Blog 88

The Man With a Prehensile Thumb

It is one of the coldest days of winter, around zero Fahrenheit, but my clients — a young couple — are looking intently for the right home to purchase.

We arrive a few minutes early at the next home on our viewing schedule. I park. The listing agent’s car is not there yet. As we sit in my car waiting, a man emerges from the front door, comes over and invites us to wait inside. I decline with the explanation that I have to wait for the listing agent before I can go inside.

He shrugs, and goes back into the house.

 
Meanwhile, the appointed time comes and the listing agent has not yet arrived. A minute becomes 2 minutes, then 3…. After we were still waiting for about 15 minutes, the fellow comes back out, this time carrying an ice chopping tool, and — acting as though he is ignoring us — in a somewhat ostentatious manner he starts chipping away at the ice which Is covering the parking area.
 
As though moving at random, he gets closer and closer to my car and ends up knocking at the window, which I roll down. “It’s up to you,” he says, “but it’s warmer inside and you are welcome to sit by the wood stove and wait there.”
 
Seeing my clients’ eyes begging me to stop torturing them, I say: “Thank you. We can go inside, but we cannot talk about real estate.”
 
It turns out that this man is a tenant, not the owner. He plies us with hot cocoa, and entertains us with a steady stream of humor, the funniest bit being his rendition of his cat’s inner thoughts:
 
“OK, so you’re a superior being. . . fine, you have a prehensile thumb. Why don’t you do something useful with your prehensile thumb: Get a can opener, and open a can of cat food!”
 
This guy should be a standup comedian. His timing and delivery is perfect, and by the time he gets to the prehensile thumb bit, I am laughing uncontrollably. Then. . . in mid-guffaw. . . I look up, and through the glass doorway leading from the small vestibule to the room where we are sitting, I see The Ice-Princess, glaring at me!
 
She opens the door, and says: “Steee-fen, come here, I want to talk to you.”
 
We go into the vestibule, and with the door shut, she says: “You know better than to talk to my client!” (Of course the tenant is not her client, the seller is. In fact it is as a courtesy and best practice that I avoided real estate with him, but legally and ethically we could have discussed anything.)
 
“Do you want to know what I said to him before we came in?” I say.
 
“NO, I DO NOT!” she replies, coldly.
 
As soon as we go inside, the tenant says to her:

“Marcy, it is my fault. They were waiting outside for you, freezing and he would not come in until you got here. Finally, he agreed, but said: ‘We can talk about anything, except real estate.
 
“I am really sorry, though. I apologize. Next time I’ll get my shotgun and drive them into a snowbank and shoot them!”
 
This fellow then shadowed us throughout the showing, totally disrupting the Ice Princess’ presentation: first, by putting his foot on a slate tile, pressing up and down, while water under the loose tile made a swishing sound. Then, he held a stairway handrail, moving it back and forth, demonstrating that it it was loose.
 
He just kept it up, silently exposing one deficiency after another, with an impish grin on his face.
 
As we drove to our next appointment, one of my clients said:
 
“She was unprofessional. If she had something to complain to you about, she should have kept quiet, and called you tonight, privately.”

This happened more than 20 years ago. Since then Marcy has taken a lot of continuing education and cultivated more professional behavior.

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