Free Treadmill for the Masses - 4/19/04
How many people in South Bay does it take to get a free treadmill? Apparently about 35, because that's how many emails I had to respond to before somebody would come and take the goddamn thing away.

Several months back, our good neighbors Sarah and Jeff offered us a free treadmill that had just been sitting in their garage for a year. Being in love with free stuff, we took it… and it has sat in our garage ever since. Amazing that nobody would want to use a treadmill that was probably among the first five ever made, has a running area only about 8 inches across, and roars like a jet engine every time you turn it on.

Anyway, I finally realized it was just going to continue to take up space, and decided to give it away. Since all good stories start with Craigslist, that's where I turned, and posted the following:

So we got this old treadmill we never use. It ain't pretty, but it works - plugs into the wall, has a couple setting knobs, is a nice beige color.

It's just sitting in our front yard, so if you come pick it up, it's yours. Just email me and I'll give you our address.

Within 5 minutes of posting, I had 3 responses. Within 10 minutes, I had 3 more. Piece of cake, I figured. I'll just respond to a couple, so people don't trip over each other, and it'll be gone by tomorrow.

Or so I thought. Tomorrow came, and the treadmill was still there. "OK, people are lazy," I thought. "Even for a free treadmill. I'll just respond to a couple more emails.

So I did. And a couple more. And a couple more. Three days later, I'd responded to at least 10 people, and nobody had come to pick up the treadmill! Is this too hard for you people? Did the original email, which you so quickly responded to, not state clearly that all you had to do was come and get it? Why would you respond and then not come to get your free treadmill?

This aggravated me even more than the potential Craigslist roommates who would respond to our post, saying how much they loved us, and then never email again when we offered to have them come by and see the house. At least those people would have had to pay rent eventually. Maybe they could have gotten a better offer. But what, was there someplace else offering two free treadmills? Maybe we should have offered a free piece of exercise equipment to everyone who came over to interview to be a roommate, though I bet people still would have flaked. God I hate the masses so much.

Finally this morning I got so sick of it that I just responded to everyone that had emailed - by this point there were like 35 of them. Just look at my Outlook - I think "Free Treadmill" has finally surpassed "Free Ink Cartridges" as the most abundant email subject in my trash bin. So I sent out two dozen emails at once, all saying "Our address is ______. The treadmill's in our front yard. First one here gets it." If there was a smiley-face icon shooting a starter pistol, I would have tacked that on at the end.

But, you ask, what if 25 fat, cheap, needing-to-exercise-but-not-willing-to-pay-for-it people all showed up at once at our house, all wanting the treadmill? By this point, that was a risk I was willing to take. If they came banging on my door demanding a free treadmill that wasn't there, I'd tell them to go run around the block. Or maybe they'd get in a big fight, all grumpy and chubby and punching each other in gray sweatsuits at 8 in the morning outside our house. Good, they'd burn some calories that way. Or maybe I'd just invite them all in and we'll have a party, except that I'd probably have to supply all the free beer.

I went to bed at 8:30am, and woke up at 3pm… and the treadmill was gone. Noah told me some Mexican woman came by with her husband and a pickup truck, knocked on the door, and when Noah opened it, she they pointed at the treadmill.

"Garbage?" she asked.

"Yeah, whatever. You can have it," said Noah. The woman's eyes lit up, and they promptly threw the treadmill into their truck and took off. After all that, it took this couple probably no more than two minutes to get themselves a nice, free, 1950's treadmill.

I bet they weren't even from Craigslist.



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