Monday, August 22, 2016

The Tough Questions

My "tough" questions have changed over my lifetime but there has never been a single decade that remained unscathed by some intrepid question-asker posing a question that I don't have a clear answer for. 

My current "stumper" question is "Are you retired?"  Well....Hmm...hard to say... Depends how strictly you interpret the word "retirement".

Here's the thing about that particular question that trips me up.  Why do people feel the need to ask?  Do I look so old that there would be an assumption that I should be out of the workforce?  Are they fearful that I am going to be the one batshit crazy person that they might have to work with (because we all know that every office has at least one wackadoo co-worker in the mix) and they need know where NOT to apply?  Do I look unproductive, unkempt, or unhinged?

Whatever prompts the question, I am a bit at a loss as how to answer it. Logically, it should be an easy YES or a NO answer but in my case, it's more like SORT OF.

To get to the bottom of if I am retired from the workforce, I have to go back to my work history.  .Clearly one can't retire from something if one hasn't done something.

Way back in the the dark ages B.C. (before children)  I did, in fact, regularly obtain paid employment.  It was during this time that I worked in such glamorous jobs as accounts payable and keypunch operating.  I am pretty sure that there are people out there ...even to this day.. that assume the only reason I ever had children was to get out of having to work in those types of fascinating industries.   Well, that isn't entirely true.  BUT as luck would have it, I cheerfully  quit my job week #1 of my first pregnancy. Keypunch operating takes on a whole new level of difficulty when one is routinely vomiting. While I have worked in some offices that would just consider that multitasking, I was eager to get started enjoying a very extended duration of "ME" time so off I went.

For a few years,  I could reasonably pull out the mommy card while avoiding what would be considered anything resembling a career.  (NOTE: I LOVED being a stay home mom and not because it kept me out of the workforce...but because it is the best job EVER.)

 As most of my long time readers know, we moved 21 times as my husband climbed the corporate ladder which resulted in me finding "my place" in 21 new cities.  In most cases, upon arriving to a new city my first job was to set up our home, get the kids settled into schools and take care of all the business one takes care of to get assimilated to a new community. Those pesky things like finding doctors, dentists, dry cleaners and the DMV among all the other mundane connections one needs to live any given place.  BUT once these checklist items are settled, there comes a point that the nagging question arises "Now what should I be doing?" Back in the 1970s, I could pretty much look in the classified ads in the newspaper and find a job.  (Did I just lose you young ones?  Just to the days prior to the Internet, there was the non-digital approach to job hunting...available jobs were listed in the "Help Wanted" ads in the newspaper. Archaic, you say but it worked.)

I will tell you though, that while I was perfecting my skills of walking the tight rope between working and not working,  I was lucky that there were still a number of women that didn't work outside the home.  Sadly, as time progressed (in an totally non-progressive way) and there were less and less "stay-at-home" moms there came a point when asked if "I worked" anything less than an affirmative answer that had links to a paycheck, it was quickly becoming a very unpopular choice to stay at home.  Yes, it turns out that there are a lot of really "judgey" women out there that were intent on making other women's life choices into a debatable causes.(NOTE:  Again luckily for me, I married a superstar of a husband that seemed fine with me staying home and feathering our nest.)

Needless to say, there did come a time when the kids were a bit older that I really did need to go forth into the world of  crazy bosses and malicious co-workers.  Into my life there came a point, when I no longer could justify NOT having a J.O.B.... so back into the workforce, I W.E.N.T.

In the years between then and now, I have had a lot of jobs in a lot of cities.  Depending on what was available at the time we arrived in whatever community...some of the jobs I held were managing a bank, managing an unemployment office,  bought a franchise for 2 fast food chain restaurants,  I started a corporate training company, I've been a 911 operator and for a couple of years I sold Hershey chocolate products to retail stores. ...but I have circled several times back to selling real estate.

The thing about my on-again-off-again career as a Realtor is that it was dependent on what state we were living in at any given time and the laws that dictated the level of difficulty getting a real estate license.  I always went back into real estate when we lived in Kansas or Missouri as I carry licenses in those states already but I didn't in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois or Texas because  (A.) getting a license just seemed to be a bigger pain in the @ss than I felt like dealing with at the time....OR (B.)  Something else presented itself that sounded interesting.

In my early years of real estate it was actually quite rewarding. Back then people depended more on real estate agents because they hadn't become experts in their own right by watching HGTV and looking around on the Internet (the Internet hadn't been born yet...just as some of you weren't.) Real estate listings were listed on sheets called "hot sheets" that were distributed to all the real estate offices in any given city.  This worked out really slick for agents as the consumers had no way to access what was for sale without going to a real estate office.  Ah the good old days when we were needed.

The other fun part of real estate is the "rolling the dice" if you were actually going to make any money. It was sort of like buying a lottery ticket and dreaming about what you would do with the money if you win.  You  hope for the big win while the economy is good and people are buying and selling homes because you know what goes around comes around.  Great years are invariably followed by a couple of years that your expenses will eat up any wisp of a profit.

Just for sake of enlightening the uninformed, real estate agents work strictly on commission.  You have to have a brokerage hold your license but you are considered self-employed.  Even though you are self-employed, your brokerage firm charges you various fees to use their name and they tell you how to dress and what kind of car to drive.  (They don't want you not to look less than successful while you go broke.) Brokers also take a percentage of any commission from a listing or a purchase.  Most real estate commissions are divided 4 ways, buyer's agent, buyer's broker, seller's agent and seller's broker.

The money train doesn't stop there.  There is continuing education to be completed, state registration fees, Real estate Board membership, E-key and keybox rentals, advertising, signs...and  on and on and on. 

This is where it gets tricky.   I do all of that in two states and according to them I am considered employed.   BUT here's the thing...a couple of years ago, I quit showing up at the office.  

I have visions of my broker, waking up each morning thinking. "Will today be the day that Cheryl P. shows up for work?"  Conversely, I worry, if I would actually come into the office, the poor man might have a heart attack.  Considering the proximity of where my office is to the nearest Level One Trauma Center, I am additionally fearful that he wouldn't get life saving help before rigor sets in.  Leaves me wondering if I shouldn't move to a brokerage firm closer to a good hospital. OR better yet, just let him continue wondering where I am.  I am rather content "just phoning it in" when I occasionally do anything close to what could be called work. 

Why did I lose my enthusiasm for a career that provided me with a decent income about every third year, you ask?   WELL...the answer is that collectively home sellers and home buyers went NUTS.

You might think I am exaggerating but I assure you I am not.  In the good old days when I first got my licenses, (mid 1980s) my big worry was worrying about whether a house I was listing or showing would smell like cigarette smoke or cat urine.  Today, I need to preview every house because I want to make sure the bongs and sex toys are put away and out of sight. (Frankly, the buyers might want me to have those items included in the sale and it's just making more paperwork for me.) Plus if there is a meth lab in a house, I need to make sure that has been disclosed on the Condition of Property Disclosure Form Section 12 line 186 and 187 regarding methamphetamine and  any controlled substances  EVER being present, used or manufactured within the property at any time in the history of the house.  Now while I am fairly certain (**cough, cough**) that anyone that has a meth lab will be totally truthful and do the right thing by filling in the disclosure so he/she can clue the would-be-buyer in on the fact they are going to have some serious health issues in their future, it might have just slipped their mind. 

I hope you aren't jumping to the conclusion that homes that have drug paraphernalia, sex toys laying about, or evidence a meth lab are in some way relegated to lower end housing.  Shame on you for being that narrow minded.  The one and only house, that I  ever showed that actually had a meth lab in it, had a very high-tech,  scientific grade lab built in the finished lower level with a Viking range and granite counter tops.  So while maybe the homeowners were lowlifes that is not to say they were low-income lowlifes.

So do you see my dilemma here?  Technically, I am still working.  I even go so far as to actually show property from time to time, if for no other reason than to substantiate the rental costs of my E-key but as far as going into the office to answer phones, or give anyone the illusion that I am interested in working full time (gawd forbid), don't think I am quite there yet. There might be a time that I will be inspired. That time will not be today.

Do you have any questions that are frequently asked that have no simple answer? 

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