Monday, September 18, 2006


To outside observers, I must seem an aging hipster, sitting outside a coffee place in South Park typing what probably has something to do with new technology and / or art on my laptop. It is sunny, 65 degrees and 10:54 in the morning. Why else would I be sitting outside of this place, just a few feet from the tasteful local art that hangs on its walls, writing on my laptop?

Could it be because I just had my "exit interview" at Zephyr Real Estate?

Yes, another odd career choice has run its course. It is official: I am no longer a realtor. The "official" part was necessary, though I have unofficially been un-realtored for the past few weeks. And though I have mentally burned every bridge that connects me to the truly unusual world of San Francisco real estate, I made very sure to check out in a pleasant and rather dorky way. Which is not unusual for me. In fact, it wouldn't be altogether inaccurate to put that on my tombstone some day in the (hopefully, distant) future: "He was pleasant, and rather dorky."

Real estate in San Francisco is a tough business. It is not for anyone who scores in the low range on "emotional resiliance" when they take the battery of tests required to enter the field. How would you feel, for example, if you were to enter your former place of business, a week after hanging it up, to find that not only was your name removed from the wall but that there was already someone sitting in your desk?

There he was, an actual realtor. He couldn't have been at the desk for more than a week, but he looked like he'd been there his entire life. With his glasses, blue oxford button-down shirt, black slacks, glasses and blue tooth thing clamped on his ear, he was everything I was not. For one, he looked like he knew what he was doing. A week in, he was already working the phones, gesturing and leaning over a pile of papers.

To him, I was invisible. To practically the entire office, save for the overwhelmingly nice admins, I was invisible. The leather boy transaction coordinator, who'd been so friendly a few weeks ago when we saw him crossing the street in full cowhide regalia, barely looked up when I passed his desk. The single mom who talked to me at length about the Jawa's school? Not even a glance. I was the office pariah, but knowing that I'd be sitting in the sun typing outside a coffee place a few minutes later, I was unconcerned.

I'll say it again: real estate is a tough business. I don't know if that goes double for San Francisco or not. In the end, as I told my understanding and probably relieved former boss, that's the key element I was lacking. "If someone comes in here and is smart and funny and clever," I said, "that's not enough for them to succeed. In fact, it's unnecessary." I paused dramatically, knowing that this would be my only moment onstage, "You need to hire people who are tough. And I am not tough."

He agreed, perhaps too quickly.

Then, naturally, I babbled on like an idiot about all of the exciting new things I'm doing. Why? So he wouldn't worry? So he'd be impressed at how I'd landed on my feet? It's a mystery. I've gone 41 years trying to solve it and am no closer than I was at age 9, when I was ridiculed by my little league teammates for overusing the word "actually."

So ends another chapter of my misspent professional life. I think it may be time to write a book of short stories entitled, "Bad Jobs."

"Don't be a stranger," said the cheerful admins as I left. I think they might have really meant it, but why? Better it should have been lip service. Real estate is a profession that chews up and spits out more than 50% of its participants. I mentioned the name of another agent to my former boss, adding, "Well, she probably won't be here past December," and he agreed. "Yeah probably not." Which is sad, because I know he truly does like both this woman and I. Which, in the bottom-line world of sales, counts for exactly nothing when his boss goes over our office's numbers at the end of each quarter.

Kinda lonely out here in South Park in the middle of the day. Everyone must be at work or something.


Anonymous flush puppy said...

Only 9 more to 3,000 hits!!!

And about the job, good riddance to bad rubbish. As soon as I write that incredibly hip short film, you'll have another job to write about. (Of course, you'll have to remind me what it was about...)

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Noodle's Mom said...

Ugh. I keep picturing the realtors I saw on the broker's tour with you. You've done a good thing by moving on. It was a great way to see cool houses...but not worth selling your soul.

5:06 PM  
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Blogger Ardell DellaLoggia said...

What a wonderful window to your kind and gentle soul! I LOVE this article and would very much like to link to it in one of my articles.

Apologies if the answer is on your blog, but how long did you try at being a real estate agent? How long were you living in the area you were trying to sell?

There is no wasted effort and there is not end to's the journey and not the destination. I know that sounds like crap, but it really is true.

What is your passion? What is your real passion. I'd love to know. Did you work at that once over the 41 years?

12:47 PM  
Blogger Lefty said...

oh yeah -- i'm supposed to be some kind of writer. adrianna can give you the backstory. she's my biggest (only?) fan. i would be honored if you linked to this.

1:07 PM  
Anonymous Kristal Kraft said...

Moving on takes more courage than staying put. Cheers to you for taking note and taking action.

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sheeesh... Good luck out there...

Real estate is certainly a tough biz!

9:50 AM  
Blogger Phil & Nickie said...

Loved your post! I work in real estate in NW Washington (in marketing, not as an agent) and every day I realize more and more that I couldn't be an agent! Don't get me wrong, the agents in my office truly are fantastic! But like you, I just don't think that I'm tough enough for it!

Good luck in your next endeavor!

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