5 Pricey Real Estate

If and when residents got round to quizzing him about his personal life, Gervase appeased their curiosity with standard patter. He understood that they were just being polite, weren’t really interested. He was, after all, only staff, had to know how to get along with the pretense, get the tone just right. A superlative reference might depend on it.

Earnest Arbuthnot, British national, museum curator, nominee for association president

Earnest Arbuthnot, British national, museum curator, nominee for association president

“Are you Wisconsin born and bred, Gervase?” Earnest Arbuthnot chatted him up.

“I grew up in a little town called Chelsea, in the province of Quebec.”

“You speak such excellent American English. I’ve had to learn some new ‘English’ myself, since I’ve been here.”

“Mine’s originally Canadian English, or possibly French Canadian English. But I’ve been in the States for a few years, now.”

“I thought, at first, when you said Chelsea you meant you learned it in London, where I’m from.” The bemused Englishman chortled as he turned away, or what Gervase imagined a chortle must sound like.

“No sir, never been there. ‘Bye, then. Have a good day.”

Gervase, when first away from home, had worked in Montreal as a bartender and a bouncer, intending a career in hospitality. He’d drifted south to Vail and Aspen hoping to work and ski. There was paying work there but it was pretty much take what you could get. He’d retreated east to visit relatives and found this steady concierge job in Milwaukee. His ticket, he believed, to a more lucrative, care-taking position in the wealthy playgrounds of the west.

Though his weekdays were long, and he anticipated stepping away from responsibility each weekend, there were perks. Many residents were generous with gifts, even though their association fees included his services. His formal attire made him stand-out; the ‘guardian at the gate,’ keeping out the riffraff, the ‘go-to guy’ for that hard to make reservation, the ‘keeper of the keys’ as well as a lot of secrets, if truth be told. Discretion was his constant companion, though he was not above telling the dogs a tale or two as he walked them.

Gervase liked working near the big lake, seeing and hearing it every day, and often took the dogs that way. From the beach, he could look up, disregard the derelict, intervening bosky bluffside, a wildwood remnant penned between the drives above and below. Atop the bluff, The Prospect on Prospect floated, he imagined, though how a 17 storey building could float when so securely rooted must be an architectural feat. Handsome from the street, too, and as it hugged the avenue, did not impose. It showed ‘pride of place’, as his mother used to declare when pleased with the way a plant adapted in her garden. He forwarded his picturesque photo views to her, as a remembrance.inside the breakwater

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“Good morning.”  Gervase called out as he knocked on a unit door, bearing deliveries. He was in the midst of his morning rounds. “It’s Gervase, with your package.” He always identified himself in this way, leaving the choice of opening the door, or not, up to the owner. “Shall I just leave it for you here, outside the door?”

“Sure, and thanks, Gervase,” a voice warbled from inside, “I have the cat on my lap.”

Moving on with his next delivery, he searched through his many keys, let himself into the Pardoes and hung up the dry cleaning in the entry closet. These owners were away, their Sheltie, Rosie, sent off to extended doggy day care. On the kitchen counter, he found a watering can and the promised, detailed plant care instructions. As he watered, he remembered.

“Now that we’re retiring,” Jack had begun, ” we’re moving south. Leaving soon to shop for a new place. R.M. here is doing a single party listing for us.”

“How is that different?” asked Gervase, ever diligent about admitting anyone into the lobby.

“Unlike most units on the market, this is an arrangement between a seller and only one specific interested party,” R.M. explained.

“So only that party will be here to view?” Gervase knew that agents could bring in potential buyers. As a courtesy, a lot of agents let him know ahead of time about a scheduled showing, so he’d be aware of non-residents being in the building.

“Correct. The Pardoes won’t be here so depending on the showing time, either you or I will buzz them in.”

“But you’ve also come in without a buyer, for a pre-view or an interview, and let me know about that. Can’t be too careful.” But he knew R.M. for a reliable type. Takes one to know one.

“And I’ll likely come in early to do a pre-appointment staging. If you’re available, I’ll ask you to show the building’s finer points.”

“And Gervase,” piped in Mrs. Pardoe, “could you please water the plants while we’re away?” He glanced around, unsure of just how much watering. One resident grew African violets, in forty-two pots. He’d counted every one.

The plants revived, Gervase next went up to the solarium floor. He had the panorama, the marvel of the lake’s changeability all to himself, its fluctuations from this high up, oddly close, then distant. Even if the windows could be opened, he guessed that he would not be able to hear its powerful voice. Walking along beside it, there was less color and more sound. On occasion, fury. Being in the mountains was so silent, so immediate, he remembered, inescapably going either up or down.

He began a quick tidy, setting to rights squashed cushions and placing the chairs back in their customary positions, to afford the best views. Showings included all of The Prospect’s common areas. His building, already nicknamed the ‘POPS,’ had a long list of amenities to show: solarium, terrace, meeting room, guest suite, exercise room, and indoor pool. In the latest in a line of condominium buzzwords he’d heard, a meeting room had now become a ‘social networking lounge.’  The erstwhile exercise room, then fitness room had fared no better,  popularly re-purposed as a ‘wellness center.’  Some of the residents emerging from a workout session looked anything but well. An infirmary would be more like it.

And they all paid for it through their monthly fees whether they used any of it or not. The more the extra facilities and the larger the unit, the higher the fees were set was the way it generally worked. Pools were especially pricey, indoor or out, as was anything requiring additional maintenance.

And though he often got stuck with entryway snow-shoveling, the regular maintenance was included: snow and trash removal, landscaping, maintenance and insurance of the commonly held areas. There was a  reserve fund kept in case any special assessments or maintenance needs cropped up. Fees included cable, heat and air, as well as hot water, though this varied by development. Hot water, Gervase said to himself, that’s something I could get into every day in this job. Easily.