I’ve been in the mortgage banking business for nearly 30 years, fortunate to work for local companies with high moral compasses. I’ve had the privilege of hiring your sons, daughters, sisters and brothers, enabling them to work and learn the mortgage business. I’ve watched them with pride, as they moved onto other jobs and other companies with higher salaries and more responsibilities. I feel lucky to have had a hand in these people’s lives, and hope that I’ve steered them well.
I’ve always loved my work. The companies I’ve worked with care for customers and understand how confusing and frightening a mortgage can be. Those companies were all on the front lines, doing things right, long before consumer protection agencies and regulators demanded it. I was lucky to have chosen an honest and rewarding profession – and proud.
Then came “The Mortgage Crisis.” All banks, whether they had a hand in the problem, or in the solution, got painted with the same brush. For the first time, I was just short of embarrassed for having worked in the mortgage industry. In spite of it all, we worked hard to help customers, modifying loans long before it was required and working with our neighbors to try to keep them in their homes.
The business has changed in the last five years, and so have I. After taking some time off last year to write a book, I was ready to resume my career. Luckily, I found a local mortgage company close to my home that just happened to need my expertise.
Once again, I was in a position to hire and train my own staff. However, before beginning that process, I made the conscious decision to change a few things about myself. A new job offers an opportunity to reinvent yourself somewhat. This time, I vowed, I would try to be more understanding about certain of my quirks.
You see, I believe I have a kind of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. I am the person who will walk across a hotel lobby to straighten a picture frame. While standing in a bank teller line, I’ll straighten up all the marketing material into neat little stacks on the counter. A desk drawer left open, a box lid left ajar, or a Post-It stuck on the wall – all drive me crazy! This time, I promised, it’s going to be different.
Everything was fine for the first month. I closed my eyes at the first phone list pinned to the workstation wall. The fact that it was centered and straight did a lot to ease the anxiety.
The second month, I hired a young lady from another area of the company. She was just a tiny little blond thing – smart as a whip – with some of the best customer service skills I’d ever witnessed. She brought very few personal items with her, which I felt was a good sign.
Sometime during the third month, I wandered back to her workstation, and nearly began hyperventilating. There, on her workstation wall, was a very rough pencil drawing of a house, complete with trees, bushes and a sign that read, “Our Place.” My immediate thought was, “Oh, no . . . she must have a niece or little sister or someone whose artwork she’s going to display.”
Frozen to the spot, staring at the picture, trying to lower my heart rate, I noticed that the sketch didn’t look as if it was drawn by any child. I put on my happy voice, and asked, “Marissa, is this a sketch of your house?” She turned around in her chair with all the naivete of a 20-year-old, and said, “No. Isn’t it great? When I started working here, someone mailed their first house payment along with that folded up picture. It just made me feel happy. They were so excited about their first home, they drew a picture of it and sent it to us.”
Out of the mouths of babes! I remembered why I liked my job so much, and I felt some pride returning to the mortgage business. I left the picture where it was, and now – it just simply makes me smile.Glenda Cooper, one of six reader columnists whose work appears on this page, works for a mortgage company and has recently published her first novel, “The Road to Lost and Found.” She lives in Tacoma with her husband Jim and Old English sheepdog Reilly. E-mail her at email@example.com.