So I hope you don’t mind that I’m writing this column from the Patti Smith concert.
Writers’ work has always been portable: have stone tablet and chisel, will travel. But the flip side of being able to work anywhere is being able to work everywhere; I fear the world is beginning to catch up with us on that score.
Certainly real estate agents will agree that’s true. Ask agents what the negatives of their job are, and they’ll almost certainly say “working weekends.”
Of course now everyone works weekends. Those lazy Saturday/Sunday afternoon hours? It’s more and more tempting to burn them by turning on the computer.
But in real estate, since what you do is client service, you want to be there when a client asks you to jump. A couple of years ago, I went to an open house thrown by Cecilia Serrano, a top broker. She told me a story of flying home mid-vacation, across the ocean, no less, to save a deal. Being a really conscientious client rep isn’t far off from being a wet nurse; you never know when the baby’s going to cry. I found someone who owns not one house in my target area, but four, and I can’t wait to meet her (and write you a column about it) – but it’s taken a month of scheduling since she has numerous commitments and so do my partners!
Yet while ordinary days and vacations are tough to protect, holidays are still somewhat sacrosanct. I started on Wall Street, and you were supposed to work at 2 at night and at 7 in the morning, but no one expected to find you at your desk in the last week of August. The week between Christmas and New Year’s? Dead. The only workers present were sickos who showed up for the unusual thrill of hearing their phones not ring.
So everyone in real estate, be thankful that the clock sometimes stops. This was, to put it mildly, not my experience in publishing. One year, when I was at Fortune Magazine, I had a huge fight with the chief of reporters because she wouldn’t let me take Yom Kippur off. At News Corp., if they made a greeting card for it, I worked it; Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Even though I was a manager (and therefore didn’t draw overtime) I couldn’t seem to get different departments to synch into the idea of “close early.”
Thanksgiving was one of the worst; despite the thrill of marching in the Macy’s parade, there was always the office and its depressing conference-room spread of turkey to look forward to.
So this year, even though the shackles were off, I really didn’t get it.
Thursday, obviously, a date to eat; I got that.
“What are you doing Friday?” asked my in-laws.
“I’m working Friday,” I said, fairly self-righteously. “I’m happy just to have Thursday off.”
My plan was to hit the East Orange Hall of Records – I’m trying to build a super-clean mailing list, and so I wanted to go straight to the source. But my plan was foiled by the fact that the city of East Orange considered Friday a holiday.
So I panicked. I mean, three whole days of idleness in a row? I didn’t know what to do with it. I ended up painting the kitchen.
Yet I’m happy to try to go through some kind of idleness training (isn’t that just a fancy phrase for “drinking?”) to take Christmas off. Sure, I’m sad that my phone rings all the time, and I have to answer it when I don’t want to (though never in the movies – you have to draw a line somewhere). But if the flip side is these little pearls of holidays, I’ll take it.
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