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Meeting a Craigslist Stranger to Trade iPhones

Shame and phablets at the Verizon store.

Vjeran Pavic for Re/code

Wanting the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t happen suddenly but by begrudging and self-hating increments. I borrowed someone’s phone to Google something and felt the heft and made fun of them for their phablet, but then my regular-sized 6 seemed tiny for a second. When playing crosswords with a friend, my small phone wasn’t really an option. I would squint one eye to comfortably read the Times in bed each morning.

Envy is unattractive. As are displays of wealth and dissatisfaction. As is a preoccupation with electronics. But one day, very secretly, I posted to Craigslist that I have the 6 but would like the 6 Plus.

First came the barrage of scammers, texting that they were captains in the army so couldn’t meet — could I send my bank routing number? But like magic, the Internet provides. If you bought an iPhone 6 and want a 6 Plus, someone has the opposite problem. A week after posting, I got a cogent text from someone who wanted to trade. He lived in Reno but would be coming to Los Gatos and could maybe swing up to San Francisco. I told him I’d throw in $100 to sweeten the deal.

We met at Verizon on Market Street downtown. The sales guy said a lot of people who meet on Craigslist come to do business there. “We’re kind of a Craigslist safe space,” he told me. “Well lit. Not judgmental.”

My Reno friend was a tall, slim, older guy in jeans. He said he’d wanted the Plus but it was too big for him and kept falling out of his shorts while he was lifting weights. He told me it was a brand new one because he’d accidentally gone swimming in Hawaii with its first iteration. He had a gold phone, as did I, but he said he’d hoped I’d have another color.

We exchanged phones. The most intimate object in my life, which goes from pocket to pillow with me, from work emails to sexts, was now in his hands. But these little metal slabs lose their emotional weight quickly, and I loved my new one immediately. I commented on how big and beautiful it was, and I didn’t even care if I sounded weird. I stroked it and cantilevered it across my palm. My thumbs roved around its surface, free and agile. He held mine and was quiet for a second.

“Wow, yeah, it is small,” he said. “Really is small, isn’t it?”

He was having second thoughts. He looked at me.

“If you really want take backsies, I’ll survive,” I told him.

He sighed and repeated how small it was but said he was an adult and there would be no “take backsies.”

I said the case comes with the phone and that it’s the best one there is. He smiled but asked how he can take it off.

He counted down 3-2-1, and we both erased our data.

He reached a hand out. I thought we’d become friends and were going to shake, but he wanted the $100. He was interested in my life and asked some polite questions but then cleared his throat and told me his wife was in Nordstrom’s next door, and he should get her before she buys the place up.

My friend texted me to check in last night and say that it had taken him about three hours, but now he likes his smaller phone. And I woke up with a beautiful phablet that has been in my Reno friend’s gym shorts but that I would take in as my own. I read with both eyes open, thumbs kicking around, disgusted and very pleased with myself.

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