3.10.2009

While Eating (Cheap) Doughnuts

<---me and my own big mouth

I couldn't stay home anymore. It's cold, it's dark and I'm too lazy to get up to make any kind of a change. This is extreme laziness and I'm extremely good at it. I'm so lazy I can't motivate myself to stand up, walk the five steps to turn on the light. I can't think about doing all the processes involved to make myself some tea.

What else can I not do today? Snooping around the fridge might be entertaining. I know it is for kids. I used to open the refrigerator door and stare. I looked at what was in there for so long, I could have been doing inventory. "Do you think there's anything different from the last time you looked?" my Mom said when she was feeling conversational. "Shut the door," she said when she didn't have the patience for me, "or you can pay the electric bill."

Now I'm too lazy to get up to be entertained by the contents of the fridge. Maybe lazy is the wrong word. I'm being frugal. As if conserving my energy is the same as being green. I think I simplified my life a little too much.

It's still pretty simple. If I'm going somewhere not absolutely necessary, it's to New Seasons (surprised? I'll assume not). It's a grocery store, it's a restaurant, it's sample heaven. The clerks are friendly but not fake and they'll talk back if you talk, but they don't push. I'd rather be alone than be around fake happy people. Even though I'm alone right now, I know I'm not alone in this sentiment. I've never heard anyone defend fake niceness.

That's why I'm here, eating a doughnut at a healthy foods store. I'm around people but they're all at their own tables. It's light and bright, warm and inviting, and it will be after I leave. I have nothing to do with it. I like that. I don't have to talk to anyone, yet people are talking all around me. It's about as good as it gets for me. There's chocolate, too, for total indulgent behavior should I choose.

It's 4:12 pm on a Tuesday and the dining area is packed. There's a little couple sitting behind me discussing soup. A guy in a brown jacket and baseball cap reads the paper with his head tilted like 2 o'clock. An older guy in a maroon sweater picks his teeth while his table-mate hunches over a yellow plate. The usual two homeless people are here, organizing their plastic bags in their carts, writing little notes to themselves on free napkins. Several people work on laptops, including the tall guy with a black eye and ripped shirt showing his tattoes.

These are the quiet tables. They're all quiet here except one. A guy talks like he's lecturing a classroom. He talks and talks and talks and doesn't finish a thought. The tables near him are empty so I sit at one of them. This ought to be fun.

The guy talking wears a badge. It took me several subtle glances to read what it says. It looks like the crawl on the bottom of the screen on CNN. In red lit letters it says, "I Buy Homes."

I've seen this guy before. You only have to see him once to remember him. In fact, once was too much. Other people must agree, otherwise there wouldn't be a table-moat separating him from the rest of the restaurant area. A chubby red-faced guy who pulls at his fingers and sucks on his pen sits quietly across from him. He looks like he might be listening. Or he might be looking out the window. I can't tell from where I sit. He hasn't said a word.

"The Principle Broker might stop the deal, but that's a chance I'm willing to take," the badge guy says. "See now, it looks like there's $22,000 there but our money costs . . . within this you see, the lender, even though. We know who they know. We have a buyer's agent. The buyer agrees to a 4% commission. Well, sometimes they'll do 5%. See right here?"

What? I was recently a realtor, right in this neighborhood. Commission averages 6%, 2.7% for the buyer's agent and 3.3% for the seller's. There is a lot of variation, particularly in this economy, but that's the average. You're not going to get a realtor who wants to work for free on either side, so if you want your house sold you have to pay them something. But 4% a side? I've never seen that, ever. I don't know everything about real estate, but this doesn't sound right.

I'm the kind of person who enjoys discussing Vince from the Sham-Wow commercials. It's odd how many times he comes up in conversation, actually. I'm sure it has something to do with my excellence in laziness, but I'm not willing to give it more thought. He's getting better, too. The Slap-Chop sequel is genius, throwing an unacceptable competitive appliance over his shoulder, rhyming, "Fettucini, martini, linguini, bikini. . ." I know not to admit this to everyone.

Badge guy hasn't taken a breath since I sat down. I'm on my second doughnut. I think his bullshit is making me eat nervously. I don't usually eat doughnuts, particularly not at a healthy food grocery store.

Badge guy talked in this manner to someone similar to this chubby guy, last time too. My husband was with me and was making the comments a normal human would normally make if subjected to someone who talks for two hours straight. As I recall, the previous victim was older, grayer, and didn't say much either. He listened hunched over, and looked out the window toward the end. He signed Badge guy's paperwork quickly and left as if he were late or he had to go to the bathroom really badly.

As soon as the older victim left, Badge guy strutted over to a nearby table. A quiet ten year-old kid sat doing homework. I didn't notice him before. Wonder why. "Get up," Badge guy told him, holding the signed papers. "I gotta go take care of this. Now." I don't see the kid here today, although it's busy. He could be around the corner out of earshot, trying to do his homework without hearing his Dad jabbering about real estate.

"They'll pay a 9% realtor's commission," badge guy tells chubby guy. "I don't know the reason why, but in some cases it may be, see this is part of the, see sometimes, the interest, maybe that investor can more than justify this. They maybe care about, I'm sorry, I'm thinking . . ."

If I were my mom, I might come over there and introduce myself to the chubby guy and give them both an education. My mom used to be a teacher and she still loves to feel like she's educating people. I feel it's butting in where nobody's asked for your advice, but that's just a daughter speaking.

It's embarrasing to go to the doctor with mom because she questions everything, without an ounce of respect, as if she's trying to catch the doctor lying. As her daughter, I've been on the receiving end of this tone. It's easy to notice. She doesn't hide the fact that she's sure she's smarter than you. She gives the impression she's being gracious by not telling you where you're already wrong. It's uncomfortable even if you don't lie; especially if you're not lying. But not as uncomfortable as sitting near a salesman with a flashing badge who bullshits for two hours straight. Mom, your skills are needed. Chubby man in trouble!

"The problem is we can't market your property for less than that," Badge guy says. "I mean, it's cheap to market property. You just get on the phone and call realtors. But to do a . . .a good job, you just can't do it. Some of them, most of them, some of them can't do that. It's usually only, we've gone back, we, if we start marketing time, we don't want to start too late. We want to start marketing the property the day we get it under contract. Because the problem is, there's not, there's not a lot of comps, there's not a lot of property selling these days."

Is it me or is he starting to get sloppy? How does he talk without taking a breath? He leans back, crosses his legs to look casual, leans his chin on his fist. He looks to the right when he talks. He really looks to the right. He's got fat skin between his eyes and eyebrows so it's hard to see into his eyes, but he's clearly not making eye contact.

Chubby guy interrupts. "It might be that they're doing. . ." He's unable to finish his thought before Badge guy interrupts, "I know, the problem is we're hamstrung at the minute. Even though, someone adds value to the property . . ."

Badge guy seems like he's flustered. Five words is all it takes. Now he's looking at the Chubby guy's left ear. Once he gets in control of the lecture again, he's off looking way off to the right. He closes eyes like he's taking a long luxurious blink.

Is this what it takes to be in real estate today? Is this what it takes to make money? Two hours of hammering someone? If so, I made the right decision to get out of real estate. I know it in a general way every time Ben Bernanke opens his mouth, but now I know it specifically, locally.

Now that I've had two doughnuts, I'm not sure that coming here was a good idea. I don't bring unhealthy food into my home, so I would have had a better day nutritionally if I stayed in my cave. There aren't even bugs I can watch at home. I can stare at the window outside, but nothing ever changes. Here, I can feel smug and appreciate my mom all while getting free wifi and endless cups of tea. I can catch the eye of people at other tables, sharing more smugness as we all endure the jabbermouth salesguy with a flashing badge. I don't even have to get up.

Although it'd be nice to have a job someday, but one where I don't have to talk to people for two hours before they break down and sign. I think I might have post-traumatic real-estate disorder.