Leo and the Interview

My most recent brush with The People of Craigslist seemed worth sharing. I have been wanting to get my mom a canary since her birthday, but they are terribly expensive from a pet store. In the past (many moons ago), there was a “canary guy” in metro Detroit that my aunt referred me to, but I have long since lost his information and maybe he isn’t even dealing canaries anymore.

I had just decided a couple days earlier that I was going to really look for a canary for my mom for Christmas and I was perusing CL (though I’ve never seen a canary up for grabs there before). Why not, though, why not? A couple days after I started looking, up popped an ad for a canary for a very reasonable price. Perfect. I send the email to let them know I’m interested and heard back within a day or two.

Sunday afternoon I get an email asking if I will meet them at Panera at a specified time. Sure. I give my cell number and agree to meet them. I assume, of course, that we’re just meeting in a public place because I could be some creep from the bowels of Craigslist and Panera seems as good a place as any to not be caught alone with me. Makes me feel safe as well, perfect.

So I am sitting there in my car waiting and get the phone call “I’m the guy in the red sweatshirt heading into Panera.” Okay, I’ll be right in. (At this moment it seems kind of like a ransom phone call “Throw your cell phone in the garbage on your way into the building.” Thankfully that didn’t happen). I walk in and Red Sweatshirt and his mousey wife are at a table waiting for me. Uh. I thought we’d exchange cash for a bird in the public parking lot and be done. The wife says, “I really wanted to meet you and make sure you’ll give Leo a good home.”  Ohhhh. So she hesitantly starts asking me about myself and telling me she really, really wants to make sure Leo goes to a good home. Um. What do most people do with canaries?

I smile and tell her I understand, “I have two rescue dogs and know it is important.” (Note: if you are trying to be a fit home for a bird, telling a bird lover about your rescue dogs does not put her at ease.) I told her I was getting it for my mom who recently had my 92 year old grandpa move in with them. She’s had canaries through the years and loves them. They are so cheery with their beautiful singing.

Mousey Wife proceeds to tell me the whole story about how they acquired Leo (I think to appease her guilty conscience about getting rid of him, either that or I was wearing my “Please tell me everything” sign again). She and Red Sweatshirt were at a bird show (his first one — implying clearly it was a regular thing for her – am I the only person who didn’t know there was even such a thing as a bird show??). When they walked in and paid the entrance fee, they got two raffle tickets. On the way there she had JUST told Red Sweatshirt how lucky she always is at raffles. So they won the canary. She leans in for dramatic effect, “the sad part is that I’m really more of a Budgie person, you know, more interactive with my birds.” I nearly laughed out loud but suddenly it all makes sense. She looks like a Budgie person! And her husband looks like a Budgie person’s husband. Incredible!

She tells me a few tidbits about canaries: “He puffs up his feathers at night.” I tell her about my mom’s old canary who used to sing at night if the moon was bright enough. “Oh I ALWAYS cover my birds at night.” Mmm hmm. Us too, obviously. “Leo sings as soon as it is light, but I haven’t heard him at night.” “Great.” There are a lot of awkward moments in this conversation because we don’t know each other and, while she claims to be very interactive with her birds, I don’t think she’s really practiced at interaction with people.

“Do you want to meet him?” She asks me, expectantly. Um yes, that is why I’m here – it’s actually what I thought I’d be doing 10 minutes ago. As we are heading out the door, Red Sweatshirt turns toward me (without making eye contact) and says, “We call him Leo, but it’s short for ‘Leonardo DeFinchio’ even though we know he’s not a finch.” Awkward chortle. Ah. I see what you did there buddy.

So we go out to the cold car where Budgie Lady has got a towel wrapped around the small bird cage. She uncovers him and we stand there in the cold looking at a very canary looking canary. “Great. He’s very pretty, looks good” I say. I’m not sure what she wants me to say here. I’m ready to close the deal and get out of there. Budgie is still looking at me expectantly. “He looks perfect! We had a canary that looks a lot like this a long time ago. (long awkward pause)… Why don’t I pull my car over so I don’t freeze him walking across the parking lot.” As I walk away, I hear her say to Red Sweatshirt “Yeah, I like her.” Whew.

I come back with the car, hand her the cash, and put Leo in the car with me. I wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and thank them. They were so weird about the good bye, about handing over the bird, about being at Panera and interviewing me. Ah well, I think, The People of Craigslist. What did I expect?

Of course then I get series of texts later that evening:
“I forgot to give you the canary food I have left.”
“I can give you our address so you can come get it.”
“I would really like to know how your mom likes Leo. Please let me know.”

Oh boy. This is beginning to feel like a relationship. I opt for buying a bag of canary food (instead of another awkward encounter). Leo delights the dogs and I for a few days and sings beautifully whenever it is light. Great. Just what I was looking for. He does indeed puff up his feathers at night. I bring him over for my mom and she teared up. “It’s perfect!” You gotta love when a gift is well received, especially one that was so awkward to acquire.

A couple days later, a friend and I were out doing a bit of shopping and we are at Lowes. We’ve each gotten our few items and we’re sociably walking toward the cash register… I stopped. There, in a Lowes vest, is Red Sweatshirt. Nooooooo. My pretty imaginary world came crashing down. I prefer to believe that The People of Craigslist don’t actually co-exist in my world unless I purposely encounter them. Sigh. Apparently that isn’t the case. And since that isn’t the case, my friend and I went the long way to the cash register and I explained why once we were safely in the car.

Even funnier is thinking back on our family’s bird history and the things I opted NOT to share with The People of Craigslist. Like that time a few of my younger siblings had budgies. And my impulsive 12 year old brother walked out the back door with a Budgie on his shoulder, right into the waiting jowls of the cats that hung out right at that door on the walls leading to the door. Mmm hmm. I don’t think Budgie Lady would approve at all. I also didn’t tell her the last canary I remember having (while I still lived there anyway) who sang beautifully in the window for years… until a certain barn cat somehow got into the house and ate him. Again, I’m not sure I would have been “approved” for bird ownership if I had told the entire story. Thankfully, no one asked for ALL of the particulars of my bird history and I certainly wasn’t going to volunteer those details.

Leo is now happily ensconced in a large cage, surrounded by spider plants, and sings his heart out at the Bon Terre Homestead amidst the chaos. He brightens my mom’s days and anyone else around to hear him. Absolutely delightful. Leo
So I got both a bird AND an awesome story out of that hour of awkwardness. Booyah.

2 thoughts on “Leo and the Interview

  1. When I read the title of this post (it’s been awhile since I checked your blog), I knew my painting break would continue for a little longer. So awesome. Just so very awesome. People are so weird. I guess esp. budgie people. I don’t even know what a budgie is, but I’m sure one of those, or maybe a canary would be cute in our school room. …But the real kicker is that he works at Lowes! How long can you go on avoiding him?

    I think you should make 5 minute (or less) youtube dramatizations called #awkwardmoments. You have a lifetime of material. Diarrhea airport lady? Check. Late-night vacuum salesman with blue shoes? Check. Budgie people who interview like they’re CPS? Check. (notice I’m leaving myself out of this litany, but do as you please).

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