October 2, 2009

I Didn't Think I Could Fit Both Feet Into My Mouth, and Yet There They Were

In my line of work I am frequently called to get into people's private financial affairs whether I want to or not. Some days I compare it to being a proctologist -- it can be interesting and fascinating, it's rewarding to be helpful, but some days it's also just a dark and uncomfortable place to be. But, you know, somebody's gotta do it.

So there I am sitting at Mr. and Mrs. Fleisingheimer's dining room table which looks a lot like my dining room table with its bits of paint and dried glue from the kids, except their dining room table was remarkably free of half-folded laundry.

Mr. and Mrs. F were perusing the docs laid out before them and there I was poised with my notary stamp ready to seal the deal for them. My stamp glinted in the sunlight streaming through the fabulous floor-to-ceiling windows.

Mrs. F broke the silence by saying, "My name isn't on this application." This small but astute observation sent us down a twisting and turning path through a forest of pointy brambles and spiderwebs across the face.

Mr. F's response was, "Don't worry about it because your name is on the mortgage."  Without going into a lot of personal details, I can just say that this was not the best answer. The best answer would have been, "Yes, dear." An equally good answer would have been, "How can we modify these documents to your satisfaction?" Another good response would have been, "Can I get you a martini, sweetheart?"

But, no, that's not really how it all went down and I sat there for 15 minutes unable to avoid witnessing an uncomfortable marital negotiation from my ringside seat. I stared at my glinting self-inking stamp and wished I had something to stamp. Or that I was someplace else.

After a lengthy phone call to various financial wizards it was determined there were reasons why Mrs. F wasn't on the loan application. All of the reasons were normal, nothing heinous or terrible, just the facts of financial life when one spouse makes most of the money. And in my job I am also frequently called to help educate people about financial matters related to credit, loans and home-buying and this tendency to advise and educate is also, apparently, my Achilles heel. At least that day.

I say to Mrs. F as we are about the resume signing paperwork, "Do you work?" I know when the words go out of my mouth that this was the wrong way to word the question to a stay-at-home-mom.

I was immensely relieved when she didn't go reactionary on me and set me straight about the definition of work. She simply glanced over at me and said, "No." I heaved a heavy internal sigh of relief.

Too soon, of course.  She set down her pen and looked over at me with pursed lips and said, "Of course I work. I work very hard."

Fully-prepared to engage in some frantic backpedaling, I apologized and said, "I should have worded that better. Of course you work. What I meant to say was, 'Do you have a quantifiable income other than the obvious value you provide your family by working inside the home?'"

She said, "No, I don't have a job that makes money."

Like a blind, nervous cow who can't see the quicksand in front of her, I plowed ahead knowing that surely soon I would be out of this mess and could get on with the business at hand. I thought it would help to lighten up with a little joking. I said, "Well, see now, you just need to allot Mrs. F an allowance for all that hard work she does."

Mr. F straightened up in his seat and squinted at me, saying, "What do you mean an allowance? She has control of all the money."

Mrs. F, if possible to look more irritated, looked more irritated and said, "We don't like that word 'allowance'."

"Mm. Well then, yeah. Okay."

We sat looking awkwardly at each other for about 5 seconds which seemed more like about 5 hours and then I shoved more papers at them to sign. Note to self: No more joking. Ever.

Finally we came to the end and surprisingly they were cordial, enthusiastically thanked me for my time and all those niceties you do when you're saying your goodbyes. Handshaking, small talk, smiling, offers to do more business in the future. A small miracle in the opinion of one who is frequently a big social bungler.

As I pulled out of the driveway, the gravel crunched beneath the tires of my vehicle. I stopped at the end of the drive and looked both ways up and down the highway. All clear. I turned east and headed back toward the office to see what other adventures I could get into. Little did I know one was coming just three hours in my future.


  1. Wow. How awkward could one couple make a person feel. This sounds just horrible. Hope the day got better after that. Can't wait to hear about what was waiting at the end of the three hours. {{Wendy}}

  2. Oh, yes. I have to remind myself to ask "Do you work *outside the home*?" "Outside the home." Very important. At least I hope that comes across better?

    At least it's not like my husband asking women if they're pregnant when they're not.

  3. *Big Hug!* I've been there so many times; I never say the right thing. It is so embarrassing when it happens. You can take comfort in the knowledge that those who love you find this quality endearing (until you offend them!) :) xoxoxo

  4. Well, maybe I shouldn't be laughing - it is perhaps wrong of me - but having just inadvertently pissed off a fellow blogger by saying what I thought was a perfectly fine thing to say, I so related. I, at least could email an apology and delete my innocent little comment.

    Loved this.

    :) Debi

  5. How very dare you keep me in suspenders!!

    I had someone ask me if I was pregnant once....I wouldn't have minded only I thought I looked pretty slim in the top I was wearing....needless to say it hasn't often been worn since

  6. A cliffhanger?! OH NO!!! What happened three hours later???

  7. I have an aunt and uncle like this. Being around them for more than 5 consecutive minutes is painful and equally uncomfortable.

    And shame on you for delivering a cliffhanger on a Friday :)

  8. Just trying to mix it up a little. Don't want anyone to get bored! :)

  9. OMG, it just went deeper and deeper! They sound kind of humorless, the Fleisingheimers.

  10. Now that sounds like a job I would thoroughly hate. LOL! Well done for wriggling out of that particular quicksand!

  11. Take the money and run. Far safer. Leave them to their carefully organised lives.

  12. Holy Uncomfortable Batman! Uggggghhhh...I could so see something like that happening to me in my former life at work (when it was outside the home)! LOL!!! I just crack up at people that are so sensitive!!!

  13. There's nothing wrong with joking. lol. People just need how to learn how to loosen up.

  14. Love the way you mix it up a little! lol

  15. LOL, That reminds me of an episode of "Everybody loves Raymond" when every member of the family one after the other puts their foot in their mouths.

    "we don't like that word allowance"
    I might have died right there...laughing. Ok more respect needed.

  16. Almost as painful as an episode from Curb Your Enthusiasm! egads!

    I think the key phrase is "Do you work OUTSIDE of the home" ;)

  17. Ooooh - that had me squirming in my seat. I love it when people aske me if I work. I just tell 'em I laze about all day!

  18. Whew tread lightly here, huh :)! The second note to self post I have read in an hour!

  19. Yikes! Glad you got your deal done.

    The longest job description I ever had to put in a legal document was that of a stay-at home mom. Chauffeur, nutritionist, maintenance engineer, nurse practitioner, editor, chef . . .

  20. Okay, I'm hooked.

    You can reel me in, cause I'm all yours until I find out what happens next!

  21. Wow! That appointment was as bad as any I had in 20+ years in real estate. Unless you count the time when my buyer clients and I were at the signoff in the escrow office (At that time in Northern California signoff occured about two days before recordation) and the wife found out that her husband had been paying child support for a child she never knew he had.

    It didn't record; I didn't get paid; a divorce ensued and I chose not to keep in touch with either of them.

    It's not an easy business you're in.

  22. Oof. Someone said they were humorless, and yup, that about covers it. I'm a stay-at-home mom and not at all defensive about it and I can happily say I'd never put someone through that sort of awkwardness! It sounds like there couldn't have been a correct thing to say to this gloomy pair...

    you were a trooper!

  23. Ooh. You sure have a way with words. I like how you compare your job to a proctologist. That is TOO FUNNY!

    What an uncomfortable situation. I felt uncomfortable just READING about it. My heart started beating faster and I broke out in a sweat. Yeah, thanks for that. Thankfully I haven't taken my morning shower yet.

    When I said you have a way with words, I really meant that as a compliment. You write so well, bringing us right there into the situation. Not just this post, but EVERY post. I really enjoy your blog. :)

  24. Okay, when do we get the follow up. You've left us in suspense. Time for the next installment.

  25. Oh my! And now for the next installment?

  26. BTW, stop by my blog. I have an award for you!


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