Saturday, March 29, 2008

You've Been Outbid

I've always been a bit (okay, a lot) on the obsessive side. The perfect quality (in fact, a requirement) for collecting antique bottles. Perfect, too, for becoming addicted to eBay....

And addicted I am. Every morning now around 5:00, while my daughter is sleeping, I'm there at my computer with a cup of coffee, inserting my eBay user ID and password, checking all the bottle auctions I've been watching, seeing if anyone's outbid me on a bottle I want, scrolling through the listings of "new today" bottles in ten different categories, enlarging their photos and studying the nuances of lips, necks, and bases....

And there I am again in the time between my English classes, and again in the evening while my daughter watches "Charmed," pretending to have my eyes on the news, frenetically logging off if she calls from the other room....

How did it get so bad? Well, I've been collecting antique bottles for over two decades now, mostly searching in little junk/antique shops, having fun but finding there's nothing much around here but the most common stuff. Ah, but on eBay.... Bottles of every color and shape and category, bottles from every state in the country and other countries, bottles from not only the 19th Century but the 18th and 17th too! Wow! And they can all be had if I'm only willing to pay enough....

There is also the thrill of winning a bid, your heart racing in the very last seconds of the auction, then eBay suddenly congratulating you on your "win," patting you on the back with a big green check-mark (opposite of a big red X). And after you've paid for your item, what can beat the excitement of getting a package in the mail?

But there is also the crushing downside of eBay: losing a bid. I'll explain the whole emotional sequence step by step:

1. Become intrigued by an item and bid on it. 2. Watch the item for a week, perhaps bidding again. 3. Become deeply attached to the item, which is now "yours." 4. Continuously imagine the item on your shelf and look forward to congratulation day. 5. In the last seconds of the auction, get outbid by a "sniper." 6. Become angered at the jerk (with a user ID like beachbaby23) who stole your item and will soon be holding it in his/her unworthy hands. 7. Grieve your loss. (Once, waking to see I'd lost the bid on a bottle I was certain I'd win, I openly wept. I think the phrase "get a life" applies here.)

But your warm and caring friend eBay is there to console you. In the next few days, not too soon and not too late, an email from eBay will arrive like an arm around your shoulder, gently listing similar items it has found for you to look at. eBay is a slightly deranged friend, however. Here is a list of "similar items found" that eBay sent to me after I lost the bid on an amber three-piece-mold ale bottle:

1. Amber pint flask (okay, that's reasonable) 2. Amber crystal perfume bottle (not really similar, but it's a bottle) 3. Three-piece old lamp (what?) 4. Amber wolf collar necklace (huh?) 5. Seashell jello mold (this is just getting weird) 6. Amber pumpkin enema bag (I guess eBay has a few kinks to work out yet.)

In a few days, though, you're feeling better. The clouds have parted and the world is sunny again. You're ready to get back to your computer, to see what else is out there that could be yours, to watch and bid and win and lose, to enter your password five times a day.... Back to your normal obsessive self once more.

published in the Hometown Herald Spring 2004

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