To Buy and Not To Buy
Shopping. There are so many ways to do it. Impulse, bargain, need. An endless list.
And don’t forget timing.
I am an impulse shopper. Take, for instance, the silk embroidered prayer cap from somewhere in view of the Himalayas.
At least that’s where they told me it was from when I bought it, at an antique store in Putnam, in the Quiet Corner of Connecticut.
I had to have that cap. I truly did. The moment I saw it I hugged it to me. I went to pay without looking at the tiny price tag pinned inside.
I would have paid anything.
Well, not anything. Certainly a lot more than the “twelve dollars, ma’am,” I was told at the counter.
I felt I had found the shiny needle in a voluminous haystack of antiques.
I look at that cap all the time, and all the time, it makes me happy.
So does my apartment. It makes me happy, even when I’m not. I owe my apartment to a former colleague of mine. She asked me to have a look, to help her price it before she listed it for sale. The moment she opened the front door I knew.
“Please don’t list this,” I said. “I want it.”
It’s not like I decided on the apartment the same way I decided on the cap. I had not been looking for a prayer cap. Really, why would I? But I had just started to look for an affordable apartment to purchase. Just. This was the second one. And it was the right one. I had no doubts at all.
I will always be grateful to my colleague for giving me that opportunity.
Sometimes it does come knocking, and this time it was loud and clear.
One afternoon I was leaving the office with another broker when a young man with a wispy beard skateboarded up to us. We were just outside the front door. He was wearing cut-off jeans, unlaced sneakers and looked as though he hadn’t slept in a month.
“You guys brokers?” he asked. Since I was heading to an appointment, my colleague answered.
“Yes,” she said.
“Coooool! Got anything to show me?”
My colleague looked at me, rolled her eyes. I waved goodbye and went to meet my customer.
The next morning I got a phone call.
“Remember that kid, yesterday?” my colleague said.
“I showed him a duplex on Bethune. He wants it. Says he has cash.”
The kid bought the apartment. Hired an architect. Gutted the place. Hired a decorator. Made it gorgeous.
One Sunday several years ago a woman showed up early at the open house I was hosting. She made herself right at home.
“This apartment has everything I want,” she said. “I can see myself living here.”
Soon enough, people began to fill the apartment. Brokers with their customers, buyers with questions to ask me, neighbors who were nosy and just wanted a glimpse of the space. I didn’t want to be rude to the woman, but I couldn’t spend all my time with her.
“You’ll have to excuse me,” I said.
“I’ll come back when you’re not so busy,” she said.
She returned at the end of the open house.
“I like you, Liz. I think we could work well together. I love this apartment, but maybe you could show me a few other places. What do you think about Brooklyn?”
“What parts of it?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Let’s just give it a shot, okay?”
Brooklyn is huge. HUGE. This was like asking a broker in Delaware to show you houses in Pennsylvania.
“What parts of Brooklyn interest you?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve never been there. Do you think I would like living there?”
How the hell would I know?
“I hear Forest Hills is nice, too,” she said.
So is the South of France.
To find the time to work with this woman I would have to curtail all other activities. Including the performance of bodily functions.
Over the next few years I would see her, at other open houses, with other brokers. She would wave, or smile at me. I would wonder how many brokers had spent how many hours making how many phone calls to make how many appointments to try to find her a home.
About four months ago I was about to get on the elevator of my building on the ground floor just as she was getting off. She was with a broker I knew quite well, who had a new listing for a one bedroom apartment several floors above mine.
“Hey, Liz,” the broker said. “I’d like to introduce you to my customer. She just decided to buy the apartment a few floors above yours.”
“Really,” I said. I turned to the woman. “It’s nice to see you again.”
“Same here. You live in the building?” she asked. “How great! We’ll be neighbors.”
That’s true, it can be, especially in this city.
“Congratulations,” I said. I meant it, for it was her time. At last.
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