I remember a few years back seeing a video of Will Smith trying a penalty kick on a soccer field. He’s a charming and coordinated guy, but that’s as awful a kick as I’ve ever seen. Here’s the video evidence.
I was thinking about that video last week. That's because I went with my family down to the ice rink behind City Hall. They can all skate, and I can’t. I grew up on soccer fields and cricket pitches, and on the cedar-ringed tennis court at Holton Park High School just outside Oxford, England, but never once did I set foot on an ice rink. The moat around that school (long story) did freeze over once, and we all stood around in our uniforms admiring that thin, shiny skin. But none of us were stupid enough to think it would hold our weight.
When I got to Canada (and that was a long time ago now) I did make a few trips out onto the winter ice off Amherstview. But I was scared stiff, to be honest, and thought that at any minute I would plunge through the ice and rise again under some solid section, against which I would thump pathetically and desperately until I died.
And soon after that, I stopped thinking that I should learn to skate. I was alright with that. I moved on.
But I have kids now, both of whom are learning, and so there’s an obligation of sorts - to be a good sport, and a good father, to show that it’s okay to fail, and so on and so forth. So there I was, the other night, a grave risk to myself and everyone around me. Sharpened blades flailing, even as I held onto Sam for a few timid laps. I was nearly positive I’d have a concussion and not even recognize the family by 8 pm.
But I survived. Just. And I’ll go again. Lucian wants to be out there most nights. He’s going to be good. Those long legs and the way he pushes smartly, energetically out from the centre line, as if he slipped through a members-only door marked “Grace” and instantly assimilated a whole new way of interacting with the rest of the world’s atoms. Same with Willa in her big olive parka; it’s like she’s on a tiny set of wheels.
My thinking is that I’ll become an adequate skater by the end of the winter. And next year maybe I’ll learn how to stop. But I’m under no illusions. I’m never going to excel at this. I don’t have the time. Was it Malcolm Gladwell who estimated you need 6000 hours to excel at a new thing, whether it’s cooking, or chess, or the trumpet? I’m also getting too damned old. I don’t bounce back the way I did.
All of which brings me to the point, if there really is a point, to this latest piece.
I was asked to price a house through the holidays, and I delivered my report to the seller on New Year’s Day. It meant I was working through the holidays, but in my world that’s a good thing. I like to be busy, and I also need to line up work for this year. The big bills will pile up regardless, so I need to know that the business is coming in at least as fast.
In this instance, though, the seller has now decided to sell her own house. And good for her. After all, she’s armed with my research and so she’s not going to underprice the house, at least. But I still worry. She’s hired a friend to represent her in her absence, a woman with no real estate experience, so far as I can tell. That friend will show the house, and talk it up, generally act as a gatekeeper, protecting the seller’s privacy and time. That’s a dodgy plan right off the bat, in my opinion. And I have no idea what will happen if and when an offer materializes. This friend isn’t legally able to receive that offer, or to negotiate on behalf of the seller. There are laws in place to prevent that, the entirely reasonable idea being that the buying public should be protected from people who don’t know what they’re doing. I expect the white-smocked guy prowling around me when I’m trapped into the dentist’s chair to have gone to school for dentistry, after all, rather than urban planning; and for my mechanic to know how to fix my car rather than my cat.
So let's say that in the next few weeks or months an offer will be written. The seller will have to receive that offer directly, because her friend isn’t legally able to do so. Perhaps It will all work out fine. And I hope it does. I do. But if the buyer has another house to sell, or if there is more than one offer (I hope there is), or if the deadline to consider the offer is short, or if it contains a dozen intricate conditions, I hope the seller has a plan (or a good lawyer). And I hope she will also do what she has to do to make sure the buyer is who he/she says she is, and can actually afford the house. Because (and yeah, I know, I sound like a crank here) wanting to pay a friend for real estate help rather than paying a realtor is an impulse I can just about understand (even if it isn't, strictly speaking, legal). But losing control of the sale of your house because you didn’t hire a professional is akin to the worst sort of toothache, I reckon, or like having your car break down on some remote and lawless highway because the vet who “fixed it” before you left home didn’t know her carburetor from her choke.
* The picture is Lucian's.