In the Bronx, Dan is looking for Liz, the girl who shared half of her grapefruit with him on the Subway. In Springfield, Oregon, 30-year-old Lucy is looking for Linus. In Eugene, Oregon, I’m looking for a scruffy-faced Wolverine. And in many places, many more are looking for someone too.
“You: Scanning groceries…Me: In your line with baby food and coupons. Like kids? You can scan my bar code anytime,” wrote one Thurston, Oregon, grocery store shopper to the store clerk she never had the chance to approach in person.
These people are all looking for one thing: the connection they didn’t make. And though they may never find their missed connections, it’s the searching that seems to put them at ease.
In Eugene alone, an average of 350 people a month post ads on Craigslist searching for their “missed connections.” Typically, someone writes a quirky message searching for someone they wanted to talk to but didn’t. And although people rarely receive responses to their ads, most seem satisfied that they tried.
My unrequited romance happened one recent Saturday afternoon. Hung-over, I was startled when a scruffy “looker” smirked at me from a checkout line in Safeway. I got in line behind him, but my superego overruled each pick-up line that came to my head. I reached my house with my sole purchase — a pudgy roll of cookie dough — but without the satisfaction of having talked to the debonair wolf-man.
So I posted an “I Saw You” ad in the local alternative weekly looking for my Cinderell-o, dangling a virtual glass slipper. “Wolverine Sighting at Safeway” read as follows: “You looked like Wolverine. I was in a giant furry hat. You were buying english muffins. I was buying cookie dough. You smiled. I smiled. Let’s eat?” It was a few words short of Shakespeare, but it sufficed. Several weeks passed, and no side-burned sire ever came. But I look back feeling proud to have been proactive. I have no regrets.
Neither does Andrea Dover of Bend, Oregon. She is looking for a man she met 14 years ago, the man she dated for eight months, and the man she stayed friends with until seven years ago, when they lost touch. She’s tried everything now: from a private investigator to Craigslist’s Missed Connections postings in Eugene, Portland and Seattle. “I’m actually hoping that he’ll see this article,” she says.
Though some may look at Dover’s search as stalker-esque, Dover sees the experience as a romantic quest that will eventually put her mind at ease. “At least I know that I won’t be that 81-year-old lady wondering what would have been,” she says. Dover sees that lonely 81-year-old lady every day in her grandmother, who still thinks about her teenage crush that she never pursued.
Since their birth in newspapers such as New York’s Village Voice, missed connections ads have gone viral. Craigslist started its “missed connections” section in 2000; MissedConnections.com, ISawYou.com, and SubwayCrush.com followed shortly thereafter. And now there are comics, artists, and an upcoming DreamWorks film—all centered on these serendipitous sightings.
For some, these connection attempts are a way for people not to become bolder, but wiser in their pursuits. For Caley Berube, a 21-year-old student at Lane Community College, constant uncertainty about her romantic interests attracted her to Craigslist. Berube, openly lesbian and quite feminine-looking, says she isn’t the most conspicuous lesbian in Eugene. It’s difficult for her to tell if other women can sense she is lesbian and are hitting on her.
“There have been times where there’s a similar exchange of smiles and it doesn’t turn out to be anything,” she says. Using an online missed connection site makes Berube’s intent clear without making the subject uncomfortable if they don’t reciprocate those feelings.
When Berube went to a patisserie in Salem, Oregon, over spring break, she met a “looker” of a barista who suggested a spiced chai latte—emphasis on the spiced—and brought it to her personally with an extra-charming smile. Though she couldn’t be sure that there was flirtation, Berube looked back through the window on her way out and caught one last divine smile. “It meant enough for me to post something on Craigslist of all places,” she says.
Nothing came of it for Berube, although it changed her perspective on the matter. “If someone had the balls to do this [for me], that’d be some brownie points,” she says.
And Sadie Hote* agreed—she was glad she met the hippie masseuse who sought her. Hote, who reads the Craigslist ads regularly for fun, came across an ad this spring that seemed to describe the “flirty eye contact” she’d had with a passerby. “It took me a few days to think about whether or not I would respond,” she says, admitting that she didn’t want to tell people she met someone on Craigslist.
But in the end, she went for it. The relationship only lasted a month, but the end to their fling didn’t have anything to do with the way they met, she says. “We just didn’t work out like any other couple wouldn’t work out.”
Hote says she would never post an ad herself because she’s not the hopeless romantic that she imagines most ad-posters are. “I would’ve probably just talked to them in that moment,” she says.
However, not every moment is as easy as that, nor are all the players so bold. Maybe you were hung-over. Maybe the area was too crowded. Maybe the timing was inappropriate. Whatever the reason—there’s no harm in giving yourself a second chance. At least you won’t be wondering “what if…” when you’re 81-years-old.
*Name has been changed to protect sources anonymity.