On the way home from work the other day, I stopped at a mostly empty strip mall, anchored by an office supply store and a home improvement store. I wanted to look for a clearance deal on a digital camera and some sort of noxious chemical to keep spiders away from my house.
The emptiness of the strip mall was reflected in the parking lot. I found a spot about halfway between the two other stores. There wasn’t another car within two rows. I turned off the car and got out.
Almost immediately, a woman in her late forties or early fifties was within arms reach of me. She said she was a realtor, and asked me if I was in the market to buy or sell a house.
“No, thank you,” I replied, somewhat shaken. I started to move toward the stores. Her apparel did not seem to contradict her claim to be a real estate agent.
She was persistent, calling after me, “do you know anyone that is looking to buy or sell?”
A curt “thank you, no,” was all I could muster as I walked away. I struck out on the camera, and as I walked between the stores, I noticed the realtor trying the same tactic on another hapless shopper.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket (I’ll have to write later about having the Internet in my pants) and checked the temperature. The airport reading was 108 ° Fahrenheit.
Two thoughts immediately occurred to me: her desperation and my failure.
I’ve been out of work, over-invested, and desperate before. But I couldn’t fathom the desperation required to proposition random strangers in a hot, dusty, and almost deserted parking lot. The real estate market is bad; stagnancy would be an improvement at this point. But this seemed to be only a few steps away from stepping in front of a tractor trailer.
I failed to observe this woman before I got out of my car. My sense of rational paranoia usually forces me to keep a rolling catalog of people around me, and when possible I avoid closing within about ten yards. It’s not that I’m not a trusting person; I just don’t trust most people. How I missed the realtor, in her bright green blouse and multicolored skirt, I don’t know. I’m considering it a wake up call, and I’m glad her ambitions were to only take me for six percent.