Real Estate Agent
When I got out of college, I embarked on a mission -- to find a job doing nothing.
It didn't matter what the job entailed, so long as it didn't entail responsibility.
I stood outside jewelry stores holding jumbo signs. Look at me. Look at
me. If I jumped up and down, the owner would slip me a twenty. I felt like
the guy who drives the Weinermobile, only without the prestige.
For a time, I created "stress balls," those things you squeeze
when you want to shoot someone in the head instead. After all the money my
folks spent on tuition, they were pleased to find me on the balcony stuffing
balloons with bird seed. Then one night I left the seed outside, and it disappeared.
I believe it was a rough pack of pigeons.
The most enlightening work took place at Toops Real Estate, where I spent
my weekends. I'm still not sure what my job was there. Mostly, I colored
Snapshots and wrote agent bios when they asked nicely.
If you haven't been to a real estate office, I encourage you to go. Pack
a lunch and take the kids. Tell them you're looking to pay cash for your
home -- they'll massage your feet throughout the conversation.
The real estate agent works on commission. Like other percentage pirates,
they are never not working. I was there two days a week and turned down 500
I felt bad for the saps who walked into Toops looking for a home. As soon
as that door opened, the scent of commission wafted into the building, exciting
a frenzy on the floor. Before the guy could say hello, sixteen agents materialized,
business cards in hand.
Perhaps my view is jaded because I worked alongside the weekend agents.
They are the ones who had to make cold calls and call you "sir" (unless
you were a woman, in which case that would be awkward).
The rookies worked in cubicles because you have to screw a certain amount
of people before you get an office. If you wanted to know how many screws
you had to go, you consulted the Victory Chart they kept in the break room.
It outlined your value as a human being.
Pierre worked the floor every Saturday, determined to make a million dollars
like BJ upstairs. Although Pierre spoke perfect English, he became Pepe Le
Pew on the telephone. His call list consisted of people who were French,
part-French, or European enough to like a guy named Pierre.
Beside Pierre sat Harry in his wheelchair. Harry had been climbing the Victory
Chart in recent months, so everyone hated him. But only on the inside. The
real estate agent is always happy on the outside. People bought houses from
Harry because they felt if push came to shove, they could, well, push him
over. Harry didn't mind. Rumor had it that he wasn't crippled in the first
Finally, there was Sebastian, who spent most of his time hitting on me.
Like so many others, Sebastian thought I was gay. And he wasn't deterred
when I said things like, "Sebastian, I'm not gay." So it goes.
Today, Sebastian's mind was on other things: he had just sold a million-dollar
shack in Malibu. If Sebastian normally walked on air, now he was scraping
the ceiling. He whistled at his cubicle as he finalized the paperwork, then
floated past my desk and -- with a wink -- upstairs to see BJ.
The agent were in charge of foreplay; BJ did the screwing. BJ made sure
the numbers were confusing and that the fine print paid for his Mercedes.
He carried himself like a man who couldn't decide between going to the bathroom
or doing another line of cocaine. Greed is a wacky drug.
BJ stepped onto his balcony and announced that Sebastian had just found
a special place in his heart.
"Justin," he said to me. "Make a note in his bio."
I didn't tell him my name is Jason. That's as close as he came to getting
There's an art to writing the real estate bio. You have to dig for talents
like "familiar with community" or "good with numbers" but
leave out more obvious traits like "will sleep with your wife if given
half a chance."
Here is an example, parentheses mine:
"During his limited time in the U.S. (27 years), Pierre has become
a real estate pundit (oxymoron). He specializes in exotic properties befitting
his European lineage (gag me with a spoon)..."
"Harry has sold more homes than any other physically disadvantaged
agent in California. With Harry, you won't purchase a lemon -- he won't stand
Whenever I finished a bio, I had to shower. That must be what it's like
to write speeches for Bush. I saw what happened behind the scenes. When an
agent walked a family into the conference room and drew the shades, you could
smell the caca for miles. The husband would ask questions about local schools
and the climate; the agent would nod and appraise his watch.
It's not entirely the agent's fault; he was commissioned to behave that
Looking back at Toops Real Estate, I thank God that I went to college. It
has allowed me to pursue more dignified work. Like stuffing balloons with