Saturday, March 20, 2010

In praise of the unsung hero

I've said it at work and I'll say it again here - I sucked as an Escrow Assistant fourteen years ago and I suck at it now.

When I started in this business back in the day I came from mortgage lending, a reasonable transition. The assistant that I worked with, and who "trained" me, was one of those types that didn't want to give up everything she knew - just pieces of it. And she had control issues: one time my stapler ran out of staples so I asked her to point me in the direction of the supply room so I could get more. She denied me and told me if I needed anything (including staples) I was to get it from her. At the time (and still) I didn't have a stapler at home, and I told her so, to reassure her that I would in fact not be a risk for staple-stealing. She didn't budge. I had to wait for her to be sick one day and have someone else show me where the supplies were. Seriously. I also asked her pretty early on what the life of an escrow was so I could get a grip on WHY I was doing the things she had me doing. She refused to answer. I said "Surely someone has written this down somewhere.." and she gave me a stern and subject-ending "No." It wasn't until I became an officer myself that I discovered there were marketing pieces entitled "The Life of an Escrow" that were handed out freely to our clients (and practically stapled to telephone poles) so that they could better understand what escrow does. Apparently Jackie did not want me to be as informed as our clients. Or at least as informed as her. Job security, indeed. Lucky for her I seek knowledge like ants seek my dishwasher, and managed to successfully lobby everyone else to do the unpleasantries of my job for me for the next fourteen years.

I became an officer roughly nine months into my career. I'm pretty good at convincing people that my ideas are the right ideas, and really, I was ready for the promotion. Back then deals were falling from the sky and we were all so busy that we could barely keep our heads on straight, working ridiculous hours and performing miracles on a regular basis. Oh, the anger issues I had! It was not uncommon to see a stapler fly out of my office and crash into the copy machine (the only way I could get my assistant's attention when I was on the phone, which was ALWAYS) or hear me screaming bloody death to a lender client (don't get me wrong, they loved it. Or so it seemed. They kept on coming back, so I assume it was my color commentary along with my ridiculously awesome escrow skills).

Things have changed dramatically, however, and escrow branches and personnel have been scaled down to ride out the current economic situation. And I'm a floater now, so I don't have my own desk, which means I cover everyone else's desks when they are out (you know this by now, don't you?). I love it, seriously, because I see things differently than the person I am covering - I have no baggage from files past or future - I see mostly the present. It's good for my psyche that I can sail onto a desk, do a bunch of successful things, and sail off to another one in a week or two. And hope that the person coming back to their desk after some time off can figure out where I left off. I've been an officer for a long time, I know how to do the job. I know how to play the game. I know how to keep their clients happy.

But sometimes I have to cover an assistant's desk. And I dread it. Don't get me wrong, when I had a desk I spent a large part of the time without my own assistant, so I know how to do the fundamentals - clear title, send back docs, pay out a file. It's the other stuff that kills me, and I'd list those other things but they are far too numerous to list. I'm not kidding you, assistants do a TON of stuff. Stuff I don't even know how to do, or remember how to do, or WANT to know how to do. So when I have to sit on a desk like Sherri's, even for the two days this last week that I had to, I brace myself for the complete trauma that it can be.

Her closer is busy. I mean BUSY. In this environment of low numbers and excruciatingly painful files, she is an anomaly. Her desk is always covered in stacks of files, there are docs flying off the printer, the phone calls and emails are never ending. She doesn't complain, works crazy hours, and doesn't use violence as a tool (like I used to). Sherri is the same way - the shit just gets done and you never hear her complain.

Enter me. Oh my hell. I can't even begin to tell you the shit I went through. It's like juggling, and I could never do that either. I managed fine, I guess, in the end, but I kept having to clear away the clumps of hair falling out of my head to see the work in front of me. I can't explain how much harder the work is these days, and you wouldn't get it anyway, but it just is. And with deadlines and crazy conditions pulled out of the asses of underwriters all over the country and not being able to smoke except for in the middle of Hwy 26, well you can imagine the color I brought to the office those few days.

All I can say is this - Escrow Officers get most of the glory (if that's what we're calling it today) but the assistants are the true heroes. They work hard, they make us look good, and they rarely complain about it. Their salaries are lower, their bonuses (when they exist) are smaller, but they continue the fight to make us EOs keep our promises and deliver every time. I am in constant awe of them. And when I have to be one I panic because I am convinced I will never live up to their standards.

So here's to the unsung heroes of the real estate world - Escrow Assistants, Funders, Processors and Closing Coordinators - I don't know why you do it, but you do it well, and I salute you for it.

Today I am SINCERELY relieved that it's Saturday.


At 6:20 PM, March 22, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't have said it better myself, especially because I was laughing too true about those unsung heroes.


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