For seven days, I had been tracking a particular item on eBay and had been the highest and sole bidder the entire time. I had lost this item the last time it appeared about a month ago in a bidding war I had conceded, so I was determined to get it this time.
eBay has a convenient "maximum bid" feature, in which you input how much you are willing to pay, and the system will bid the minimum amount necessary on your behalf up to your maximum. This is a very useful feature, but has one major flaw: whenever a challenging bid is made, the system auto-bids for you at the next highest value. When a challenging bid ties your max, a leading auto-bid is made on your behalf tying the other bid. While this still leaves you as the leading bidder without exceeding your maximum, it gives away the value of your maximum bid to other users; they now know that their next bid will indeed be the breaking amount, and all uncertainty is removed.
For six and a half days, the item stayed quiet, with my opening bid standing it's ground. Yesterday evening, however, the value started to climb. Bit by bit, a single person was raising the bid until the tie was reached, and then all was quiet again. The lurker now knew my max bid, yet did not exceed it so that I wouldn't get the dreaded "You've been outbid" email notification. I knew this ploy; he would wait until minutes before the auction ended before bidding the extra 50 cents so that I wouldn't have time to react and increase my bid. Two can play at that game.
Unfortunately, the item was in Singapore, and so, the auction was on Singapore time, which meant it ended at 3:30 AM EDT. I set my alarm for quarter after three so that I could beat the challenger at his own game and get my long sought-after disc. I left my stereo on high volume so that any notification of an early outbidding would wake me up, and left the browser open for easy access by a slumbering mid-morning me.
This is the point at which you can guess what's going to happen next.
As I was setting my alarm, I was for some reason reminded of the day I was supposed to wake up early to lineup for tickets to Toronto Maple Leafs games, and overslept, missing the necessary train downtown. I shook the thought and hit the sack. That night, I briefly dreamt of a half-dozen people outbidding me and rushing to secure my place in the lead.
I awoke to the sound of my alarm blaring and the distinct Monty Python clip I have set as my email notification. My first thought was "Oh, what timing! My alarm goes off just as the outbid notice is coming in. You can't sneak past me, Sneaky McSneakster!"
Somewhere in the distance, a faint cackle of laughter was heard, signifying that irony is not dead, as was previously assumed, but is in fact strong and healthy and out in full force.
I turned on my monitor and clicked the refresh button on my web browser. It was slow reloading the page (or at least seemed so at the time - perhaps time slowed in preparation for the dramatic climax) and as I waited, the realisation of what actually happened began to sink in. The little blinking mail icon indicated two waiting messages. "Why are there two?" I thought. "There should only be one. There would only be two messages if..." and then I looked at the clock and the walls collapsed around me. The Earth shook and volcanoes erupted as the wrath of the Titans vented their rage. It was quarter to four in the morning. I had slept through my blaring alarm for half an hour. What had actually woke me was the delivery of the mail indicating that I had lost the auction. Mr. McSneakster had crept past the sleeping lion, and the lion now bellowed with rage.
I was so rage-y that I couldn't get back to sleep again. I was too tired to open my eyes but my gut was so filled with fury over my blunder that the Sandman was too frightened to pay me a second visit. When I finally did return to sleep, I dreamt of being back in school, showing up for an exam I didn't know I had to write, a brief encounter with a girl that once stood me up, and then an afternoon visit from Jim and Andrea Corr themselves. I forgot to ask them for the CD directly.
Now I go to work largely underslept and underpowered, and - in very stereotypically Canadian fashion - I am most worried about how my fatigue will affect my hockey game this evening. Mr McSneakster cost me a rare CD, a productive day of work, and an effective effort as goaltender. The fury rages on.
I'd buy the CD if I could, but it seems I can't, so if there's anyone out there with better luck (and is a lighter sleeper) than I that wouldn't mind sending some MP3s, it would ease a frustrated soul a great deal.