feel your pain. As a big guy myself, I can’t get comfortable in a kayak, and mine is a top of the line model. When you weigh more than your loaded kayak, you ought to invest in a boat. I took my own advice and now have a kayak for sale too.
“MONKEYMAN TREE SERVICE . . .” There could never be a more aptly named tree-trimming business.
“OLD WHEEL BARROW with one broken arm . . .” I presume this means there is only a single wooden handle. Easy enough to replace, but I admit the ad begs a question. How did the “arm” break? Might be a story there.
“FOUND, black-rimmed prescription eyeglasses. Call to identify . . .” Well, they have black rims and only I can see out of them.
“OLD BLACK ROTARY phone, $20 . . .” The market certainly has diminished for rotary-dial telephones. Most kids today wouldn’t appreciate that this invention was the precursor to push- button phones, which were made obsolete by cell phones and now smartphones.
“BEFORE YOU HIRE a fencing company, check out mine. We are very dissatisfied . . .” I am still scratching my head over this one. The choice of words seems to be a horrible mistake, unless the ad is a negative testimonial.
“HANDYMAN. We will do what other people won’t do . . .” Why does this statement make me uneasy?
“BOAT FIXER-UPPER project. Floats, but I have not tried to confirm . . .” This is what lifejackets are made for.
Finally, this item in the lost-and-found column touched a sympathetic chord. You can draw your own conclusions, but I want to believe it relates to a WW II veteran who journeyed back to a place he visited as a young soldier:
“FOUND AT RECYCLING center, small blue photo album. First picture is of an elderly couple, lady in blue dress, gentleman in gray suit with USA flag tie. Back reads, ‘Bath, England, John and Ellen.’ Please text or call . . .”