Friday, December 11, 2009

The Fixer Lady

Okay, she was bent. She was even mean. Or at least, she looked mean.

I worked for Cash Cowan, genius and slumlord extraordinaire, Monday through Friday. For this he paid me $400.00 per month, plus commission. I got a $100.00 raise when I agreed to work Saturdays 9-12, Friday evenings knocking on non-payer’s doors to collect rent, and supervise the maintenance crew. The maintenance crew was a shambling lot of ne’er-do-wells who used baling wire for everything.

Are you laughing yet?

It was the first job I ever had that came with a title: Rental Agent. After Cash helped me schedule and fund a bunch of real estate classes, I had the title of Real Estate Agent.

And I was in love. On Sundays, my soon-to-be husband and I would go to La Comida downtown, a storefront cafĂ©. The best migas you ever ate. We’d sit there with the paper, the coffee, the orange juice and get blasted with Norteno music. Norteno music has a rollicking beat and some accordion riffs. It’s a Tex-Mex cultural product.

The place was decorated like all such places: fancy sombreros from Jalisco, serapes from Laredo, and all of that. Harrassed busboys, a different set each time, ran frantically around, bussing tables. They did not speak English any more than the music did. Other Spanish-speaking clientele would be eating menudo, the brain soup that is supposed to cure hangovers. It tastes great, but the texture is slime.

The hostess was a woman with an over-drawn pair of black eyebrows and furrowed lines inbetween. She was in her fifties and perfectly efficient, but smiles were not free.

But she got to know us as regulars. She found out I was in rental property, and asked where. Then she started bringing me customers. She was their rental reference, and Cash had a couple of trailers in a way-awful trailer park that had been divided into duplexes. $250.00, all bills paid. I made $125.00 from renting one, and I had to guarantee that the tenant would stay for six months. She brought me $250.00 in rentals (2 units), and translated the lease for them when I went over it. I was tipping pretty good at La Comida.

The tenants were well-trained, too. They didn’t argue. They just brought me money orders, on-time, and watched me fill them out. They always had machetes, but I had a very large desk.

It took me awhile (duh) but I finally figured out they paid her a commission for their busboy jobs, they probably paid another fee when she released them from La Comida, and they paid her a commission for finding me, the dumbass, to rent to them.

So one Sunday, we’re at La Comida.  She comes over to fill our water glasses.
“You know Manuel, at the trailer park?”  She straightened a cup. “I think he’s gone.”
“Oh.” It had not been six months. “Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure,” she agreed. “You know Antonio? He moved out too. I think. Maybe you should go check.”

I had to rent them all over again, or lose $250.00. I did not rent them through the fixer lady.

1 comment:

Slamdunk said...


It sounds like that your first job was quite an experience. I think most folks can look back and laugh at that initial plunge into full-time employment.