Writer. Actor. Filmmaker. #Doorman.
For the sake of my career and sanity, I have moved on from the hotel world. For inquiries, contact Chris Russell directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Doorman vs Taxi Driver
A friend of mine, who plays music in front of the hotel and watches me work for extend periods of time, once described by day perfectly: "it's a series of shady cash transactions and scary verbal altercations." The shady cash transactions is for another blog, but the scary verbal altercations, nine times out of ten, is with a taxi driver. (The other is usually a civilian, or a gypsy/pedicab driver.) Please note that this isn't a blog to rip these people to shreds. We all gotta eat. I've spent a year working with them, trying to figure out why I find myself getting to several screaming matches per day. It happens so often, that other doorman and I refer to them as "hockey fights". You know how you watch two hockey players pummel each others faces, then casually stroll into the penalty box and bull shit with their teammates like nothing happened? I full understand that now. It's part of the game. I used to get so shaken up whenever I so much as had to ask someone to move their car. Now, nothing fazes me. I've screamed "IF YOU EVER COME AROUND HERE AGAIN, I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!!", then, in the same breath, turned back to the other doorman and said "so anyway, we order another round of drinks..." This job isn't for everyone. You have to show people that you have vinegar in your balls, or you'll be eaten alive. It's all a hustle, and the weak ones don't last. When you have a bunch of guys on the same block, scavenging for the same money, things get very fucking ugly. For the most part, I have a really good relationship with the regular guys that pick up airport fares from the hotel. We have an understanding, and that understanding isn't really for this blog either, but it keeps everyone happy and harmonious. I talk to a few guys, and I try to help them out as much as I can. In return, they take care of me when I need something. I understand their suffering, I really, really, fucking do. People treat them worse than they treat me, they work anywhere between twelve and eighteen hours per day, and they have to deal with asshole doormen cursing them out. I'm a model customer when I take them, and I always mention that I'm a doorman when I get in, so they don't "take me for a ride" (when they sense that you don't know where you are and take the scenic route to drive up the meter. They do that, a lot.) After talking to a few, and this is based solely on ones that I've spoken to, they have to cover a certain amount every day just to pay for the medallion. Once they hit a certain amount of money, the medallion is paid and they can start making money. That could take as long as ten hours. Could you imagine working for ten straight hours in a day before you we're able to make a dime? Most guys who drive don't own the medallion. The guy who owns it is usually filthy rich and sitting on a few of them, collecting money. One of my bosses supposedly owns six of them. He sure as fuck isn't driving any of them, especially on Sundays, where he has season tickets to my beloved New York Football Giants on the 50 yard line. So yeah, working six days per week, 18 hours per day will wear on you, and make you hungry for a big job to pay off your medallion and start making some fucking money. It's also not easy doing so when you have people screaming at you all day, calling you a "terrorist" or a "lowlife". Ever been whistled at when someone tries to get your attention? Or had someone scream "YO!" to you at work? Infuriating, right? That's about as polite as people get when hailing a taxi. Now, while I empathize with them, I can also say that many of them are pieces of shit. Being on the bottom of the societal totum pole, you look for others who are equal or less than you as an outlet for aggression. It happens to me all the time. I'll get abused by a guest who thinks their better than me, take it out on a taxi driver, then feel guilty about it twenty minutes later. There's a funny standoff that always happens with us doormen and drivers when they're dropping off a guest with luggage. We believe that it's the drivers duty to unload the luggage and pass them on to us, where we greet the guest and take them inside. Most drivers will do this, but a good chunk will collect their tip, then let us do all of the labor. I unload luggage most of the time, mostly out of boredom, but I give the driver a second to see if he's up for the task. The good ones that receive a tip will get out and unload the trunk as a courtesy to the guest. I like to stand by, wait till the guest pays, then see what the driver wants to do. Every so often, a driver will pull up, honk is horn at me, then point to his trunk. This boils all of our blood. And it's funny, whenever I explain this to people, they don't really understand why it makes us so mad. All I can say is that it's like a "Fido, go fetch the luggage, I don't feel like getting up." Whenever this happens, I walk over to the window, and calmly ask "you don't want to finish the job?" A lot of them will tell me "no" flat out. There isn't much that I can say with the guest sitting right there, so I go about my business and unload the trunk, letting him think that he's beaten me. When all is said and done, I gesture for the guest to head towards the door, and leave the trunk wide open. Once the guest is inside, I walk over to the window and, very calmly say "Your trunk is open."
They then have to get their fat asses up to close the trunk. It might sound stupid, but it enrages them.
If I had a nickel for every time a taxi driver has screamed "YOU'RE A FUCKING ASSHOLE!!!" as I walk away with an accomplished smirk on my face... I'd have lots of nickels.
But I digress...
The reason why I started writing this blog is because two isolated incidents happened today that really capture my dealing with NYC taxi drivers. I made a huge stink about the first one on twitter, so let's start there:
Between 3pm and 6pm is when most of the airport trips go out. We have a line of guys that wait hours for airport fare. The New York airport fares are valuable because you can take the trip there, then wait in the taxi stand to get a fare back to the city. It's essentially a $110 job before the tip. So from 3pm-6pm, these fuckers drive around with their "off duty" lights on, trying to steal an airport fare from the guys who have been waiting there all day. It's illegal to for taxi drivers to solicit a fare with their "off duty" lights on, but no one fucking enforces it.
Whenever someone needs a taxi during that time frame, I have to deal with these assholes pulling up, asking me where the guest is going (also completely illegal), hoping that it's an airport fare, then peeling out when they are dissatisfied with my answer. They also have zero regard of whether or not my feet are underneath their tires when they flour it down the street, mind you. It's all fucking infuriating. The guest, in turn, thinks that I'm incompetent and incapable of completing the mindless task of standing in the middle of the street till a taxi pulls up, thus, decreasing my odds of getting a tip. These hours are chock-full of me screaming things like "scumbag" and "cock sucker" and whispering little nothings like "I wish I could rip you out of that car by your throat and beat you to death."
It's 4pm, and a woman, holding a baby, asks for a taxi. During this time, I always have to ask where they're going because if it's close, I tell them to just walk. It's not worth going through all the trouble and getting angry because some fat fuck wants to take a taxi five blocks down to Applebee's with their shitty children.
Woman- "St. Luke Roosevelt emergency room."
Me- "Okay, right away. Do you want me to call an ambulance?"
Woman- "No, it's okay. My daughter is running a high fever."
I run out to the street. Every taxi passes by, screaming "LaGuardia, JFK, Airport?" Before I could explain the situation, they would zoom off like King Kong was thundering after them.
The hospital is no more than seven blocks away, and this shouldn't be a difficult task. I bet if I stopped a civilian, they would take her. The mother seemed to be okay and calm enough, but there were no taxis in sight. Then I noticed one in the taxi stand that must have pulled up while I was distracted by the other guys. I jogged over, and the driver was sitting in there, with an unopened Subway sandwich. Since it was a Tuesday, the slowest day of the week, he shouldn't have a problem taking a local trip that would take no more than ten minutes. Then he could come back, and get the next available airport fare, because he did me a favor. He's a human being, right?
I get to the taxi, and it's an Eastern European man, taxi medallion number 7A56.
Me- "Hey man, can you do me a favor? I have a woman there and she needs to take her baby emergency room. Can you take her?"
Almost every human being, even the worst of the lowlives, would put any task aside to help an ailing baby. This man looked at me, completely unfazed.
7A56- "No, I want to eat my sandwich."
My hand was already on the handle of the backseat. There wasn't any doubt in my mind that any other human being would throw their sandwich on the passenger seat without thinking. I was taken aback. He began unraveling his Subway sandwich.
Me- "Did you hear what I just said?"
No answer. He pulls what appears to be a BLT out, and bites it voraciously.
Me- "Are you fucking kidding me?"
He doesn't look up. The woman begins walking towards me. I stop her.
Me- "Dude, she has a sick kid. Come on."
Me- "You'll never get an airport fare from me."
Still nothing. He keeps chewing, with his mouth open and a glop of mayo in his mustache.
I walk back into the street, look to the woman, and point to the taxi driver.
Me- "I just want you to know, that he refuses to take you because he wants to eat his sandwich."
She had almost no reaction. I'm sure it was because she didn't have time for petty cabbie-doorman bullshit. I take out my notepad, and take down his medallion number "7A56". He sees me doing so, and gets annoyed.
After a couple of minutes, I finally get her a taxi, and she tries to give me a tip. Imagine that? I have people ignore me after carrying twenty 150 lb. bags up to their room, and this lady, with her sick baby, still had the good nature to take care of the doorman. I refuse, and she shoves it in my coat pocket before getting into the taxi.
For the next ten minutes, while this scumbag ate and smoked a cigarette, I pointed him out to everyone I spoke to while he chuckled and stared back at me. When he left, he pulled up about ten feet from me, with a smile:
7A56- "You get my medallion number okay?"
Me- "You bet your fucking ass I did."
7A56- "Fuck you, fucking faggot motherfucker."
As livid and disgusted as I was, I knew he was baiting me to come over and hit him. Believe me, I considered it.
7A56- "You're a fucking doorman! And you always will be! Fucking faggot motherfucker!"
He wanted me to hit him, so he could call the cops and claim that I assaulted him for no reason. A couple of years ago, the doorman from the hotel across the street was provoked by a driver, knocked him out, then went to jail and lost his job. As much as I want to get out of this job, I don't want to get locked up. I already had his medallion number, and was going to exploit it, so I opted to take the non-violent route - by waving like Forrest Gump when he see's Lieutenant Dan on the dock.
Me- "Bye!!! Happy Thanksgiving!!!"
He screams a few more things and pulls away. Fucking savage. It's the single-most despicable act of humanity that I've seen working this job. And believe me, I've seen some shit.
Medallion # 7A56
Fast forward two hours.
We have an elderly woman that works for the hotel, "Ms. Joanie". She's the secretary to the GM, and has been working for the hotel for over fifty years. A few months ago, she fell while on a heater in Atlantic City and injured her hip. Now, when she leaves at 5:30pm every day, one doorman has to go upstairs with the wheelchair and bring her downstairs while the other guy tries to hail her a taxi.
She could only manage to get into the older cabs that are lower to the ground, so getting her one is always an extravaganza. We never complain, because she's awesome and always appreciative. Once the doorman catches one, he holds the door open so the driver can't speed off. The other guy gets her and walks her down into the taxi. Depending on how she's feeling, it could take a few minutes.
Most drivers will be patient once they see her come out. Sometimes they'll complain and we'll tell them to shut up. Every once in a blue, some asshole will try and steal it, which causes an all-out war. Today, it seemed like we were going to have no problems at all.
I had just finished bringing her down in the wheelchair, after we chatted about which casino I should stay in when I go to AC with my buddies next month. She always recommends Trump properties. Once I got to the stairs, a Middle Eastern guy was walking out from the bathroom. He sees me and my uniform, so he asks for small-bills in exchange for a few twenties. I'm always looking for ways to dump my singles, and cabbies will almost always take them.
We make brief small talk, have a laugh, then he heads out.
Me- "Wait, buddy! Are you available?"
Cabbie- "Yeah, boss! I'll pull up."
Perfecto. He jogs out and gets his taxi, which is in the exact same spot as the scumbag from before. Other doorman opens the door and casually waits there without holding it, thinking that since we did him a favor and he was being nice, he wouldn't pull any bullshit.
I get Ms. Joanie up, which nowadays is tough for her. She's hunched a little more wobbly than usual.
Me- "You okay, Ms. Joanie?"
Ms. Joanie- "Ugh... murder."
That's her line for "I'm in a lot of fucking pain."
She hands me her cain, and we slowly move down the steps. Just as we get to the bottom, I see the cabbie climb out the window, slam the door, and shoot up the block. Other doorman, startled, tries to grab the handle and pull the door back open, but it's locked. The cabbie gets about fifteen feet away, then stops for a guy with a suitcase. A suit, who is on his fucking cell phone.
Ms Joanie- "Oh, that jerk!"
Other doorman looks at me. After hearing the story from before, he knew that I was looking for an excuse to explode on someone. He takes Ms Joanie from me.
Other Doorman- "Go get em, cuz."
I charge down the block like a raving fucking lunatic, with my black overcoat flailing in the wind like a cape.
Cabbie is putting the suitcase into the trunk, and is terrified. The suit is in the backseat, yapping on his phone, too busy and important to realize that he just stole a taxi from an elderly woman.
Me- "YOU PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT LOWLIFE SON OF A BITCH MOTHERFUCKER..."
I screamed as many awful things as I could before he got in his car and pulled away. I took his medallion number down, and salivated at the thought of reporting two scumbags in one day. In my year in this job, I've only done it one other time, and that was to test the iPhone app I downloaded.
Two fucking scumbags in two hours. Now, while I painted a pretty picture of what these guys deal with before, this is mostly the bullshit that I have to deal with when it comes to taxi drivers.
A couple more hours go by, other doorman leaves for the day and I embark on The Lonely Road to Midnight. The only thing I was able to look forward to was my break, where I would put my iPhone app to good use and report these scumbags to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
A taxi pulls up, and the mother with the baby get out. I help them to the door, and she thanks me for helping her before. The baby was perfectly okay. Just a fever. I assured her that I would take care of the lowlife that wouldn't help her. She was appreciative, but again, I don't think she really cared about the petty doorman-cabbie bullshit. She just wanted to get her daughter inside. I held the door for them, and they disappeared into the hotel. When I turned around, the Middle Easter cabbie, who sped off on Ms. Joanie was standing there waiting.
Oh, come on. I finally calmed down, and didn't need this guy coming back to fight me. I prepare for it, and I quickly turn to see if anyone from security is inside. They weren't, because security is never there when you need them to be.
Cabbie- "You recognize my face?"
Me- "Yeah, I do. I have nothing to say to you. Why don't you get in your taxi and get the fuck-"
He puts his hands up.
Cabbie- "No, no, no! Boss, please! Listen to me! I came here to apologize."
Me- "Thanks. Now get out-"
He extends his hand for me to shake. I don't accept it.
Cabbie- "My friend, I've been doing this job for 17 years. That's never been me. I'm very very sorry. I saw the man with the suitcase, and I got greedy. I drove there and back, and I felt terrible. I know she was old. Please sir, I know what I did, forgive me. Please."
He still had his hand out. I shook it.
Maybe he was coming back to apologize because he saw me take down his medallion number and wanted to cover his ass. Maybe he was really sorry. For him to come all the way back here and let me know how guilty he felt, which probably cost him a few fares to get all the way back to midtown, it led me to believe the latter. He also had a sincerity in his voice that you don't usually hear from anyone, let alone a hustler that has to work out here and deal with the rest of the cash-hungry animals.
Cabbie- "Bless you, sir. Happy Thanksgiving."
I'll take it. You rarely, if ever, see any humility out here. He left, and a part of me wished that I had apologized for erupting on him. Yes, what he did was awful, but I lost my fucking mind and screamed at him like he was the lowest form of scum on the fucking planet. Maybe another day.
I eagerly awaited break time like a kid on the last day of school. When my relief came out, I hop, skipped, and danced to the break room and reported the scumbag that wouldn't take the baby. You're urged to keep your report as brief as possible, so here was mine:
A bellman, who used to drive a taxi, told me what would happen to him:
Bellman- "Yeah, you'll both get a letter in the mail to appear for a hearing in Queens. If he don't show up, he automatically fuckin' loses and it goes on his record. If you don't show up and he does, he automatically wins, but he's gotta sit there all fuckin' day and lose a day's work."
I have no plans of going to Queens to face this asshole in a hearing. As much as I'd love to see him get fired, severely inconveniencing him will have to suffice.