I had forgotten about linoleum.
I don’t mean the stuff you may have in your kitchen; that’s underfoot, you clean it every now and then, and probably don’t think about it. I mean good ol’ classroom linoleum, where you count the squares, and scrutinize the edges to make sure they’re lined up straight, and squint at the pattern of the black marks to find the face of Jesus.
And now I have 75 hours to get reacquainted. I decided to start making my real estate fortune in New Jersey, and Jersey’s first toll is 75 hours of class time. Drudgery. I want to be one of those multimillion-dollar-earning real estate agents, dripping in diamonds and driving a Maybach, but first I gotta go through this.
There’s not just a state licensing requirement for real estate salespeople, there’s an attendance requirement. So for four weeks, no matter how smart you think you are, your butt goes in the desk and your eyes scan the linoleum.
My dad used to say that 50 percent of all doctors graduated from the bottom half of medical school. It’s gotta be true with brokers too, that 50 percent of the agents out there were, um, less-than-stellar students.
Me, I do puzzles just to keep awake: the instructor’s pretty good, but who can withstand four-and-a-half hours of agency law? So think about that the next time you’re shopping for a house, that the salesperson driving you around was probably doing crossword puzzles during the customer representation sections.
There are 60 of us in one of the most diverse groups of people I can imagine: rich young white moms looking for jobs that will let them flex their hours around their children; young black ghetto kids who got fired up to escape their hair-styling and burger-slinging jobs when someone from the ‘hood sold a house and made a mint; middle-aged immigrants from Portugal and Dominica and Turkey who want to earn a little cash by helping their friends settle in this big country.
I realize I have a huge advantage because I’m rich (not dripping-in-diamonds rich, but I’m not flipping burgers either). The poor kids ask puzzling questions, questions that make the instructor cock his head to one side and speak extra s-l-o-w-l-y. The class line is a bigger divide than the color line, though the two are often parallel.
The thing about the poor kids is not that they’re stupid (OK, some of them are), but they don’t know the things about the world rich people know. Some of these students have never seen a mortgage statement. We polo-shirt wearers share our droll tales of “It Happened to Me on Closing Day,” and these kids just roll their eyes.
There was one particularly painful interlude two days ago, when the hair stylist was trying to figure out what new career she was getting herself into. “How much do you get when you sell a house?”
“Well, it varies,” said the instructor. You could tell that in the world of Foxtons, he didn’t want to say “6 percent,” but you could also tell the student hadn’t grown up in a household where there was grousing about 6 percent commission over the dinner table, either.
They went round-and-round for about 15 minutes: she wanted to budget for the first year of her career, and he wouldn’t answer her question. I wonder if I’d asked if he would have told me that some big franchises offer you a 50/50 split on the 3 percent you bring in as a buyer’s broker, or that RE/MAX lets you keep their half of the split but charges $2,500 a month in desk fees.
I meant to catch up to her later and explain all this – I try to be friendly to everybody in class – but I never did. Honestly, I had good intentions. But I was too caught up in studying the linoleum.
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