WASHINGTON — Megan Erskine managed to draw three hits on Craigslist's popular Missed Connections page while wearing sweaty, baggy T-shirts and lugging furniture into her apartment.
"It was, like, the most exciting week of my life," said Erskine, 25, who works at a health-care nonprofit in Chicago. "It's a really big deal among my circle to get a Missed Connection, because everyone wants one."
No kidding. Missed Connections, a feature that lets people reconnect with attractive strangers whom they let get away, has become one of Craigslist's most popular sections, according to Chief Executive Officer Jim Buckmaster.
"Hope springs eternal, and people love the idea of a second chance at something," he said.
The section also appeals to those seeking affirmative answers to that soul-searching question: Am I hot?
"When you went out for a night, and you know that you looked pretty good, and you were flirting with guys, there's a pretty good chance you'll get a Missed Connection about you," said Gillian Anderson, 24, a graduate student in Boston.
For the shy or proud, Missed Connections offers an advantage over face-to-face advances. If there's no response, there's no embarrassment, just a little pang before deciding that the object of desire didn't see the posted rave.
Still, a New York man who waited in vain for a post earlier this summer lamented on the site: "Every week I check this damn thing to see if anyone in this city of millions has missed me. . . . I ride the train no less than twice a day, five or more days a week. I'm pressed against some of you in the commute to/from work. Haven't any of you women missed me?"
Other posts seem mainly shows of wit.
One, titled "Jedi in the Square" on the Philadelphia Craigslist site, read: "To the brown-haired boy with a light saber at the concert yesterday: You were seriously model-good-looking. But what's up with the Toys 'R' Us-issued, fictional weaponry?"
For people whose eyes aren't supposed to be straying, Missed Connections can deliver a furtive thrill.
A Charlotte, N.C., salesman — who requested anonymity because he's married — said he checked Missed Connections to see whether some of the women he pitched to were more interested in him than in his products.
"It makes you feel young again — not that I'm old," said the salesman, who's 29.
"We're all human. I think it's just a human thing. We all like to feel good about ourselves here and there."
Earlier this summer, Amir Yoeli, a 27-year-old New Yorker, was delighted to find a post from a pretty woman he'd noticed that morning. They didn't hit it off, but the second chance convinced him that Missed Connections deserved his attention.
"I've been a tad worried I might miss something, (because) what are the chances, you know, of finding an ad aimed at you?" he wrote in an e-mail.
Noah Jacobs, 24, a part-time beer vendor and actor from Takoma Park, Md., said recently, "It's kind of my novelty fantasy to have someone post a Missed Connection about me."
Sure enough, he eventually found a post describing him as "a strikingly, timelessly handsome man."
The writer — grad student Anderson — admitted: "I tried to steal a glance at you when I got off the train, but you caught me and gave me a wry, sideways smile. That action pretty much rendered me catatonic."
Jacobs sent her a picture that confirmed he was the subway Romeo, but Anderson got cold feet. Though she's indulged in the ego boost of Missed Connections, Internet dating is a turnoff, Anderson said.
"I e-mailed the guy who recently posted a Missed Connection about me, but I wasn't even attracted to him," she said. "It was a total attention thing to me."
In a sign of the times, she added: "He friended me on Facebook right away."