When Jack and Francine arrived at the real estate office on their first day, the agent was waiting for them. He dispatched Jack to a homeless shelter across town, and he sent Francine to pick up laundry from an elderly lady just a few blocks away and gave her a stack of quarters to take the clothes to a nearby laundromat.
Day after day the couple reported in the morning to the agent’s office, and each day they received instructions for their tasks. The jobs varied from one day to the next, but the agent always gave them the same final instruction—they were to tell the proprietor or person they worked with that they were there as representatives of the agent’s corporation and to leave a business card.
Jack and Francine wanted to buy a house. More than anything in the world, they wanted to own property and have a place to raise their children.
They engaged a real estate agent whose advertising promised “the deal of a lifetime.” The couple asked their new agent to find them properties in an upscale neighborhood near the center of town. They were sure this was the perfect place for them to put down roots and raise a family. The agent showed them several lovely homes, but the couple quickly discovered that they could not qualify for a home in the target price range.
A group of friends planned a trip together to a Mediterranean city, a center of deep cultural and architectural history. This city had been built on a sprawling hill that rose out of the sea. Narrow streets ringed the slopes and were connected by side streets running at acute angles like switchbacks so as to reduce their steepness.
On their first full day in the city, the group rented bicycles so they could ride from one historic site to another, making their way to a palace-turned-museum at the summit. Seeing the palace up close and walking its halls would be the highlight of the day.
When I was kid, we had a next-door neighbor named Helmut. He was from Germany, and many times I didn’t understand him. But I liked his kind smile and tone. One day, I was playing basketball in the driveway with a friend, and Helmut came past, heading home from a walk. He stopped to watch for a few minutes. I made a basket and called to him, “I’m going to win!” I jumped up and down, my pony tail bouncing.
“Ah, Jeanette,” he answered with a shake of his head, “man soll den Tag nicht vor dem Abend loben.”