When I first worked with Cliff as his assistant, he assigned me an Open House somewhere south of the Fairgrounds in Fresno.

It was a cute little house I had already been to with Cliff when we met the clients at the home to get their listing papers all signed.

Since we’re talking twenty years or so ago, you have to understand the technology available to me at the time – I had no cell phone, no car phone, and a keycard which needed daily updating – or else it was dead.

One had to call the Fresno Multiple Listing services’ automated line, enter in the account number assigned to the keycard, and listen to a robotic voice give you an updated code. Once entered, the card was good to go – but only for that day!

On this particular day, dummy me was in a rush and forgot to update it – I have this thing about never wanting to be late – and there was a bunch of things that needed to be done:  directional signs put up at every nearest cross-street, on the street itself, at the house; then the almost scavenger-type hunt to find where the lockbox itself was hanging, or you could read the printout on the MLS sheet – sometimes agents gave pretty good clues, or – I guess I could, in this case, just remember where we had put it when we had put it on earlier in the week.

I had helped before, but had never had to do all of that on my own. All the little details add up, they do – and here I had already messed up!  I still had to get the keys, open up the house, and prep it by turning on lights and opening up curtains to let all the bright, sweet, sunshine inside.

So now here I was at the house, on time, with a dead keycard in my hand. I remember it was a hot day, and I started sweating just thinking about how I was going to fix my predicament, or maybe it was because I had already turned the car off.

Trying to think positively – I still did have plenty of time – I noticed what appeared to be an over-abundance of cars across the street, and thinking that there’s always safety in numbers, I remember knocking on the front door.

I don’t remember if I also had balloons bopping about on the sign I had placed on the front of the house I would soon be hosting, but apparently my story seemed legit and I was granted access to use the neighbor’s phone.

I was excited that it seemed so easy a remedy to my situation – even if it did seem a bit icky stepping over and around passed-out people – I was told there had been a grad party the night before… to get to the phone – a landline.

I updated the keycard, gave my thanks, and headed back out into the hot June sun. Now the hour was at hand, and I briskly crossed the street to make sure no one was kept waiting.

Indeed, there was already a car at the curb.

I was bent over the lockbox, entering in the code, and heard the slam of a car door and what sounded like one person approaching. I was getting nervous because I felt unprepared, so I started fumbling with the keys, trying to open the front door.

Sometimes it seems the keys know you are not their keepers and you shouldn’t really be allowed to gain entry…so they like to be troublesome.

The person was almost upon me now, and I barely looked up, just noting it was a tall man – gave my quick hello, and bent slightly once more to the task at hand. The doorknob would not turn! Sweat was starting to trickle down the back of my neck and for some reason it started to feel like something out of a horror movie – only I was trying to get into the house – not escape it!

The man offered to help, and I said no, I would get it…was getting it – “got it!” Standing to face him fully now, I immediately felt like I should not open the door after all – that instead of inviting him in – I should just reverse that fumbled process, re-lock the door, and call it a day.

I told myself that this was my job though, and to stop being silly, even though every warning bell was now clanging noisily in my head. As I stood there – still torn over my next move – he pushed the door completely open, and let himself in.

I was at a complete loss as to what to do because he creeped me out so badly, but reluctantly, I followed him in.

Wisely, I did not close the front door, instead making sure it was flush against the wall, and would not close of its own accord.

He had entered the immediate living room and walked a bit towards the corner of the room to examine the fireplace, before turning to face me.

I chose my position, just a few leaps from the open front door, a white couch between him and I.  

I felt I was closer than he and decided I was not going to give up my advantage of being able to make a break for that door.

I was still playing soccer with a team I had just joined, and knew I was fast – so with the sun still beckoning brightly through the wide opening of the front door…I tried to relax.

But he never made a move to tour the house, and I never offered to “show” the rest of the house –  so we stood there, at a stalemate.

He never once talked about the house, and no one else came to save the day – and still we stood in our positions – as he talked about how pretty I was, and how we should get married and then we could move to Santa Cruz, where I would probably only have to sell a house or two a year for us to survive on…

After what seemed like ages of this torture, with still no one coming to see the house, and me having to put up with a severe case of fight or flight – I decided to end the stand-off.

I had already lied and said I had a boyfriend, in as friendly a way I could, so I did my best to not actually run out of the house, making my way through the front door and out onto the front lawn.

He was close behind me and as I led him away from the house and towards his car, making sure to still keep distance between us, I finally took notice of his car for the first time. It had all the trappings of a homeless person’s car – with newspapers and piles and piles of clothing, or bedding crowding the back seat – blocking out the rear windshields’ view completely.

Maybe because he was embarrassed by the condition of his car, he hurried to the driver’s side and pulled open the car door.

“Are you sure you can’t come with me right now,” I can still remember him asking – and I once again, graciously declined.

I waited till he was long down the road before returning to the house to lock it with trembling hands, thinking, maybe it was for a reason that I had not updated that keycard in the first place!