At 23, I decided to move to Italy and become a nanny. No, it wasn’t because I love children. I simply saw an adventure to take advantage of before I became old and boring (i.e., over 30). I still can’t fathom how a smart, assertive, overly self-protective girl could end up in so many high-risk scenarios while overseas.
The most harrowing happened in Venice.
I spoke passable Italian (it has since slipped my mind after becoming old and boring) and was enjoying a lovely lunch while poring over a walking map of Venice, attempting to route the shortest distance from the cafe to a local cathedral.
In Venice, that can be quite a feat — much like navigating a human-sized mouse maze. My waiter stopped and asked where I was trying to get to.
I reveled in the fact that I could competently tell him exactly what I was looking for in his native tongue, and he replied that he would be more than happy to take me there as soon as I was done eating. His shift was over, and he lived very close to the cathedral.
"These Italians! So nice!" I decided.
I hurriedly finished chewing and we were on our way. It was, I thought, an odd way to go (I have a very good sense of direction), quite backwards from the course I would have aimed. He shivered and said he needed to grab his coat.
It was right here in his apartment, he said, urging me to come in — after all, it was freezing outside. Against all better judgment, I did go inside that apartment and felt a cold blast of fear as the door was tightly locked behind me.
I realized in a split second that my kindly waiter was not Italian after all. He was nothing of what he had professed.
Of course, he had never run into a feisty American ready to beat his face in, either. I screamed and nearly tore the locks off the door before running for my life through the winding Venice maze. I was OK. I made it home just fine, and learned a valuable lesson about safety and trust.
But would you say I was in the "wrong place at the wrong time"?
I followed a stranger into a vacant apartment in Venice, Italy — a place I actually know pretty well. My family knew where I was. I even had a cell phone on me. Doesn’t that sound vaguely familiar to what we Realtors do every weekend?
I ask this because of the news about Realtor Vivian Martin, killed while showing a vacant home in Ohio. To my surprise, the quote by Ohio Association of Realtors President Doug McCloud in one report was, "You know there is no bull’s-eye on just Realtors. It’s just if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time and somebody wants your money, they are going to get it."
I couldn’t disagree more.
Neither myself nor Vivian was in the "wrong place at the wrong time." I was stupid. She, on the other hand, was doing her job.
And she did everything right, according to our general practices. She was even on the phone with her daughter when she pulled up to the home. She had a documented appointment and people knew where she was.
And I do believe we have a bull’s-eye on us — albeit faint, but still very much visible. After all, what other profession actively advertises that they will be "alone in a vacant home this Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m.? Oh, and by the way, here’s my picture, too! And if you want a private showing, simply call me. I’ll be available."
Outside of getting a concealed-carry firearm permit, what do you, my fellow Realtors, think could be done to make our daily jobs safer?
I’ve often shrugged off the so-called "danger" and made similar remarks to that of Mr. McCloud. In Bend, Ore., where I used to work, I’ve met women who have encountered stalkers and others who have resorted to carrying guns in their cars for more remote showings.
You can never be too safe after a close call, they said. Me? Well, I figured it would never actually happen to me.
However, now that I am over 30, old, boring, and expecting a child with the man I love, I have come to realize that "Oh, it won’t happen to me" just isn’t good enough. The truth is, it could happen to anyone — even if they are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing.
So this weekend I have two open houses scheduled — both in vacant homes — both advertised in the newspaper with my accompanying photo. But these days I take my husband along, as I have done regularly, well before the case of dear Vivian.
Call me untrusting, overprotective, compulsive … but you can also call me safe.