Missing anything? I just found your father.

House for sale

There is a very good reason why I don’t try to sell real estate for a living. I wouldn’t be very good at it.

I remember once scheduling a visit to a house for sale. The Realtor opened the door to the master bedroom and discovered someone sleeping in the bed. We tiptoed out and ran back to his car. I didn’t buy the house.

Honestly, I just don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. It’s hard enough just trying to sell my own house, I can’t imagine trying to do it for a living.

I used to live in an old house that had been converted into condominiums. What started out as a lovely single family Colonial home became four very small, poorly designed, and cheaply made 1-bedroom units. Having just moved to New England from the Midwest, I discovered that I was practically priced out of the market, so I bought down (way, way down) and decided to renovate a little at a time.

I’ll be honest. I always hated that condominium, but it was on the water and there were lobster boats docked just down the street–that part I loved.

A few months after I moved in, the owners of the unit above mine moved out. I didn’t know them very well, but they were pleasant and, more importantly, very quiet.

The new owners were polar opposites. They introduced themselves as Molly and Jake. They were engaged to be married, they said, and invited me to come sit on their deck and have a drink with them. It soon became apparent that they had already had several drinks and, the drunker the became, the louder their voices. They spoke so loudly that they couldn’t hear the music, so they turned up the music and talked even louder.

This, I knew, would not go well.

And it didn’t. Jake had “anger issues” which caused him to get fired from a string of jobs. The two of them would stop off at their favorite tavern each day around 3:30 in the afternoon and stay for hours. They they’d come home drunk, stumble up the stairs, and crank up the music until they finally went to bed. If you tried to ask them to turn down the music, they would attack you for some perceived flaw and turn the music up even louder.

By my count, they drove out seven unit owners, including myself.

When I realized that I wouldn’t go out into the yard for fear of running into them, I finally put my unit on the market. We had an open house scheduled for a Sunday morning and I decided to go down to the basement to turn on the lights and make sure that things were OK. Like many old homes, you accessed the basement from the outside, through a bulkhead. But because this had been a single-family home at one time, there was another staircase that I could access from my unit and those were the stairs that I used.

I noticed that my neighbors had started using the steps for storage, so I had to clear everything off the steps. That’s when I noticed a cardboard box with a mailing label on it. It was addressed to Molly and sent by a local mortuary. Another label said “Human Remains.”

It was Molly’s father’s ashes.

I moved Dad to an abandoned coffee table in the basement, making sure to turn the labels towards the wall. Afterwards, when I asked Molly why in the world she would park her father’s ashes on my basement steps, she said it was because he told her he didn’t want to be buried in the ground. Apparently, spending eternity in a basement with dusty bowling trophies and broken skis was the superior choice.

We didn’t sell the condo that day or for many days after that. I lost one buyer who was warned away by a friend who knew about the upstairs neighbors. When I finally did sell it, I was too exhausted to care. Molly and Jake, now well into the second decade of their engagement, are still there–when they’re not sitting on a bar stool. If this was a war, I guess they won.

So don’t suggest I consider a career in Real Estate, Mr. and Ms. Realtor. If I want drama, I’ll go to the theater. Maybe I’ll see something light, like Macbeth.

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