19 Bearly There

R.M. had been in the residential real estate business a long time compared to many other agents. He wasn’t the oldest yet, thank goodness, but it was a fact of life that the only way to get experience was to get older. He’d survived several other careers or attempts at them over the years, and believed all of these contributed to his sense of how business ought to be done. With integrity. By this he meant his own but he also brought along a level of respect for the intelligence of his customers and other people in the business. He crossed paths with many: other agents, lenders, inspectors, developers, and inevitably lawyers, although whenever he could he avoided those as a general principle. Chapter 19 Bearly There

He had learned a kind of weary tolerance for the ‘Gush’ school of real estate, and was aware that it operated in a sort of parallel real estate world of its own. The ruling maxim of this school was cheerfulness, largely contrived, yet delivered with animated and unbroken enthusiasm.

It wasn’t as though R.M. was exactly mournful. His whistling was much admired, as was his repertoire of classic or silly songs hummed or broadly sung, sometimes to an accompanying dance step. Every morning he checked the obituaries to make sure that he hadn’t woken up dead, and thus emboldened he went out to work sporting a positive, onward and upward sort of attitude. All except perhaps on those dreaded occasions when a company meeting promised a direct encounter with this alternate real estate universe.

*   *   *   *   *

At the POPS, Kitty Doyle was running late for her morning meeting. It didn’t help, when she pulled out of the garage in her zippy little BMW, that the snow was piling up. Spinning impatiently through a new drift on the drive, her car veered sideways and into a snow pile, the pockmarked remains of a season of snowfalls. Cursing, she got out and spotted Gervase manfully digging out an opening onto the street just ahead of her. He paused wearily, leaning on his shovel, and then trudged over to her.

“Good morning, Miss Doyle.”

Kitty Doyle, lifeguard, motivational speaker, and infrequent attendee of association meetings

Kitty Doyle, lifeguard, motivational speaker, and infrequent attendee of association meetings

“What’s so good about it? Where’s the plow?”

“They were here, very early. Snow’s blowing back. Trying to keep up with it.”

“Well get me out of here. Just look at my shoes!” She stormed back into her car.

Gervase bent to the task, digging out in front and behind her wheels. There wasn’t a lot of room to wield the shovel or much place left to throw the snow.

Kitty lowered the window. “Speed it up, Reachyard. I’m late.”

Kitty Doyle had made her way in the world largely on the backs of others. It was easy enough. During high school and college summer breaks, she’d taken life-guarding jobs. She preferred a beach to a pool but desired the feeling of being in charge at either. Calculating what it took to be magnetic and engaging at will, she cast around for a career in which these life skills largely featured. She found it in motivational speaking and its many derivatives. She had cleverly cultivated the necessary manner to make emptiness sell.

She arrived at the hotel, despite Gervase’s poor performance, late for the proffered breakfast that she didn’t want but just in time for her part of the program. She quickly set up her promotional materials on a table by the door including her latest video ‘Be Like Me’ and more recent book  ‘Be More Like Me’ and then moved forward to be introduced to her audience. Irritated, she observed the office manager behaving like a poorly rehearsed warm-up act, coming up from behind the unsuspecting brandishing a floppy, Papa sized, stuffed bear with which she enveloped her victim, gaily shouting “Hugs!” Kitty, offended, wished that all this sort of nonsense be left up to her; preludes such as these diminished her own, more astonishing presentation.

She did a lot of presentations to realtors. The women usually caught on but she’d noticed that she generally did better with the men one-on-one. They watched her of course, men always did, but at the culmination of her delivered remarks they were often more reluctant to participate in the required rituals of gloss and glee. Some of them were so rude that they pretended their phones were ringing and got up and left. The nerve; she wished she could tie them to their chairs, make them stay, tied up in knots over her. The notion amused her.

Near the back of the room, his preferred location, R.M. was zoning out. Already ruffled by the bear attack that had sent both his glasses and his sensibilities askew, he pondered while the voice of the speaker oozed and cajoled. Why do I have to pretend to be interested in this, or be subjected to it for that matter? She’s got a hustle. That’s nothing new, there were a million of those. What does this have to do with real estate? Or with management? If we were busy doing our real work there wouldn’t be time for this. I wish our manager would stop smiling and winking at me. She’ll wear out her hands if she claps any more.

The tone of the speaker was shifting. Memory transported him back to hot and sticky county fairs as he stood taking in the sales pitches of the exhibitors. ‘It slices! It dices!’  Heard the ‘if I say it’s good, then it must be good’ attempt at persuasion. R.M. couldn’t remember a single transaction he’d ever done when a buyer had ever come mindlessly cheery to the table. Nervous often, or ruefully uninformed, possibly hopeful or hopelessly over-confident, distrustful perhaps, any or all of those things he’d learned to address with customers during the buying process. Buying a property was serious business.

He profoundly believed that more training in business and professional standards should one day take the place of cheer-leading. There was so much to know, so much detail to understand, so many obstacles to get round, so many ins and outs to manage. Blowing up more balloons and waving magic wands as simple substitutes? Not for him.

“At your table, right in front of each of you,” Kitty crescendo-ed, “there’s a magic box, just waiting for you to open. Open it, have fun, dance and play…and bring all that fun to work… today, and everyday!!”

The room around him was all at once confetti thick with swirling color, as thousands of tiny butterfly cut-outs ascended, released from their constraining boxes, flung upwards by his apparently overwrought and temporarily maddened colleagues. He checked his phone. It wasn’t ringing. He got up from the table and left the room as the paper wings fluttered and flitted around him.