by Tom McNaughton
[Editor’s Note: Recently, a long-time expat in Cuenca used Gringo Tree to perpetrate a little hoax. The responses were instructive, so he agreed to share them here.]
The devil made me do it.
Everyone who knows me would agree: I have a pretty unusual sense of humor. And I guess I’d read one too many unrealistic (to put it politely) posts on Gringo Tree in search of suitable housing in Cuenca. Finally, something in me snapped. And I did it, I admit. I put together the most unrealistic request for a rental I could think of. But in my defense, I’ll say this. I used my real email address. So everyone who knows me realized from what twisted imagination it came. As for the rest of the responses, well, that’s why I did it.
The ad read as follows. “Wanted: El Centro apartment. Quiet, secure, three/two or larger, open floor plan, large terrace, great views. Fully furnished with full-size washer/dryer, modern kitchen and full-size appliances, flat-screen TV at least 60 inches, high-speed wifi, and hot tub. Guard and elevator. Must allow large dogs, children, and smoking. A weight room, gym, and lap pool would be pluses. Must be close to grocery shopping and bus routes. No gringo pricing, please; will not pay over $350 a month, all utilities included. Will sign a 6-month lease with a possible 6-month extension.”
I wasn’t sure it would get posted. If it did, I figured two possible outcomes. Either everyone gets a good laugh, or I get a good laugh and move into my new apartment. Incorrecto! I knew the air was a little thin in Cuenca, but I didn’t realize it makes the skin thin too.
Here are a few excerpts from the more colorful responses. I deleted names and profanities.
“Is this a joke?”
“Are you dreaming?”
“Surely, you jest…”
“They have meds for delusions.”
“Good luck with all that!”
“You are soooooooooooooo funny… and they posted it!”
“Almost peed my pants laughing.”
“You are truly a jokester and I got one heck of a kick out of your Gringo Tree ad.”
“Good chuckle. Thanks for the levity!”
“Are you sure you want to spend that much? Why not go down to $150?"
“I've always wanted to post something similar, though I would've specified no more than $200 for the penthouse.”
“You left out the limo and driver.”
“How come you didn't request a weekly massage too?”
“I’ve got something for you, but I am afraid it's a bit far from El Centro. It's located on the dark side of the moon.”
“Looking forward to seeing your new downtown apartment. Does it have the gym or lap pool?”
“I saw your apartment request in Gringo Tree and am wondering if it’s possible to actually find an apartment or condo as you described around that price?”
“If you find info about this apartment, will you share it with me?”
“We’re moving to Cuenca next year and would love to hear about what you find and the details if you care to share.”
“I know International Living presents Cuenca as a place where one can live like a king for very little, but this is no longer the case.”
“You will never find something with all your list of requirements at any price, let alone at $350 a month. Stay home.”
“I've lived in Cuenca for six months and I couldn't help but laugh. I’m not trying to be mean, of course, but I wish you a lot of luck. If you can find something that fits all your specifications, that would be a miracle.”
“Do you realize that you’re making a fool out of yourself? I have no idea what you’ve read about Cuenca, but you’re offending all of us here. Hard to believe that a grown person could write such an ad. Listen to me. Stay home. You’ll never find anything even close — unless it's a typo and you really meant $3,500 per month.”
“I love your sense of humor. Gringo Tree has evolved into an idiots’ forum with stupid unrealistic demands and inquiries. I have considered writing a similar post as yours to satire the idiots out there. Great job.”
“I don’t think Gringo Tree should be used as a 'joke.' Those of us that are coming there rely on the information to be accurate. I, personally, think you’re an ass.”
So there you have it. Interestingly, none of the folks who live in Cuenca were fooled, though most of respondents who don't seemed to believe it was true. Only one (our last example) who is definitely planning to move was neither fooled nor amused. It's hard to put much past expats.
But I do feel better now. I hope at least some of you do too.