I had not lived in Vermont for too many minutes before somebody made me aware of the communication tool known as LISTSERV. This is actually pretty old technology, but is a dang effective way to find out what is going on in your own community. LISTSERV is really nothing more than an electronic bulletin board; you subscribe to it via email, and voilà! You are connected every morning to the goings-on in your area that other subscribers have seen fit to post, via your inbox. This can include requests for used ski equipment, adverts for stuff people want to sell (antiques, electronics, livestock—you name it), announcements, and even an occasional fist-shaking rant by the most strident town politico.
In a state where “community” is usually defined broadly as a far-reaching farm village with a town center, the LISTSERV can be a really helpful tool. I subscribe to the one for my own little town, as well as one for a larger town a few miles to the south. I found a fabulous dog sitter using the LISTSERV for a recent trip down to NYC, and the ballet school that employs me uses it to recruit new enrollees from time to time. It’s groovy and very Vermont-y.
LISTSERV, however, is also pretty public. The people who post usually identify themselves by name and email address so that you can contact them directly if, say, you want to take a look at the smelly old ski boots they are trying to unload for a low, low price or your best offer. It’s a good practice. Keeps everything transparent and on the up and up. And the unlucky user who crosses an invisible line of propriety with his errant post will likely hear about it—via the LISTSERV—the very next day. Recently a post slamming a local landscape company was met with strident disapproval in a counterpost defending the same company. I have no idea which post was nearer the truth, but the dialog was interesting. The LISTSERV can be good entertainment with your cuppa Joe while you gather the constitution to take your dog out to pee in the below-freezing early morning air.
Craigslist—which can also be a very useful tool, to be sure—does not possess this same transparency. Like LISTSERV writ large, craigslist allows you to remain anonymous. I will submit that terrible things can happen under the shroud of secrecy, and have since the dawn of time. Still doesn’t make it okay. So while you might be able to find a deal on smelly old ski boots there, you can also buy stuff that is just plain illegal. Like sex disguised as something more legitimate sounding, for example a highly paid business travel companion who should be “discreet” when responding to the ad. If it looks like prostitution and smells like prostitution….
My now ex-husband was extolling the virtues of craigslist to me not long before I moved away from Tennessee to my new Vermont home. I was searching for things in my possession I could convert quickly to cash to help with the monumental expense of moving. My golf clubs I only used twice. Jumping saddles from my brief tenure riding hunt seat. Maybe my old, clunky desktop computer.
Yeah, I said. It’s amazing what you can find on craigslist.
My comment sailed right past him. I would like to think the people who responded “discreetly” to the ads were smelly and old. Kinda like those ski boots.