Steve Meador is the author of Throwing Percy from the Cherry Tree, a poetry book that was an entrant for a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry. He is widely published in online and print journals. He has been a real estate broker since the early 1980s and currently lives and practices in the Tampa, FL, area.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I have been in the real estate business for 26 years, and it never surprises me how many people don't like Realtors, for one reason or another. That is okay, because I know where I stand on the ladder of life, just below car salesmen and just above attorneys. It seems that in those 26 years that I have seen 52 years worth of life. I have seen the naked and the dead, poverty and filth almost unbelievable, opulence that is sickening, male and female clients making a move on me (and I don't mean out of their home!). It has been hilarious, like the time one of my sellers in California told me her whole neighborhood spent a week constantly walking past a newly sold luxury home, trying to get glimpse of the new owner. One of the neighborhood kids, 7 years old, met the same age son of the new residents and then went home to tell his parents that the new owner was in comedies. The big let down came when the new owner introduced himself to a neighbor and said he was vice president of a large brokerage firm that specialized in commodities. Even the wealthy are awestruck and struck down!

There has been plenty of tragedy. I don't bring this up because I want folks to change how they feel, but because I want them to know there is more to getting up everyday and driving to the bank in a luxury car to deposit those huge commission checks. Sometimes that is true, for most agents it is not. Most live near the poverty level themselves. The only thing I would change about all those years is the amount of hours I worked, the number of 12-14/7 weeks I put in, while my family was growing up. But, I was addicted to the business, and probably not due to the money. It was the excitement of the unknown adventure that was just beyond every turn of the car or house key. It was a lifelong variety show and everyday I had to smile through it and come home like it was just another ordinary afternoon. Here is one, although not verbatim, that is as close as it can get to the real event. Hope you enjoy!

It was appalling, really, the number of phone calls and knocks at the door that Cletus received in the hour I sat at his kitchen table. Ever since his wife’s obituary hit the paper, ten days earlier, he was under siege. One sales person after another—windows, vinyl siding, roof, air conditioning system, fencing and more. “Ten hours a day they’re at me. Won’t take a no. I’ll slam the door and the same son of a bitch will knock again, I’ll say no again, then he’ll go stand on the sidewalk across the street and another snot nose bastard will knock. For Christ’s sake, they think I’m blind! I know what it is, they think there’s life insurance. There ain’t. The only money I had was hidden under the bed, nearly three thousand for a casket and plot payment.. Somebody broke in and stole it the afternoon of her damn funeral. I don’t know where I’ll get the money to pay it all, unless you can sell this old house. That would give me what I need to cover it all. Leave me a little  to rent a place, somewhere.” He lit another Camel, inhaled deep, for what seemed ten seconds. Then, he held it in his lungs, like he was toking weed, before letting it out the other side of his mouth. His cigarettes were never pulled from between the lips until they were finished. The ashes simply plopped off once the strand grew heavy enough. Deeply in. Glow like red neon. Slow stream of gray out.

I went over the comparable sales with Cletus, showed him what homes in the neighborhood were selling for. He lived in a rundown, low-lying area just west of downtown Columbus known as The Bottoms. It may have been named because of its geographical low spot, but now it was the bottom in nearly everything: income, property conditions, desirability, crime (not bottom, but top of the list). The house was alright, a 1920’s bungalow, clean, well maintained, a little smoky smelling, new appliances, remodeled bath and kitchen and a beautiful enclosed porch on the back. That was a problem. Cletus and his wife, Dorothy, had the porch added two years previous and financed it with a $30,000 second mortgage, at some ridiculous interest rate. Coupled with the first mortgage of approximately the same amount meant he would not be able to sell the home and pay off both loans. The house was only worth about $45,000, at best.

He just stared at the numbers I had written, took out another cigarette, tapped the end of it on the table, lipped and lit. “Well, that don’t look like the way to go, does it?” The phone rang as he was about to continue.
No, she ain’t here.
I don’t believe she’ll be back.
Who’s this?
Yeah. Visa Card? And what bank?
I offered him a piece of paper and pen. He shook his head and flashed his hand at me, in refusal.
No, I don’t know anything about her cards. She got them and never said a thing to me.
No sir, I don’t believe your business with her has anything to do with me.
No sir.
Well, is my name on the account?
There you go, then.
No, I don’t think you’ll get shit from me.
I told you she won’t be back, so, I’m gonna hang up now.
Is that so?
Yeah, I know where she is.
No, I won’t give her a message.
I see. Tell you what, damn if you ain’t in luck, I see her now, so you hang on just a second and you can tell her all that stuff yourself.
Cletus limped over to the lamp table in the living room and picked up a 5x7 picture frame containing a photo of Dorothy, returned, placed it in the middle of the table and sat down again. He lifted the handset,

You still there?
I’m going to put the phone by her right now and you talk to her all you want. Okay?
Don’t matter. You can call her Dorothy, or Dot. That’s what most people call her. Okie dokie, here you go.

He placed the receiver beside the picture frame and nodded for me to go into the living room with him, where we looked through the curtains and saw three guys, mid-twenties standing across the street.

“Son of a bitches. Look at’em. I better go see how that conversation is going.”

He went back to the kitchen and picked up the phone.

You find out what you needed to?
Well, did you explain it all?. Like you did with me?
She didn’t say anything? Nothing at all?
There’s a good reason for that. She died a week and a half ago.
I appreciate that.
Yeah. You too, now.
Good bye.

1 comment:

  1. Yeh. I had variations on this conversation only it regarded my mother. Couldn't convince them that: (a) she's dead, (b) no estate, (c) I am not responsible for the debts.

    Ten years later they were still looking for her.

    "We'll find her," they said.

    "Good luck with that," I said.