Dear Apartment Owner:

My apologies if you couldn’t find your Calvin Kleins this morning. Here’s what happened:

I’m a fairly newly minted real estate agent, and to gain customers I’ve been showing apartments. I had been showing studios, one apartment per Sunday, and apparently I was good at it. So my boss asked me to show in his building.

Now this is the building he lives in, and is to all intents and purposes the mayor of. He’s lived there for 20 years, and probably sold just about everybody else who lives there their apartment, which isn’t bad when you consider that’s a few hundred apartments.

But it’s also August, and he wants to be at the beach. He knew I needed showing time so it works for everybody.

Except that there are four apartments for sale in this building. And it’s actually four buildings, set around a central courtyard. If you’re not a longtime resident and the de facto mayor of the place, it’s tough to remember which address goes where. The whole process of showing in a complex can be very complex.

And of course my boss had given some instructions, which I only half processed. He warned me that the building the studio was in had its elevator down for repairs, and that the first-floor apartment might have a sleeping baby in it, and I should turn on the lights so the apartments didn’t look too dark.

So of course, five minutes before the open house started I got the keys from the doorman and headed up to the studio. I followed a resident in to her building, and then was pleasantly surprised to find that the elevator was working.

That was my last pleasant surprise because the apartment was a mess. Unlocked, with an unmade bed. An ironing board open with the iron still on it. Towels tossed everywhere. And, the coup de gross, a pair of recently worn underwear on the coffee table.

So of course I thought, “I can’t show this.”

And then I thought, “I’m starting in three minutes. I can’t clean this.”

I figured maybe most of my customers were there to see the one-bedrooms, and I would just make an excuse if anyone asked after the studio. I would say all the electricity was out or something.

But there’s always one customer who will never believe stuff like that, and I had a horrible vision of a buyer who just had to bull her way in. I’d say, “no, no, it’s messy,” and she’d say, “oh I don’t mind,” and then her jaw would drop.

I didn’t have time to clean up everything, but I did want to guard against the worst, so I just balled up one of the nearby damp bath towels and picked up the offending undies, hiding them in a little terrycloth pile on the couch. Then I closed the door and headed downstairs to my customers.

To show the one-bedroom with the sleeping baby, and the one-bedroom with the stainless-steel bathroom, and the one-bedroom on the fifth floor, and the studio … in the other building.

My readers have probably gotten there ahead of me. Of course the elevator shouldn’t have worked, that meant I was in the wrong building.

I wondered later if it was good that I’d only moved one thing, if that was more or less poltergeisty than if I’d had the time to be a full-on cleaning tornado.

I told many of my customers this story during the open house. After all, one needs something to say to break the rhythm of “one-bedroom, garden, one-bedroom, modern, one-bedroom, view.”

To a man, they thought it was funny. It made me seem kind of ditsy (and my juggling four sets of keys and four sets of show sheets didn’t help), but it did seem like an easy mistake.

I just got fooled by the fact that the door was left unlocked.

So anyway, mystery slob resident, what were you thinking? This is New York City … the big, bad city. Never leave your door unlocked. Someone might walk into your apartment and start cleaning it up.

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