There’s always something to howl about

Mademoiselle? Oui. La Spinster?…ZUT!

I could see the fan and I could see what was about to hit it. We were all sitting around the closing table…signing, witnessing, and waiting to be paid (the latter being me, of course), when the question was posed to my client by her counsel—an attorney I usually recommend for relatively routine transactions. A nice guy but no Bruce Cutler if you know what I’m saying. He’s cheap, actually.

“Married, Divorced, or Spinster?” he asked my client, looking at a title form he obviously had never seen before.

‘BAM!’ (splat)… then dead silence for one of the longer two or three second periods I can recall in recent weeks.

Did I just hear what I thought I heard? I hoped it went unnoticed as I looked up from the mindless game on my Treo, just three deals away from completing Solitaire for the 100th time in about as many closings. Not a chance.

“Did you just call me the ‘S’ word?” answered my client, a lovely unmarried woman who, with pen in hand, was about to sign the final document and close escrow on her first condominium in Chicago. When a question is answered with another question in such a situation then the next one who speaks loses. We all know this. And I knew who wasn’t going to say anything as I went back to my PDA, clearing the game and pretending to enter something into the calendar, all thumbs in different directions on the tiny keyboard. I was careful not to make eye contact with anyone. I was listening though.

“Pardon me?” asked the attorney.

I felt like popping him on his forehead with the palm of my hand …”Dumb dog, dumb dog.” The funds weren’t transferred from the Federal Reserve yet. Say something stupid after we’re paid for our services and keys are handed over. And just like the time one of my golfing buddies got caught cheating on his wife, I was also in trouble just by association. (And for the record, the wife was much hotter than the girlfriend, I thought. Either way, she got the house, the stock portfolio and the good car while he was left with the girlfriend and I guess, whatever else remained. I wasn’t allowed to play golf with him anymore so I can’t really say. Another dumb dog, for sure.)

“No…Pardon me,” retorted our client. Then she shot a look my way and caught me stealing a glance upward. “Did he just call me a Spinster?” She wasn’t letting it go.

“Legal term. Legal term,” was all I could come up with, typing nonsense into next December on the qwerty buttons.

“Yeah, legal…” the attorney could barely get the words out before she finished him off, stomping him out like a cigarette butt. My client happens to be one the foremost mergers and acquisitions paralegals in the country, recruited, no…headhunted, by the biggest, baddest corporate law firm in Chicago. If it were a Pay-For-View event, the fight would have been stopped immediately and everybody would be entitled to a refund.

“I know all about legal and legally”… (but she said it like ‘lee-gal-lee‘, like she was speaking to….well, a dumb dog)  “…and lee-gal-lee, I am un-marr-ied.” Then she made a gun with her thumb and fingers and fired off an imaginary round into his head, just like Silvio Dante did Adriana La Cerva on The Sopranos, making that ‘tchshhhh’ sound with her mouth. I know you think I’m pulling your leg but I am not. This all went down Halloween Day on the 22nd floor of the First American Title Company, Downtown Chicago location.

Whoa,” I think I said under my breath, sounding a little too much like Paulie Walnuts, perhaps.  It was either Whoa or the F-word, I’m not certain. It just nervously popped out of my mouth.

No…, it was the F-word because the other Realtor on the deal was sitting next to me and broke the chill by saying “I believe that’s the first time I ever heard the F-word at a closing table.” She must have been kidding because I’ve said it more times than I care to remember in similar situations but then again, she was about 70 years old and from the suburbs. Hey, if anyone was a spinster at that table it was her.

“It’s in the dictionary, you know,” she continued. Poor, never married thing. She had brought everyone cookies, too. Halloween cookies in the shape of little ghosts. Very scary in so many different ways.

Right about then, by the grace of whoever was dressed up as God, the title company Closer (dressed up like Elvira or Tammy Wynette or both) walked into the room, handed my client back her driver’s license and swept the loan and title packets from the table to fax the hundred or so pounds of freshly completed paperwork off to the lender. She also had a few RESPA questions for our attorney and he was more than delighted to jump up and escort her into the copy room leaving the rest of us to wade through the mess he left behind. We sat in silence for a minute or so (10 years) staring at the cookies. We were all on diets, I think.

“What are you?” the other Realtor finally turned and asked me.

“What am I what?” I answered, not sure what she meant.

“For Halloween. Who are you dressed up as?  That’s a leather suit, isn’t it?” the old, old woman.

I looked down at what I was wearing; Black pants (silk/wool blend), black rayon shirt (Zegna), a black leather blazer my wife bought me in Spain and black leather shoes my Broker brought me back from Italy (and admittedly, they may be a little more pointed in the toe than what you usually find in the Midwest). But a leather suit, it was not. I promise. I would never wear a whole leather suit period, much less to a closing.

My client was laughing now. “Don’t F with him,” she told the woman.  “He’s in the mob.”  Which of course, I am not, making it all the more humorous. There are just too many vowels in my name, that’s all. My vehicle of choice is a Mini-Cooper, for chrissakes. Anyway, she’s the one who just whacked the lawyer.

“Ooops. There’s that word again,” said the other Realtor. It was pretty priceless. And the best part was the lady didn’t even need to be there. She was working for free because the Seller (not present) was her niece or great niece, or something. She just wanted to bring everyone cookies on Halloween and personally hand over the keys.

The attorney was back now with Elvira Wynette, still holding the last and final title document in his hand. “Okay, folks. I just spoke this spooky young gal here…(‘oh, oh, here we go,’ I thought.) and good news! How about ‘Never Married’… Is that cool?” Nobody spoke. Enough with the silent beats, already. He looked over at me…

“Geno, what do you think?”

He didn’t care, nor did it even matter, what I happened to think at this point. He just wanted me to nudge along my client so we could all move on with the day. Elvira apparently had her next victims chained to the chairs in the reception area and needed our space. This guy is passive aggressive that way. He thinks just because I’m wearing a leather suit that I’m stupid but in reality he’s the dead lawyer wearing Tommy Bahama and Dockers on a Wednesday, the last day of October.

“How about Mademoiselle?” other Realtor chirped.  She continued on although there was really no need to. We all just wanted to leave. “In France never married women are addressed as Mademoiselle. It is the equivilant to Miss here in America, or Ms, I think… Maybe not…”

“Yeah, right, whatever,” said my client, done with it all. “I have to get back to work. Where do I sign?”

And just like that we were all in the elevator heading down, about to part ways forever most likely. Elevator silence is the worst. I lived in a high rise for years and there is really nothing to look at but the numbers on the panel  and above or yourself in the mirrors. Elevators in this city all have mirrors at every turn. I stole a glance at my image and I suppose, through a cataract eye, my attire did have an omnisciently leather appearance. At least I got paid.

“I guess I should take political correction lessons from Geno,” the attorney remarked, half jokingly, mouth full of cookie crumbs. What he really meant by that comment was “….lessons from Geno, of all people” as the doors opened into the grand lobby and we all shot off in our respective directions.  I would have whacked him again but like I said already, I’m not in the mob.  I just have a lot of vowels in my name.


35 Comments so far

  1. Brian Brady November 2nd, 2007 3:59 pm

    Vivid characters, Geno.

    There’s something wrong with the TB shirt in October?

  2. Ann Cummings November 2nd, 2007 4:25 pm

    Geno – that story is hilarious, and I’m sure when you were sitting there going through it, it wasn’t too funny then. But in reading it now, I laughed right out loud.

    Truth is usually stranger than fiction, isn’t it?

    Glad you got paid!

  3. monika November 2nd, 2007 6:02 pm

    Oh my god that is funny! LOL I could visualize it all!

  4. Geno Petro November 2nd, 2007 7:25 pm

    Ann and Monika, yeah, it really was funny. The older Realtor was actually a broker/owner of a legally dead agency down south and the attorney used to be my next door neighbor. He’s a real nice guy and only charges $400 for a Closing. Never know what he’s going to say, though.

    Brian, It’s not an issue of TB in October, it’s an issue of TB in October in Chicago. No worse than a preceived leather suit, I suppose. Hope you’re doing okay in SoCal and again, thanks for the welcome.


  5. Jason Mook November 2nd, 2007 8:24 pm

    Absolutely priceless Geno. I would have been looking at my calendar, hoping that it was April 1 and I was about to wake up.

  6. Brian Brady November 2nd, 2007 9:58 pm

    “Brian, It’s not an issue of TB in October, it’s an issue of TB in October in Chicago”

    I get it, G. I may be removed from the “real” world but I still remember.

    Leather suit- too much. I’m so glad your barking.

  7. Charleston real estate blog November 3rd, 2007 4:29 am

    Geno, hilarious, a nice laugh to start the day.

  8. Benjamin Bach November 3rd, 2007 4:39 am

    I thought I was the only Realtor wearing Zegna

    Sounds like a fun closing, congrats

  9. Benn November 3rd, 2007 7:40 am


  10. Dave Barnes November 3rd, 2007 7:43 am

    Funny. Very funny.
    Thanks for writing.

  11. Kris Berg November 3rd, 2007 8:43 am

    Most incredibly awesome! You are a very funny man.

  12. Teri Lussier November 3rd, 2007 8:51 am

    I dunno Geno. I’ve got a lot of vowels in my name too, no one *ever* thinks I’m in the mob.


  13. Sean M. Broderick, CCIM November 3rd, 2007 9:55 am

    I found my autobiographer (is that a word.. you know the guy who writes your book).. I have a lot of stories, but as one of my former college teammates use to say in his Texas accent.. “it’s all in the delivery”

  14. Geno Petro November 3rd, 2007 10:30 am

    Thanks all for the comments.

    Teri, you must have a vowel at the end of both first and last names to be a suspect.

    Sean, an ‘autobiography’ is a do-it-yourself job. A ‘biography’ is when someone else writes the story– but the subject is usually already dead. Just to be safe, maybe you should start taking your own notes!

    Kris, I don’t know…you’re pretty funny, too.


  15. Jillayne Schlicke November 3rd, 2007 11:11 am

    An experienced real estate attorney would know the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) and would have commit to memory the allowable terms to use in a real estate transaction: married or unmarried (single, widowed, or divorced.)

    Which makes me wonder if he knew exactly what he was doing. He’s an attorney, she’s a paralegal. A shrewd, cold power play in a world where ice runs through the veins of those who play in that sandbox.

  16. Sean M. Broderick, CCIM November 3rd, 2007 11:58 am

    “auto” is self, meaning look it up for yourself so you don’t look like an idiot in a post.. thanks for the clarification, geno.. maybe I’ll make sure the brain is engaged before the fingers hit the keyboard.. great post, worthy of the “O” award (sorry Kris)..

  17. Jeff Brown November 3rd, 2007 12:37 pm

    Stellar — simply stellar. I was laughing out loud, alone in my easy chair. Welcome, Big Guy.

    Note: Is the client, ah, normally this much of a no-sense-of-humor pain in the patute? :)

  18. Hilary Shantz November 3rd, 2007 12:53 pm

    Your writing is like a Woody Allen movie, or stream of consciousness type film. I read the post on your home blog about your Home Depot revelation. I laughed so hard, it was refreshing, because you’re not selling anything, not even yourself, just seeing the world through your own prism and telling us about it!

    Won’t have to rent a movie tonight for my entertainment fix. Thanks!

  19. Linda Davis November 3rd, 2007 4:13 pm

    Now that was very funny. I am well qualified as a suspect prior to marrying a Davis.

  20. Eric Blackwell November 3rd, 2007 7:56 pm


    Awesome post! An incredible read. Kudos


  21. Ardell November 3rd, 2007 9:36 pm

    Jeff!!! Are you insinuating that the “Mademoiselle called Spinster” was over reacting??? Whack him, Geno.

    I would simply have said, “No sir, I am not ‘A Spinster’, I am ‘Single’. ‘A Spinster’, I believe, is a term reserved for a woman who has yet to be deflowered, and is also too old, ugly and mean to hope for a change in that area.”

  22. Russell Shaw November 3rd, 2007 10:17 pm

    >Most incredibly awesome! You are a very funny man.

    DITTO! Welcome.

  23. Eric Blackwell November 4th, 2007 6:00 am

    Ardell–too funny..

    or perhaps a simple “Didn’t the word ‘spinster’ go out of style a long time ago–like when you had hair?!?!”

    Geno–re-read the post again-still smiling…

  24. Jeff Brown November 4th, 2007 11:03 am

    Ardell – >Jeff!!! Are you insinuating that the “Mademoiselle called Spinster” was over reacting???

    That’s exactly what I’m saying. She saw an opening to pounce on a politically incorrect statement, and decided to bully the guy. The guy had absolutely no ill intent whatsoever, and it was obvious to everyone in the room he didn’t.

    I’ve had experiences like that, and, as Geno, was an observer in the room. There was an, ah, different ending. :)

    Have a sense of humor for Heaven’s sake. It’s women like her who give feminists everywhere a bad name.

    I won’t tell you most of what my mom said when I had her read the post. :)

    Geno, one of the three funniest real estate posts I’ve read this year. Truly stellar.

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  26. Geno Petro November 4th, 2007 4:15 pm

    Eric, Linda, Hilary and all those of you who took the time to read and (compliment), thank you. I just checked in and noticed a dozen more comments so I’ll just have to visit everyone elses site to read and respond.

    Jeff and Ardell, I agree with both of you, actually. Obviously, economy of time/space and the need to make the story readable, I left out a lot. It was a 2 1/2 hour closing so there was a lot more said than I reported. Half the people were late, everyone at the title company was running around in costumes being cute and my client was getting pinged every 10 minutes on her Blackberry by her law firm superiors wondering where she was and how soon she could return.

    Jillayne, The Married, Widowed , Divorced, Spinster issue had to do with the proper recording of Title that the bank came up with in the 12th (okay, 2/12th) hour. The attorney had someone at the Title Company help him draw up an acceptable form and he was literally just reading her the options from the printed page. It was then that I awoke from my coma, saw the fan and knew what was about to hit it…

  27. Ardell November 4th, 2007 7:11 pm


    This was an ultra-funny piece. Transparency = Geno plays solitaire on his cellphone at closings…and blogs about it. Got my vote for this weeks doggy award.

  28. Kris Berg November 4th, 2007 8:21 pm


    Et tu Brute?

  29. […] Geno Petro won The Peoples’ Choice Award by a huge margin with Mademoiselle? Oui. La Spinster?…ZUT!: I could see the fan and I could see what was about to hit it. We were all sitting around the closing table…signing, witnessing, and waiting to be paid (the latter being me, of course), when the question was posed to my client by her counsel—an attorney I usually recommend for relatively routine transactions. A nice guy but no Bruce Cutler if you know what I’m saying. He’s cheap, actually. […]

  30. ardell dellaloggia November 5th, 2007 11:50 pm

    C’mon Kris. It was just TOO FUNNY for words! Now go whack Jeff for me. Geno won’t do it.

    Congrats on the People’s Choice Award Geno! I’m one of your “peeps”.

  31. Thomas Johnson November 6th, 2007 7:51 am

    Geno- Welcome and what a story. I am still laughing.

    Thoma Johnso

  32. Geno Petro November 6th, 2007 9:31 am

    Ardell…and I, yours. Thanks.

    Thomas, Thank you as well.

    Kris, you need permission from above to whack.

  33. […] Mademoiselle? Oui. La Spinster?…ZUT! – Geno Petro […]

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