A sobering thought of how some people manage to get through a day w/o a map and flashlight
Four score and seven wines ago, we brought forth a naive notion to sell our condo by owner… conceived in frugality and intoxicated by the supposition that all people are created stable. Yeah, right.
Lincoln may have hit a homerun at Gettysburg, but what we encountered was a mind-blowing coterie of chuckleheaded cuckoos. Yes, they do exist. They’re featherless, flightless, and brainless... wandering about everywhere as living proof that truth is stranger than fiction.
Our befuddled journey began when the wife and I decided it was time for a move from our condo. Though it was a great building and we loved our unit, we looked forward to the change. No more waiting on elevators; a garden versus a balcony flower basket; more privacy without a hundred neighbors coming and going; no more board meetings, assessments, and so on.
All things considered, we thought listing in a suburban 'For Sale by Owner' flyer made the most economical sense. We were giddy as the ad was in and read delectable… an elegant three-bedroom penthouse atop a lone high-rise erected in the middle of a private golf course, and only a half-hour commute by train to Chicago’s Loop. Floor-to-ceiling windows afforded every room panoramic views of tree-lined fairways, blazing sunsets, and a resplendent suburban skyline at night. Perfect!
It was late spring and with expectations of a quick sale given such amenities, we were upbeat for an early summer move to a little slice of horse-heaven we had found in the country. The plan was simple; the wife would field calls, set appointments, and handle the bulk of showings while I was at work. A slam dunk— or so we thought.
Thence they came. Single or married, young or old, blue-collar or professional… it didn’t matter. One after another a steady parade of ninnyhammers invaded.
A single, middle-aged man was first to call for an appointment. Our central foyer opened directly into a spacious living room walled with glass, each twelve-foot segment framed by custom-made tapestry drapes. Without hesitation, he abruptly pushed past the wife and with hands on hips, stopped short of a sliding glass panel and stood staring at the vista.
“Good lord, lady,” he blurted. “Will ya look at that? This ain’t good.”
“Look at what? Is there something wrong?” Panicky, the wife examined the panel but failed to see anything amiss. “Oh, hold on… perhaps you’re confused,” she reasoned. “This one has a sliding screen that opens to the balcony, see?”
“Maybe so, lady, but that ain’t the problem. Look out there— all that grass. I can’t mow all that,” he said, pointing to the golf course.
She giggled, thinking he was being clever as a prelude to bargaining.
“It’s not funny, lady; I’m serious. I work six days a week and there’s no way I can mow all that!”
“I see what you mean,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Um, maybe you’re right; maybe this condo isn’t for you. In fact, as big and fit as my husband is, it’s a sore subject for him, too. And since he’s due home any minute, it’s probably best you leave now,” and firmly grasped the dim-witted rube by the elbow and walked him to the door.
I think I need a drink. While popping the cork from a fine Bordeaux, a second caller rang. Her hopes renewed, she gleefully answered. “Hello.”
“Hi, there. I’m calling about your condo. Says here it comes with two underground parking spaces?”
“That’s right, and they’re deeded to the unit so they’re free. Plus, there’s plenty of extra space for overnight guest parking as well. Very nice feature, don’t you think?”
“Hmm, that’s really strange," he ignored her enthusiasm. "I’ve been driving by that building for years and I ain’t never seen ‘em.”
“Um,” the wife stammered, “well, uh— yeah. Management likes to keep them camouflaged. You know, from intruders ‘n all?”
“Oh, okay, that makes—”
Within the hour, number three rang. This time, a young city worker arrived for a quick walk through on his lunch break.
“Ah, what a nice place you have here… and the view is magnificent,” he marveled upon entering. “I think my wife is really gonna love this.”
Now that’s more like it, the wife beamed, her faith in humanity returning. “If you like that view, let me show you the huge kitchen with a sunny breakfast nook that overlooks a Par 3 with an island green.”
“Sure thing, lead the way, ma’am.” While following, he posed a question in afterthought. “Oh, by the way, I hear through the grapevine this building is sinking. Is that true, lady?”
“You heard what?” She turned to question. “Who on earth would think… um— never mind.” She thought better of challenging his IQ and responded with a straight face. “Ah, y’got me there. Years ago, we used to be on the 22nd floor, now we’re on the 14th. But it’s been slowing down since, so there’s plenty of time before it disappears… might even stop. And besides,” she emphasized, “look on the bright side… taxes and assessments go down as the building does. You know, the higher the floor, the higher the premium type of thing?”
She matched nods of understanding while seeing him to the door. “You may want to check back in a few years. Could land yourself a real bargain by then, I bet. Bye.”
Oy, where do they come from? She sighed. Me thinks I need a bigger glass.
The calls were constant and time of day meant nothing to these bozos, either; like the night we were relaxed in bed watching the late show and about to announce ‘lights out’ when the phone rang.
“Now, who in hell could that be?” she grumbled, reaching for the phone.
“Dunno, but if it’s my deadbeat brother, tell him I’m still out partying.”
“Hello?” She answered, curiously.
“Yes, I’m calling about the condo for sale and would like to see it while I’m out and about.”
The wife again glanced at the clock thinking her eyes must have betrayed her. “Look, it’s late. Call back tomorrow for an appointment, okay?”
“It’s not that late, ma’am, and I won’t be long so why not now? I just left Taco Bell and can be there in five minutes. Do you want to sell it or not?”
“Ah, we did, but changed our minds. It’s off the market!” she snapped.
“Off the market… since when?”
“What time is it?”
“Uh, about 11:30.”
“Since 11:29, you taco wacko!” and slammed the phone down so hard, I was amazed it stayed in the cradle.
The following day was bright and sunny, perfect for putting the growing list of cuckoos behind her, but it was not meant to be as the day morphed into one of disaster.
Several neighbors knew the wife and of her culinary talents. To some, cooking may be a dreaded chore, but for her it was a creative labor of love, sometimes akin to therapy... something she could use at the moment. On this day, a very nice neighbor across the hall who thinks ‘basil and rosemary’ are star-crossed lovers in a Shakespeare play, asked for help with hosting a bridal shower for her daughter.
The wife obliged and spent the morning preparing a variety of authentic hors d’oeuvres from a half dozen countries around the world. The morning phone remained quiet as she placed the last of the savory assortment within the shelves of a serving carousel, covered the centerpiece with towels pending pick up, and placed a congratulatory card on top entitled: ‘for Carrie’s Bridal Shower’ when the phone rang.
What a pleasant change from the norm of nitwits, the wife smiled upon greeting a cordial middle-aged couple upon arrival. They asked all the right questions and seemed truly interested as the wife enjoyed exchanging décor ideas with ‘Mrs. Manners’ as they toured the unit.
“I just love these drapes and valances,” she commented. “Do they stay?”
“Yes, they do. I designed them myself but had the cornices custom made by a master cabinet maker.”
“I see; they’re absolutely beautiful,” the woman said, admiring the fine French brocade. “Would you mind showing me the master bedroom again? Your taste and skills have inspired some ideas that might match our bedroom set, and I’d like your input.”
“Of course,” the wife agreed as they sauntered to the opposite end of the unit, chattering away about color schemes and fabrics while paying little heed to the husband on a self-directed inspection of the laundry and mechanical rooms before venturing into the kitchen with its Italian marble tile and twenty-three birch cabinets.
They say time flies when having fun, and that was the case by the time the two magpies emerged from their design and planning session to rejoin hubby in the kitchen.
“Well, did you two manage to get things figured out?” he said, licking his fingers. “Got any pop or a beer, lady?”
“Oh my god!” My wife abruptly stopped, staring at a severely decimated bridal buffet sitting on the kitchen table. “What have you done!” she screamed.
“Huh? What d’you mean? Didn’t you leave these out here for us? They’re delicious.”
“Are you that stupid? It was covered up and had a Bridal Shower card to Carrie on it!”
“No need to get so riled, for Christ’s sake. All I asked for was a pop.”
“I’ll for crissake you… you ignorant moron. Now get the hell out… both of you!”
“Now hold on a sec,” his wife interrupted with a ‘not-his-fault’ tone in defense of her husband. “He was just hungry and didn’t have any lunch today.”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass if he’s coming off a forty-day fast. Can’t he read? He’s a bloody idiot! I’m not here to feed him or anyone else, now get him out of here before he has no teeth left to eat anything with,” she growled, and pushed them through the door.
“But what about selling the con—” Slam! “—do?”
A pompous engineer was next who demanded he see the building’s original construction plans. Why in hell would I have those… and of a hundred-unit tower built twenty-odd years ago?
“That's right, lady. How do I know this wall isn’t a quarter inch off?”
Or the flaky floozy who flattened herself against the living room wall upon entering... smelling it, caressing it, all the while writhing with orgasmic moans only to abruptly snap to and march out with her nose in the air, citing she couldn't live anywhere but for a certain brand of paint.
Or the young couple who asked, “Can we spend the weekend? You know, stay a couple nights as a trial run to see if we like it?”
Another trip to the liquor store was needed as the flock of crazy cuckoos kept on coming— like the loony couple who made it clear to the wife they had no interest in the unit, but rather wanted to use her as an impartial sounding board, sort of their personal Dr. Laura to adjudge their indiscretions of a failing marriage. Same day, a feeble old lady who expressed her abject fear of elevators, demanded the wife meet her in the lobby to physically carry her up fourteen flights of stairs.
The following week ushered in new hope with two promising prospects, beginning with a newlywed couple in their mid-twenties anxious to buy their first dream home.
Yes! The wife crossed her fingers. Finally, maybe these two are the real deal for a change, she prayed, especially after learning the Mrs. was gainfully employed as a registered nurse while her hubby would be joining her straight from his union job in construction.
“Oh, my; what a lovely unit. So big with gorgeous views,” the Mrs. cooed upon passing the wife tending the door. “Come see this, honey,” she beckoned to hubby about three strides behind her. The moment he appeared, my wife’s eyes widened with disgust, glaring at his nasty oil-stained jacket over his mud-caked coveralls and work boots.
“And where do think you’re going?” she scowled, squaring shoulder-to-shoulder with the inconsiderate slob before he could cross the threshold.
“Huh, what d'you mean? I wanna see the place, too; the view.”
“Over my dead body, you bloody will.”
“Are you crazy, lady. It’s only for a quick look and my wife can check out the rest.” He flashed a flippant smile and got a half step in the air when my ninety-five-pound British bride delivered a straight stiff-arm that would have sent Paul Horning back ten yards.
“Why are you being so rude, ma’am?” 'Mrs. Ditchdigger' railed, quickly joining them. “Let him in. Don’t you wanna sell the place? We’re ready to buy, y'know.”
“Rude? I’ll give you rude… look at the state of him and the mud trail he left in the hall! You must live in a pig sty if he comes home like that every night. Well he’s your Pig-pen, girl, ‘cuz I ain’t cleaning up after the dirtbag. Now scoot.”
The wife looped her arm around the insolent woman’s waist and moved her through the door as well. “Goodbye and good hunting.”
With one prospect down and the wife’s kendo stick safely in the closet, she took the better part of the day to contemplate the mental state of mankind until I could get home to help with her second hopeful. She felt perky about a retired CPA and his wife who were looking to downsize after their children had long since been out on their own.
“They had just sold their home and seemed really interested,” the wife explained to me on the phone, “but wanted to know more about taxes, association fees, special assessments and stuff like that. I’d feel much better if you were here to handle those things when they arrive.”
“No problem, sweetie. I’ll catch an early train and should be there by about five.”
“Oh good, luv. I could sure use a pick-me-up. Had another crazy-ass day today and the building’s super pitched a holy fit as well after seeing the hallway carpet. I’ll explain later when you get here.”
Though most neighbors we go to know seem to favor contemporary décor, the wife and I were into antiques, focused mostly on smaller accent pieces she deemed would complement our overall motif and color patterns.
One particular find she had fallen in love with years ago was an exquisite turn of the century Tiffany floor lamp worth about two thousand at the time. The wide, undulating shade consisted of six semi-translucent stained-glass panels of the era, each shaped like large amaryllis petals. Hanging from the bottom edges was a delicate fringe made of fine silk strands threaded with tiny colored beads that combined to form a lovely mosaic pattern of flowers; a nice piece for warm ambiance next to an L-shaped sofa in the living room.
After meeting them, I too anticipated success since they had to move soon and were attentive and genuinely interested in financial details after touring the unit. While I and the husband were busy reviewing the building bylaws and assessments, I sent the wife to my office to retrieve tax receipts and a year’s worth of utility bills when the solemnity of the moment was suddenly shattered.
“What in hell are you doing!” my wife screamed. “Are you some kind of nutcase! Take your bloody hands of that and get out!”
Her shouts startled me and the husband as we whirled to see a handful of utility bills go fluttering across the room.
“Look at what that Neanderthal did to my lamp!” the wife shouted while abruptly escorting the dingbat toward the door.
For some ungodly reason while the three of us tended to details, the CPA’s wife had braided about half the lamp’s fringe into a tangled mess of knots.
“I– I don’t know what to say,” the man said.
“Well I do— go!”
“I’m terribly sorry, sir. I can’t believe Emily did that. It’s not like her.” He continued to apologize as I shoved his pen into his breast pocket, spun him around, and pointed him toward the door. “But we’d really love to know more about this…”
“I said you’d best get your Emily out of here before the wife twists her into a gazillion knots. Now please go.”
While the wife sat upon the sofa, weeping with her face buried in her hands, I ever so gently and meticulously managed to untangle each beaded strand with only a minimal amount of repair needed.
The poor girl, I sighed, truly empathizing with what she had been going through. I used to joke what we saved on realtor fees we probably spent on booze, but until now, I hadn’t realized how many cockeyed cuckoos she had to contend with. How they manage to get through a normal day without a map and flashlight is beyond me, but on and on they came— eighty-seven walking-talking nimrods over the age of puberty by the time our thirty-day listing was to expire.
Though nearing month end without any offers, I was still optimistic and again took an earlier train home to help with inquiries or appointments. I arrived at about four o’clock and upon entering, I stood in the archway of the kitchen where the little woman had just finished placing the last sliced potato in a pan on the countertop when I asked how her day went.
“Don’t ask… the bloody twits. Two more called today and I’ve had it! I quit I tell ya! I quit! You try dealing with the brainless bozos!”
I thought it best to remain mum and let her vent as I reached for the phone ringing next to me on the kitchen wall. “Hello?”
While listening to the caller’s response, I heard the wife grumbling about something from midway across the kitchen; something like: “They can’t come; hang up.” But I ignored her, trying to focus on the call.
“Yes, I’m the owner of the condo for sale…”
“They can’t come,” the wife grizzled louder. “Hang up.”
“And you say you’re just around the corner and want to come look at it now?”
“I said they can’t come, goddamn it. I know who it is, so hang up!”
“Sure... we’re PH Unit 4 on the security panel. See you in a few minutes.” Click. “Now, what was it you were saying, sweetie?” I smiled at my little bride, feeling helpful.
Suddenly, the room seemed to darken in sync with her transformation into a five-foot demon, hunched up rigid-like with clenched fists and glaring up at me with bloodshot eyes like a deranged character in some B horror flick.
“Are you deaf and dumb as well!" she growled. "I – said – the bastards – can’t – come!” enunciating each word before launching into a raving rant that would have rivaled Hitler.
“Ad says by appointment only! They tried pulling the same 'we're-in-the-hood' crap on me just before you got here! First one, then the other dufus. But I knew it was the same bloody boneheads and told them— NO! That I was in the middle of making dinner! To call back later for a goddam appointment. But no-o-o-o— you had to go and say: ‘sure, see you in a few minutes.’ I swear, you’ve turned into one of them— thems that walk among us!
I froze by the phone. There were no more words, only gurgles, grunts, and grinding of teeth as she huffed and puffed like a little steam engine when suddenly, in one swift and fluid motion, she grabbed the pan handle and like a Roman catapult, sent two pounds of potato chunks airborne— straight at me.
It seemed like I was in the Kuiper Belt dodging asteroids. In twenty-five years, she had never exploded like this, let alone threw anything more than a kiss at me. Even so, with potatoes strewn about the kitchen and few down the hall, the battle was afoot. No more Mr. nice guy as I charged into the kitchen.
“That’s it!” I yelled, and pounded the countertop. “No more! I’m taking the damned place off the market and you’ll just have to get used to living here. No new house in the country; no garden; no nothin’ but these same ol’ digs! Ya got it? It’s over with!”
“Wrong again, bucko! I’m done livin’ here and I’m not gonna live with you!” She bellowed, followed by a stiff finger to my chest.
At that instant as if saved by the bell, the security buzzer rang. I snatched the phone from its hook only to hear this phony, cutesy female voice say: “Hi there, we’re here.”
“Yeah, well you’re too damned late. Place is sold!” Click.
I don’t know if too steamed or afraid of a mini Mt. Vesuvius, but beat a hasty retreat to my office to cool off, kicking a potato wedge on the way for a perfect field goal through the bedroom doorway at the end of the hall.
I spotted the ‘For Sale by Owner’ booklet on my desk and was hastily thumbing through it, wondering how many other owners had seen their share of cockamamy cuckoos. A minute later, the wife followed and looking over my shoulder, saw an ad for a decent yet much smaller condo I was absentmindedly looking at in another suburb.
“That one looks interesting. Shall we go look at it?” she said, ever so complacent.
“Nope. Not we, little lady. But suggest you might wanna take a gander since you’re gonna need a place to live after dumping me as you say.”
“Ah, I see. Well in that case, hotshot, since the building bylaws won’t allow pets, where are you gonna sleep, Fido?”
We looked at each other and simultaneously burst into uproarious laughter, reliving the whole tater-tossing episode and about every birdbrain who had showed up until tears ran from our eyes. Grateful all was fine and fabulous here in Cuckooville, I told her to go freshen up a bit, that I’d take her out for a delicious deep-dish pizza and a bottle of fine Chianti.
“Oh, by the way,” I said, still giggling. “You’ll probably find a potato in your shoe closet 'cuz I scored one for the Gipper.”
“I know, I saw. But better keep your day job, handsome. Pele you’re not,” she quipped, triggering more chuckles as she ambled into the bedroom and I back to the kitchen.
While picking up scattered potato wedges, a couple sobering thoughts popped into my head. I believe it was Ben Franklin who once said something akin to: 'everyone is ignorant at birth, but one has to work really hard at staying stupid.' Hmm... and, they breed and vote, too?
“Uh... we got any more wine left, hon?”