Lost Journal: On Real Estate Closing Day, You Sign Your Life Away

Journal entry:  May 18, 2006 (age 37)

“Closing.”  The word frightens me.  My wife and I know purchasing our first home is a good thing, of course.  It means equity, stability, and not getting rained on.  But that word.  Closing.  It sounds so ominous; so final.  It’s not a hopeful, lively word like, say, “wake.”  (Wow – the English language needs an overhaul.)

As I learned today, the reality of a real estate closing is a little nerve-wracking, too.  Upon our arrival at a downtown law firm, Amanda and I were escorted into a nondescript, windowless conference room.  There we were seated across a long, wooden table from four well-dressed strangers with attaché cases and manila envelopes.  I believe their names were Drudge, Take, More & Scowl.

Then it began.

Like a conveyer belt, the professionals began funneling endless pages of legal documents to us for our signatures.  Occasionally, I would scan a random paragraph for a familiar phrase.  Inevitably, it said something indecipherable like, “eminent escrow subject to pursuant domicile projections in perpetuity blah blah blah rolling concentrations of said title blah blah blah Art Carney stuck in a hot dog vending machine…”  I was starting to make up things as the blur of words overwhelmed my tiny, non-legalistic brain.  What else would explain the nightmarish flashes of the name “Bob Villa” several times a page?

As my hand started to cramp up from signing my name dozens of times, I started to worry.  What would happen if a lawyer or judge contested one of these signatures?  My penmanship is as horrible as any physician’s, and my signature is a constantly evolving travesty against the Palmer Method.  Every time I sign a document of any consequence, I feel like I’m forging my own name.  Accordingly, I tense up and concentrate on signing my name “correctly.”  I’m not sure what that would look like, but it definitely wouldn’t look like the arrhythmic EKG output I always manage to produce.

The lawyers and real estate agent were all very nice, and they did their best to guide us through the process.  But the immensity of the purchase we were making muddled my brain to the point where all I could do was nod, smile, and sign.

“You get every other paycheck for the next 30 years?  OK.”

“If we default, we have to live on a garbage flotilla, seeking harbor up and down the coast of South America?  No problem.”

“If the termites and vermin in our foundation eat so much asbestos and lead paint that they begin to excrete a volatile mix of radon and ancient, unspeakable evil, we should seek redress through our local high school’s mock trial club?  Got it.”

After the last paper had been signed, we walked to our car, feeling a bit dazed.  I looked at Amanda and asked, “Did you understand anything that just happened?”  Staring blankly at the shiny key in her hand, she muttered, “No, not really.”  I smiled weakly and said, “I hope they’re nice to our first-born child.”

Tim Mollen
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