Sunday, January 18, 2009

Story time

- I haven't had a lot of action lately, so I thought I might share some stories from my life. This one is generally a crowd pleaser. I am so happy people are amused. -

I had been a loan officer for a bank for about a year and a half prior to beginning my long and storied career in escrow. Part of my duties was to meet the potential borrowers at their homes, take their applications face to face, and do an appraisal of the property. So it wasn’t unheard of for me, on my first day working at Stewart Title, to be asked to take a signing at a customer’s home in NE Portland.

I wasn’t yet a notary, since it was my first day, and back then we were so busy that sometimes an officer might let someone else witness the signatures – obviously a member of the same company that employed that officer – and though it is not at all common practice, desperate times called for desperate measures.

So the client was a company located in northern California, their only contact with the borrowers via email or over the telephone. A very common practice, and one that insures that the borrowers probably aren’t going to be signing any predisclosures in the approval process. This leaves the job to escrow, and when the escrow officer and the borrowers finally meet, the stack of paperwork requiring signatures is huge. In this particular instance, the husband and wife were both in title to the property, but the wife was to be taken off title, and the loan was to be only in the husband’s name.

I loaded up the huge file and the notary log of the escrow officer for whom I was assisting and drove over to northeast Portland. The property was difficult to find: there were no house numbers on the building, and though I spotted what had to be the house, there really wasn’t much of a driveway. Just a dip in the curb covered with grass. That should have been my first clue.

My second clue should have been that when I got out of the car and searched for a gate in the fence that surrounded the property, the only thing I could find was a hole. It was big enough to climb through, but in fact it was just a hole. That’s when I spotted the borrower.

He was tall and sort of looked like Lurch with long hair, and he was standing on the inside of the fence, on a wooden deck near the front door. He called out to me, so I climbed through the hole in the fence and approached him to shake his hand. Like this is all just normal. And then his cell phone rang. He answered it, and apparently it was for me. That was really the first time I realized that this situation was not very normal.

I answered the phone, and it was the wife, calling, presumably, from inside. She told me that she knew she had to sign something, and that she had to show me ID, but that she had really bad teeth and didn’t want me to look at her. The little hairs on the back of neck started to prick up a little bit, so I told her, no problem we’d work it out. She hung up, and we went to the front door.

It was a tiny vestibule, just enough room for both of us, and when he shut the door to the outside, I noticed a sign on that door: SHUT THE DOOR! Just inside the tiny entry was another door, also with the same sign: SHUT THE DOOR! We opened it, and entered into the house. It was dark, and the door led to a long hallway that grew into total darkness as it neared the end. Very Stephen King. Just a few steps in and to our left, however, was the entry to the living room. From there, a doorway to the dining room, and beyond that, the kitchen. In the far wall of the living room was a sort of pass-through window that looked into the kitchen or out into the living room, depending on your position. He motioned to the dining room area, and I saw a credit card sitting on the table. It was not picture ID, and it was expired, but I started to get the feeling that I shouldn’t care. I jotted her name down, pulled out the deed I needed her to sign along with the notary journal, and turned around and left the room. After a few moments I could hear her retreating, and I turned to find the deed and notary journal signed.

That done, I faced the living room. It was gloomy with dark paneling and very cluttered. Along one wall was a full book case, and on that was a large-ish TV, with a video of a canary on a blue screen playing with a red ping-pong ball. Roughly six other smaller TVs lined the shelves, all playing the same video. On the top shelf was one of those static globes, were you touch it and the little static lights shoot up in it. No one was touching it but it was very active. There was a desk with a chair along another wall, and opposite that wall was an easy chair with an ottoman. He motioned me to sit in it, but I declined – for some reason I thought it would not be conducive to a fast getaway. I explained that he would be doing a lot of signing so he might want to be more comfortable. I considered the desk chair, but there was a grey (once white) bra hanging from the back of it and it kind of grossed me out. I stood instead, handing him the notary journal (again, expired, non-picture ID but shit who cared) and started passing papers to him.

Then I noticed the bird.

I realized I should probably take note of my surroundings, keep an eye on things, because I was starting to get really nervous in this freak show, and the bird didn’t actually have a cage. There was a perch above the easy chair, and an upside-down open umbrella under that. You know, to catch the bird shit. Obviously. The bird was a big parrot, and it had been quiet and still up until this point, but after I had gone through the closing statement with the borrower, the bird sort of fluffed its feathers and stretched. When it started flying around the room I lost interest in explaining anything this man was signing, and instead worked on just not getting hit in the head by the bird.

Meanwhile, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed movement in the kitchen. Through the pass-through window I spotted hair – long and grey. Since I was standing I sort of leaned back a little, stealth-like, to see if I could spot the wife. I caught sight of her – she was standing and staring at me, holding her cigarette case up to her face to hider her mouth. When she spotted me, she hung back herself, hiding. I started to look under the furniture and bookcases to find the bodies of the real homeowners, all the while passing papers to the borrower and dodging the parrot.

Pretty soon I started imagining her grabbing a cast iron skillet and sneaking up behind me from that long dark hallway, hitting me over the head and leaving my body to rot with the other people that had befallen this house of horrors. I started to sweat. At this point I was just rifling papers at the husband, whose name was something like Jeremiah Sebastian Jehosovitz III or something horrific, and it just took him forever to sign it, and seriously the stack of papers he had to sign was easily three inches thick. So while shooting papers rapid fire at him, not wanting to lose sight of his wife, ducking every time the bird made a complete lap of the living room, and all in the back ground was this crazy canary video on several TVs with the sound at a low murmur, you can imagine my panic. I remember I was wearing a knit skirt and top ensemble, hosiery and 3-inch pumps (I certainly don’t dress like THAT anymore!), and I was sweating so bad that the knit started to get heavy and stick to my legs and back. It was brutal. Sweat was literally running down my legs and arms, down my neck, into my eyes. I started feeling clammy and really panicky and pretty soon there were papers flying all over the place. I thought it would never end.

But it did, and I gathered up all of my things and thanked them, didn’t wait for him to get out of the chair, turned around and bolted out of the house, closing the doors as instructed as I went along. I dove through the hole in the fence and out onto the street and threw everything in my car. I drove in first gear for four blocks in no discernable direction at about 35 miles per hour, pulled over and chain smoked three cigarettes in a row. My hair was a halo of frizz around my head and my mascara had pooled down my face and heavy under my eyes. I looked like something from Rocky Horror. I finally made it back to the office, and stopped everyone in their tracks when I walked in. I was quite a fright – enormous hair, black eyes, clammy wet skin, and my knit skirt stretched to my ankles.

It was my first day, and I didn’t want to complain, so I busied myself with the send back and told everyone I would explain later.

Later, the wife phoned and explained to me that she was agoraphobic and that I was the first person besides her daughter and of course her husband that she had seen in eight years.

Of course.


At 8:34 AM, January 19, 2009, Anonymous RiverGirl said...

OMG, what a story! My favorite line: "I started to look under the furniture and bookcases to find the bodies of the real homeowners." How freaky, I would not have wanted to do that job alone.

At 8:45 AM, January 19, 2009, Blogger Theresa in Mèrida said...

Oh, yuck, oh are very brave.I would have gotten an attack of claustrophobia to match her agoraphobia, icky. How creepy. But what a great story.Did you have to go back?

At 11:22 AM, January 19, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the line about your knit skirt stretched to the floor made me literally laugh outloud. People are looking at me. Becky H

At 2:26 PM, January 20, 2009, Blogger My Way said...

What a great story! I could totally picture it in my mind too. Especially the lean back part and how you tend to deal with people so well no matter what the situation.

Freakin hilarious. And the skirt! LOL. Did you ever wear it again or was that the last of it?

At 2:42 PM, January 20, 2009, Anonymous working gringa said...

ohmigod.... that's the funniest story.

At 4:25 PM, January 20, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are hysterical!

More stories, please.


At 6:17 PM, January 20, 2009, Blogger JJ said...

Thanks for enjoying the story! I never did have to go back there, but I did speak to the wife on the phone at length about her issues. She was in therapy. Group met over the phone...

As for the skirt - after a good laundering it was fine, retained its shape well. I wore it for a couple of years afterward and then I got sick of hosiery so I just started wearing pants. Not knit ones, though. You just never know what your day might bring.

At 10:28 AM, January 21, 2009, Blogger Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

I love that story. I never get tired of hearing it... or reading it. I must say that to hear it coming from you is sooooooo funny. Hope all is well.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home