Johnny Law, straight to bed and Missed-Connecting the dots (la, la, la)

I love Craigslist.

The site’s black-and-white, no-frills, free-to-all ads helped me find kick-ass roommates, my beloved red Cannondale racing bike and, embarrassing as it may be, even a few dates.

But the Missed Connections board was the one part of Craigslist I never had given a spin.

Missed Connections, where users post ads in hopes of soliciting follow-ups to chance encounters, is the opposite of online dating: You bump into someone in real life—exchange a glance, smile, brief conversation, dirty aside—and later go online to see if you can pick up where you both left off. To me, the concept always seemed like a long shot: What are the chances of people finding each other online after a chance encounter at Safeway?

Slim, likely. But first, a couple of observations:

It’s mostly men posting ads on Missed Connections. On a recent Friday, a couple dozen dudes had placed ads, as compared to only eight women. This might mean that more men visit Craigslist than women. Or it may be a cultural phenomenon: Perhaps, when it comes to dating and mating, men typically make the first move.

Second, it seems that posting an ad takes the sting out of rejection. You need guts to approach someone in real life, and getting turned down can be a blow to the ego. But on Missed Connections, the worst thing that can happen is nobody replies to your ad.

It’s a gutless wonder.

So, to get a better idea of why people use Missed Connections, I sent a barrage of e-mails to Missed Connections posters, hoping to hear from a few people about their successes and failures. (Yes, Craigslist warns that “It’s not OK to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests,” but I don’t believe in following rules.)

Craigslist subsequently banned my e-mail address for spamming too many users.

That said, I eventually received a few responses, all of them from men, and all of them insisting I keep their identity secret.

One of them was exceedingly paranoid. “All I can say is that Missed Connections is not anonymous by any means,” Michael warned via e-mail. “And it’s used by Johnny Law, PIs, guys in suits, etc.”

I assured Michael that I hadn’t worn a suit in years. I also asked how he knew about law enforcement trolling the site.

He never wrote back.

I had more luck with Brian, who had posted an ad after spotting a cute guy while shopping in West Sac. Brian had used Missed Connections in the past, as a bet with a roommate, but the results weren’t so hot.

“The guy replied and seemed like he was in love with me already,” Brian explained via instant messaging. “He ended up creeping me out and still calls even though we never met.”

Creeps abound, yes, but it was Tony who finally put Missed Connections into perspective. He said that any reply to his post would provide the “affirmation that I wasn’t dreaming about someone checking me out.”

Missed Connections, it seems, exists not only out of our need to feel desired, but also to reaffirm our fleeting, if fervent, desire itself.

Then Tony asked me out for coffee. I told him I was straight.

“Straight to bed,” Tony replied.

Ah, the wonders of Craigslist.