Two days ago, I was pulled over by a San Francisco policeman at a busy intersection in the South of Market neighborhood. If you’re a hipster – or real estate agent – you don’t actually call it the South of Market Area. You call it SOMA; home of our beloved Giants and the most active market in the 7×7 city we call home.
But I digress. Back to The Incident. I had just driven through on a yellow light in the midst of heavy traffic, but was certain I had cleared the intersection before it turned red. As it turns out, I had.
Nothing brings on angina faster while driving than hearing the sound of a siren and seeing those flashing lights in your rear view mirror. So, took a deep breath, pulled over and quietly awaited my fate.
The officer slowly lifted himself off his Harley Davidson and approached the driver side window. I asked the officer respectfully what I had done “incorrectly” and got the same answer you get from every officer anytime you’re pulled over for any reason: “Miss, may I see your driver’s license and your registration, please?” He or she will never tell you your offense until they have these items in their hands.
Unfortunately, I’ve been through this drill before and immediately produced the items requested. This is the moment when everyone driving by you looks you over and thinks three things:
- I’m so happy that’s not me.
- I wonder what she did?
- I didn’t know that this corner was a ticket trap.
The officer returned, confirmed that this was my vehicle and that there were no outstanding warrants out for my arrest. (Whew). Pretty standard stuff.
But his next sentence really got my attention. He told me he had stopped me and would be writing a citation because I was guilty of distracted driving. I had been holding my cellphone in my hand high enough to use the microphone feature to create a text message to a client.
Was I distracted? Yes. Do I have Bluetooth in my car? Yes. Should I have been driving with one hand and creating a text via voice by holding my phone in the other? No.
So, what was my excuse for such reckless behavior? “I’m a real estate agent.”
Yes, I actually said that. I am not a lifesaving surgeon on call. I am not a traveling paramedic. I am not a mother racing a sick child to an emergency room. I’m just a real estate agent like thousands of other real estate agents who don’t understand the concept of “later.”
We answer the phone at all times because we know if we don’t catch the call from a prospective client, another agent will. If a current client texts you to set up an appointment and view a listing that came on the market ten minutes ago, we answer that text immediately. If an active buyer is worried about his mortgage paperwork and sends you an email at 11:30pm, you respond as if this is the first hour of your night shift.
Is there any excuse for this crazy behavior? Sure. Representing buyers and sellers in a hot market like San Francisco means if want to eat, you’re “on” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (Feel free to review my Adventures In Real Estate post about selling a home while sitting on the garage floor of an open house after breaking my ankle). Unfortunately, good agents are always available for their clients – even when it can pose as a danger to themselves and others.
But that stops now. I have met more than one mother who has buried her teenage child as a result of distracted driving. None of these parents has any desire to hear how important my job is or how demanding my clients are. They just want to hear their child’s voice one more time; to rewind the world to when their kids were alive and well, and some distracted driver decided to make the call to their office later – after they had parked the car.
I have made the commitment never to text again while driving. The ticket I received for my crime was $161 and is not classified as moving violating (the kind that raises insurance rates). So, it goes without saying that I got off easy – especially when you consider the damage I could have caused.
But it served as a wake-up call, nonetheless, and made my decision to put the phone down while behind the wheel an easy one. The truth is I‘m not the best driver when I’m not focused on the road. I really thought I was going to receive a ticket for going through a yellow light in a busy intersection – which is also a sign of distracted driving.
How about you? Is your driving that much better? Is your focus that much sharper? Are your reflexes that much faster? My hope is that you’ll also learn the same lesson I was forced to. Driving anywhere takes all of your attention.
And to all my real estate friends: That deal will close and it would be wonderful if you were around to celebrate with your clients.