The Old Lady On The Stairs

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Some titles considered for this article were “Black Bart – Dead at 55 From Absinthe Poisoning”, “365 Days With AADD”, “A Hot Bath With Sade” and a few others but an article in “The Writer’s Handbook” helped gel the decision to use “The Old Lady On The Stairs”. You’ll just have to keep wondering about the others but the choice to use “The Old Lady On The Stairs” has to be explained. Luckily, it’s easy to do.

I am pretty convinced by now that I was meant to be a writer. Too bad I spent all those years with real jobs. I read about writing; I dream about writing and hell, I even write about writing. I know that’s probably pretty weird but there’s no use in hiding the truth from you. On occasion, all the stars are aligned just right in the heavens and the tide has minimum influence and wham, I’m star struck with an idea that cannot be contained. So, tonight, while in the hot tub with Sade, a absinthe spirit on ice and thinking about surviving just one more day with this damn AADD, the idea for this article gummed up in the sump pump of my brain – lodged tight in the right pre-fontal area and all the credit goes to the old lady on the stairs.

Ever noticed how we all run around often not too mindful on the guy or gal right next to us? Picture a tall flight of stairs, broad in expanse. The stairs at Grand Central Station are perfect. Now picture hundreds of people trying to get down those stairs and an old lady, holding the rail with all her might – trying to safely make her way to the bottom of the stairs. Picture all of us sliding past the old lady as if she did not exist. Most of us are guilty of living this type of lifestyle. Not only too busy to help but too busy to even notice the old lady on the stairs.

Keep that picture in your head while I finish my story. You’re going to be the old lady on the stairs. I’m going to be the good guy that recognizes that the old lady might could use some help.

Years ago I wrote a manual about the field service business. It’s original intent was to prepare potential inspectors for perils of the field service business. The original manual was very prejudicial against the big players in the industry; mostly the national mortgage field service companies and even some of the regionals. I was very happy with the original – it was scary as hell. I was quite sure that very few people would want to get into the field service business after reading it. Then, over time, I lost sight of the old lady on the stairs. Sells were pretty good and I rushed down the stairs and even though I saw the old lady, I mostly told myself she was doing all right. “She’s going to make it”. It’s easy enough to do. All you have to do is tell yourself all that matters is if “I” make it down the stairs.

Here I am, many years later. The manual is still for sale and I even update it. Sales are still good, especially since the mortgage melt down and all the starving unemployed looking for anything that will help feed the kids. But – the manual has gotten soft; I’ve gotten soft. After the hot bath with Sade and some slow sipping of a highly alcoholic beverage it’s time to give into a very strong pull from the AADD and write a few articles about the present condition of the business. Who knows, this may very well be the introduction to a new manual about the field service business, property preservation and REO.

First, let’s set the mood for the articles. It’s the same sad mood as the original but nothing has really changed since then unless it has gotten worse. Their names are not important but their story is. They were both retired, married almost fifty years, still in pretty good health and wanting something to do. Something that would let them spend time together, get out a little and possibly even make a little extra money. A little extra money is always handy to have around when there is a sell on senior vitamins and that kind of stuff. They were inspired by an ad in a national newspaper. Something along the line of “spend some time together, get out a little and make God awful amounts of money in the field service business”. The sweet thing liar on the phone convinced them that all they had to do was spend a few hundred dollars on a fax machine, spend a few thousand dollars on E&O and liability insurance, get a computer and a high speed internet connection for a couple of hundred, a digital camera for another hundred and sign up for cell phone service and then we will send you all kinds of work in your area.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. They wouldn’t even return their calls. “What do we do now – We’re in pretty bad shape now; things were livable before but now we’ve got all this equipment to pay for and we aren’t getting any work”. Time to write a book; a manual or something. That’s how it all started.

I’ll have to admit that things are different today. There are more lies than ever before; there are more inexperienced companies in the business hiring larger numbers of incompetent inspectors and contractors. They’re all digging in the same over hyped expiring gold mine. The stories I hear these days have the same plot: fantastic promises and huge disappointments. The numbers have changed though: $12000, $25,000. $250,000.

The last phone conversation I had today was with a guy that told me his father had told him a long, long time ago that the only way to get a million dollars was to steal it. He said he finally figured out what his father meant. It’s his opinion that some of these companies have a simple business plan: steal millions a year – $100 from this contractor, $250 from that one and maybe $12,000 from another. Round up a couple thousand contractors from all over the country and steal a little from each one. Wallah! A million bucks!

So there you have it. A few upcoming articles that every old lady should read before she starts down the stairs.

Terry

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