After almost a year and a half of this bullshit, I've been conditioned to expect the worst from everyone I come into contact with. This blog has been a lot of fun to write - and I may have never started writing if it weren't for this job - but the novelty of writing angrily about people who couldn't care less about me has worn off. People are going to be twats, and all of the sultry blog posts in the world aren't going to change that.
Looking back on some notes that I wrote down in search of something positive, I found a business card that sparked the memory of an old friend:
It was September, the week after Labor Day, and my body was detoxing from a two-week binge of savaging my body while closing out a wild summer at the Jersey Shore. I usually spend the last hour of my Lonely Road to Midnight by standing at the bell desk and bullshitting with the guys from security as I wait to punch out. On this particular night, I had been up there since 9pm using the desk as a crutch while I sweated out fourteen days worth of beer and boardwalk pizza. Every so often, mostly to appease the managers, I'll peak my head outside to make sure no one is getting murdered in the loading zone. As fate would have it, I walked out on a crisp late-summer evening to a taxi pulling up at 11:40pm.
Part of my job description is opening the doors of taxis as the pull up in front of the hotel. Fuck that. People don't like to have someone open the door on them while they have their money out, especially if they've never been to New York before. I also don't care for standing there like a schmuck while these morons try and figure out how to work the credit card machine. The whole thing just isn't for me. But I decided to give it a go for this taxi, mostly out of boredom.
He handed the driver a ten on a seven dollar ride and told him to keep the change, then sprung out with the speed and agility of a college athlete. There he was, eye to eye with me, the only tell of his old age being the massive hearing aids in both ears. He wore stylish, thick-rimmed glasses, with a tan polo shirt and brown slacks. His mane of white hair was neatly combed over, just barely resting on his stereo speaker-like hearing aid.
Doorman - "My pleasure. How was your night, sir?"
"Damn good! Yours?"
I was too hungover and exhausted to keep up the hospitality act, and he seemed like a cool enough guy, so I just responded honestly.
Doorman - "Thankfully almost over."
He laughed as I pulled the front door open for him.
"Good for you, bud."
He extended his hand for me to shake. Now, I have a very firm handshake - but his was like getting an elevator door shut on your hand.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Howie."
Doorman - "Doorman."
Howie - "Not bad for a 92 year old guy, huh?"
He didn't look a day over 70.
Doorman - "Holy shit, really?"
Howie - "I haven't been to New York in thirty years. It's changed. It's got no balls now."
Hello, new best friend.
We talked for the next thirty minutes. I told him about how I moved to Manhattan to make a serious run at acting, which has been stalled because of my shitty work schedule. He told me to stop making excuses and to grow some balls. He was a doctor visiting New York to teach some seminars which, as he explained, was mostly geared toward helping stressed-out med students grow some balls.
He explained that he was born in a small town in Minnesota and married his high school sweetheart. They never had kids, and moved to Florida when he retired at 75. When she passed away fifteen years later, he moved back to Minnesota and began teaching these seminars to keep busy for the past two years.
Howie - "I ate at that Carnegie Deli today. How can you waste that much meat? When they served me, I thought to myself 'no one can finish that god damn plate' till the fat fuck European at the table next to me finished his before I could cut mine in half."
I just laughed and listened as he told war stories and spoke about his late wife. The guy was amazing. Anytime he asked me about myself - about my career, my writing, my family - it would usually come back to him telling me to grow some balls and take what I want without making excuses. People talk to me about a lot of things, but it's mostly about where I was on 9/11 or what it's like to live in New York. In the rare instances where I get to talk about my goals and dreams, I'm usually dismissed with a "good luck" and "when I see you on TV I'll say 'I know that doorman!'" Howie cut to the core within ten minutes of meeting me, and was genuine in every response.
Howie - "You make good money here?"
Doorman - "Yeah."
Howie - "Have you ever made good money before this?"
Doorman - "Never."
Howie - "But you were okay, right?"
Doorman - "Right."
Howie - "So, what the hell are you doing here? You're a smart kid. You got your whole life to make money! Grow some balls and go what you came here to do!"
Doorman - "You're right."
Howie - "I know I'm right. You don't get to live to be 92 without being right! Kid, you don't want to be my age and still carrying bags for people."
I couldn't argue with him. He had my full attention. I wanted to make sure his trip was as great as possible, but he didn't really need my help. He had this.
I looked at my watch. 12:16am. The overnight crew was already working. I usually have a panic attack if a guest keeps me ten seconds after midnight, but I didn't care. I wanted to hear more.
Howie - "Alright, kid. I'm going to bed. Gotta teach a seminar and find a bridge game tomorrow. Remember what I said."
Doorman - "Will do. Good night."
He headed toward the elevators. I noticed that his back was as straight as a broomstick without the slightest hint of hunching. I yelled out to him:
Doorman - "Thank you!"
He lifted his arm up without turning back, then disappeared into the elevator.
I went home and wrote like a son of a bitch. He sparked a fire in me. While I furiously pounded at the keyboard, all I could hear is Howie's voice urging me to grow some balls.
Yet another day of bringing Ms. Joanie out to her taxi, and I'm nose to nose with a suit who tried to steal the one I was holding while Other Doorman walks her out. Her ninety-something year old hip was acting up more than usual that week, making it more difficult for her to get down the steps.
He walked out of the high-end restaurant next door, and tried to slip into the taxi like he was a Prince dodging the paparazzi. I saw him coming and jumped in front of the door before he could swoop in.
Doorman - "This isn't your taxi, sir."
He responded like a many of the entitled trust fund kids before him - completely dismissed my profession and tried to make me feel small.
Suit - "What? Because you wear a little hat, that means you can tell me which taxi is mine?"
Doorman - "I don't give a fuck what taxi you get into, it's just not going to be this one."
Suit - "Fuck you, you fucking DOORMAN!!!"
Like I haven't heard that before. Still, when some jerk-off who caught a few breaks in life tries to chew me down with words, I can't help letting my temper get the best of me. We screamed in each others faces for about a minute and a half, with him getting more and more unoriginal about how pathetic my life is, and how much better he is than me. I responded with old classics such as "Nice suit, dick" and "come back when I get off and we'll handle this like men." You know - tough guy stuff.
As other doorman finally brought Ms Joanie to the taxi, he didn't relent from his point of view:
Suit - "I'm sorry that you work here. You're a nobody, lowlife doorman."
I had been working the body throughout the whole argument, saving my final rebuttal for the very end as the uppercut to the jaw. As a taxi finally pulled up for him, I let him have it:
Doorman - "I can get a new job tomorrow, but you'll always be a cunt who tried to steal a taxi from an old lady."
Boom. Game over.
He said nothing as he got in the taxi, and I watched the shame of being put in his place by a lowly doorman swallow his face. He gave me the finger and the taxi left. I grabbed my crotch with a big smile.
Doorman - Infinity
Suit - 0
Basking in my glory, I turned to see Howie, clapping and laughing like a maniac.
Howie - "Holy shit, kid! You've got moxy!!!"
I didn't know he was watching.
Doorman - "Oh, that? That was nothing - you should see when I fight with the taxi drivers."
Howie - "That's the way New Yorkers used to be, kid! They had balls!"
Doorman - "Not anymore."
Howie - "No, no, no! Now you've got these... these... what do ya call them?"
Doorman - "Hipsters?"
Howie - "Yuppies!"
Doorman - "Right."
He coughed and wiped his nose with a handkerchief that he pulled from his breast pocket.
Howie - This damn city with all of the damn pollution. Not used to it, kid."
Doorman - "Anything I could do?"
Howie - "Yeah, could you flag me a taxi? And try not to kill anyone."
Doorman - "I think I could do that."
Being that it was rush hour, it took about ten minutes to get another taxi. We shot the shit about what he did that day. During his four hour break in classes, he managed to check out both the MOMA and Tenement Museums, which are on the opposite ends of the city. He told me that he really wasn't much into art, but wanted to keep his mind active while in between seminars. Every time one of my married twenty-something friends tries to pull the "I'm too tired from a long day of shopping at Target to hang out with my buddy Doorman", I'll tell them the story of Howie. Anytime I want to take a nap after sleeping in and laying on the couch watching Netflix, I'll remind myself of Howie. If I'm still dominating like this in my fifties, I'll take it.
I got him a taxi to the Upper East Side, because he found out about an underground bridge game without the help of "one of those computer phones all you kids use". He tipped me three bucks, and wished me a good night. Throughout the evening, I focused up and wrote note after note for the screenplay treatment that I had banged out the night before. On a good night of writing notes down, I'm lucky to get two pages from my notepad. By the time 11pm rolled around, I had yanked twelve pages of punchlines, tweets, and blog ideas out of the pad and tucked them into my wallet. I also made $170 in tips.
When Howie returned at 11:30pm, I was standing at the bell desk waiting to get the fuck out of there. Right behind him was a SuperShuttle filled with Brazilians. I contemplated playing out the rest of my shift sitting on the john and playing Angry Birds, but I wanted to see how Howie's bridge game went. Somewhere in the fold of me saying hello to him and carrying in twelve dead-weight suitcases without so much as a thank you, Howie engaged in a full-blown political debate with Billy, one of the senior bellmen, about the housing bubble.
Billy's very passionate about politics and will rant about it on any given occasion. I usually like to stay out of these debates at work, especially with Billy, because it never leads anywhere good. He has a Masters Degree in political science from a decent school in Pennsylvania and planned to pursue a career in politics before three DWI's and a violent bar fight led to him doing time in prison.
More Brazilians came, and while I wanted to hear what the hell they were at each other's throats about, Billy was worked up and I had to pick up the slack. Seniority is a bitch when you don't have any. By the time the dust cleared and the Brazilians had all been sent away to their rooms, Howie and Billy had parted ways. Billy wore a look that I had never seen, like he had been defeated. Howie strolled triumphantly towards me with a smirk.
Howie - "That kid's an idiot. I told him that I helped weaponize gonorrhea while in the war and he believed me. He's got no balls."
My first thought was the image of Rambo shooting a flamethrower-like gun full of gonorrhea at a Vietnam village, with hoards of Vietnamese men peeing and screaming while looking at each other in despair. It made me laugh out loud.
Doorman - "How was the bridge game?"
Howie - "Great! Met some good people."
He was out of breath from the argument, and visibly more run-down that I was used to seeing him. He covered his face with the handkerchief and sneezed into it, then quickly rubbed his nose.
Howie - "Alright, kid. Gotta finish out the seminars in the morning and these damn allergies are killing me. You take care of yourself."
He made his way toward the elevator, with his back slightly hunched this time.
I went home and banged out and outline along with the first five pages of a screenplay for a short film. For the second straight night, I wrote till the sun came up. Howie's voice of approval telling me that I had "moxy" sparked a mean streak in my writing that I felt I was missing.
After two months of spending all of my days off destroying my body at the shore, drowning all the doorman bullshit with beer and acting a fool, I was snapped back into what the hell it was that I came here to do. I didn't move to Manhattan to make good money as a fucking doorman. I came to entertain. And while the acting trail had gone cold, I had inadvertently found my voice as a writer as a result of being miserable and venting my frustrations on this here blog. For the first time, I allowed myself to embrace that.
As I typed and typed and typed, I could feel myself growing some balls... Finally.
It was 10:30pm and I hadn't seen Howie all day. I figured he was out and about, ready to come bursting through the door with another fascinating story of how he knows more about the innards of a city that I've lived in my whole life.
The night was uneventful, and I was working with Billy again till midnight. He was more volatile than usual and looking for any excuse he could to prove victorious in an intellectual debate. It was likely due to the fact that he was still reeling from his loss the night before, and he was dealing with it like a schoolyard bully who got slapped by his drunk daddy the night before. I avoided him most of the night and his verbal diarrhea was forcing me to actually stand at my fucking post.
At around 10:45pm, Howie emerged from the elevators with his luggage. He dropped his keys off at the front desk, then had a word with one of the girls. I was under the impression that we was leaving the following morning. I greeted him:
Howie - "Hey, kid."
He was shaking and clutching his handkerchief. His nose was running. He seemed disoriented and confused. For the first time in three days worth of interactions, he looked old.
Doorman - "Are you okay, sir?"
Howie - "Me? Oh yeah. My allergies just got the best of me."
Doorman - "You're leaving now?"
Howie - "Yeah, I have a SuperShuttle coming at 11. Keep an eye out for me, will ya?"
He hands me a five.
Doorman - "Of course."
This was weird. He told me that he was flying out of LaGuardia, and I've never seen anyone leave in a Shuttle after 8 or 9pm. I didn't want to argue, so I just went back to my post. A couple of minutes later, Howie was sound asleep on a chair with his hand barely gripping the exposed handkerchief.
11pm rolled around and still no shuttle. Howie was still fast asleep and drooling, and Billy was on another tangent about the right to bare arms. I paused him mid-sentence to wake Howie.
A gentle touch to the arm was all I needed as he jolted up, completely disoriented. He had no idea where he was.
Doorman - "You said your shuttle was coming at 11, right?"
Howie - "What? Oh... Right. Right."
Doorman - "I'll call the company for you. You have the voucher so I could give them the confirmation number?"
He looked through me like we had never met before. His hands shook and he tried to find the voucher from his wallet.
Howie - "Here you go."
He handed me a voucher and it was 11am. The next day.
Doorman - "Sir, this is for tomorrow."
As he wiped his nose, he pondered for a few moments then checked his flight info. His flight was for tomorrow.
Howie - "Oh, shit! Damnit!
Doorman - "It's okay! Let me have the bellman bring your stuff back up to the room."
Howie - "No, no! I don't want to tip that idiot."
He was lucid enough to remember that he didn't like Billy.
Howie went to the front desk to get his room back. I helped him out, which I'm not supposed to do, and it pissed Billy off. I didn't give a shit.
The girl at the front desk, who I had a fling with a few months back that ended on a sour note, gave him new room keys. I sent him up to the room while I put his items on a cart. I overheard the front desk girl's conversation:
FD Girl - "Eww, that disgusting old man touched my pen."
Doorman - "He's 92."
FD Girl - "Then he shouldn't be traveling alone."
She shot a glob of hand sanitizer onto her hands.
FD Girl - "Ugh, gross!"
She disappeared behind the wall. I suppressed the urge to rip her a new asshole for both speaking ill of my friend and blowing me off when I thought we had a good thing going.
When I got to Howie's room, the housekeeper was on her way out. He was sitting on the bed, hunched over and exhausted. I brought his stuff in.
Howie - "Thanks, kid."
Doorman - "You're welcome. Anything else I can do for you?"
He shivered a bit and dabbed his nose with the handkerchief.
Howie - "No, you're alright."
There was a slight pause. I didn't know if I should leave him or not.
Doorman - "Alright, then. It was great meeting you."
Howie - "Hang on a sec."
He went into is wallet. I wasn't going to take another tip from him.
Doorman - "No, no! You already took care of me!"
Howie - "I know."
He pulls out his business card.
Howie - "Shoot me an email and let me know what happens with the acting. You've got balls. Just stick with it."
Doorman - "Will do."
I never did. It wasn't intentional, I just never got around to it. Hurricane Sandy happened. Life happened.
I shook his hand. The strength of his grip was a far cry from a few days ago.
Howie - "Good luck, kid."
That was the last time I saw him.
I went home that night and glued my ass to the chair. Over the next three days, I finished the first draft of a twenty-seven page screenplay called "Wayne the Bellhop Misses the Super Bowl", which is based on my "Doorman Misses the Super Bowl" post. It was the first script that I've ever completed on my own. My goal obviously is to produce it, but I need a real budget. Still, it was an achievement in and of itself. It was then when I realized that I wanted to see this blog on the screen - and all I needed was the balls to do so. That reality is coming into fruition. I stopped making excuses and took my career into my own hands.
So while looking through my notes I found his business card. I decided I wanted to tell him about the pilot and how well it's going. Before I did that, I googled his name out of curiosity. The first thing that came up was his obituary. Howie died of natural causes on January 21st, just four days after his 93rd birthday. I'm not sure what he spoke about in his seminars, or how many people he inspired to do something with their lives, but he sure as hell got me off my ass.
I'm very fortunate to have met him, and my balls are bigger because of it.
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