There's usually a point about midway through a really bad shift where I collect myself and become a normal human being again. I call it "leveling out". I'm sure people who suffer from unpredictable mood swings and have multiple meltdowns at work can relate this moment in their day - when you find yourself, inexplicably, in a great mood. For me, I instantly feel guilty about being able to smile again. It sounds fucked up (and I assure you, it is), but when I spend hours fighting with co-workers, screaming a cabbies, and acting like a fucking neanderthal, I'm almost embarrassed to perk up and become social again. It's like I don't feel like I've earned this sudden rush of good vibrations. Take a second to think about that - a mandatory part of my job is to smile at every guest, but I can't smile because I'm stressed and miserable, and when I'm not stressed and miserable, I feel like I don't deserve to be able to genuinely smile, because feeling stressed and miserable feels so god damned normal.
What the fuck was I going to write about?
So I was "leveling out" after about four solid hours of "fuck your mother", "whataya stupid, or what?", and the old classic "Do you think I'm scared of you because you have a few inches on me? I'll drop you like a fucking tree." (Although you don't really "drop" a tree, do you, Doorman?)
I used to be such a nice guy.
So I was leveling out, smiling again, trying to engage in conversation with co-workers who have become accustomed to being on edge around me. Like I'm some ticking time bomb, ever unpredictable and always temperamental. At times like these, where I've spent the entire day flipping out and being moody prick, I tend to overcompensate when I'm feeling a little better. I'm overly-helpful, overly-smiley, and just a gooey, hospitable boob. Especially with the guests.
As I'm headed back to the door after being dismissively handed a dollar by some suit with a carry-on bag, a college kid walks in and tries to take my luggage cart. I don't let anyone touch my luggage cart. One reason is that they guests aren't allowed to use the carts without a bellman or doorman, something about it being a liability or whatever. (I feel like if you're stupid enough to hurt yourself while operating a luggage cart, you really don't deserve to travel... or breathe.) Another is that there's a small staircase you have to use upon entering the lobby, so no matter what you load onto the cart outside, you have to unload it then load another to bring it to the front desk. I prefer to make a few trips and just load one in the lobby. It's always more efficient. (This is the extent of how much I have to problem-solve while at work.)
Doorman - "Hold on, sir! Can I help you?"
He was a college student, wearing a University of West Virginia hoody with shaggy hair and flip flops.
College Kid - "Yeah, I need to check in. Where do I park?"
I explain the valet rules. He was staying for three nights, so the total would be $105. This was a bank-breaker for him, and I could tell that any chances of a tip had vanished immediately. Still, I was trying to "level out" and be nice, so I stuck with him and offered up my services.
College Kid - "Well, you're not the bad guy in all of this. Guess we just have to pay up."
We get outside to his car, a shiny-new Ford Fiesta. I open the trunk, and there's a wheelchair along with a cooler and a few duffle bags. Piece of cake. His girlfriend gets out of the front seat, and what appeared to be his mother gets out of the back. She could walk, but hobbled a bit when getting out. Before I could offer to put down the ramp for her, the College Kid made a request:
College Kid - "Yeah, so is there, like, any credentials you can show me that proves you work here? Other than that hat."
Doorman - "Excuse me?"
College Kid - "Yeah, like, how can you prove that you work here?"
Doorman - "What are you talking about?"
College Kid - "How do I know that you're not trying to steal my car?"
I had no idea what to say. Not that it mattered - I was fucking frozen. In my two and a half years working here, no one has ever so much as hinted that I might try and steal their car. Sure, you always get the twat who says "be careful with it", or "don't fuck it up", or "$35 per day? you gonna wash it for me, too?" then stiffs you. But no one has ever flat-out questioned if I were, in fact, an impostor in a goofy hat.
He turns to his girlfriend.
College Kid - "Why don't you go inside and vouch for him while I take care of the stuff. What's your name, sir?"
Doorman - "Are you fucking kidding me? You know what? You've got some fucking balls. When you get out of college, and you've earned that shitty piece of paper that you've put yourself in six-figures of debt to obtain, I hope you remember me when you're pumping gas for some smug little prick who has no fucking idea what the world has in store for him. Now get the fuck out of here before I put my foot up your ass.... Oh, and if I were going to steal a car, it wouldn't be a motherfucking Ford Fiesta, you economy car-driving cunt!!!"
He stared at me for a few seconds, then burst into tears and apologized profusely. Then I took out my mule and he blew me in front of his mom and girlfriend.
Ok, that's not what happened.
I just muttered my name under my breath, and the girlfriend ran inside. I opted out of helping them with their luggage.
College Kid - "Sorry, bro. It's just the world we live in."
I finished writing out the paperwork, and I'm assuming on the of managers confirmed my identity. I didn't lay a finger on any of their bags, and he ultimately used his mom's wheelchair to carry all of the stuff up the stairs.
After I was handed over the keys, refusing to make eye contact, his mother chimed in:
His Mom - "He's only doing this because he had his car stolen once."
I didn't really need to know that. I was fine with just hating him, which is why I didn't so much as look at her as she walked away. I would spend the rest of the evening ignoring them, not opening the door and greeting them as they came in and out, and not carrying the wheelchair up the stairs. In hindsight, I should have been extra helpful to make them feel like shit. Maybe some reconciliation could have happened, and I would have learned a little about a guy who's nice enough to take his wheelchair-ridden mom on a trip to NYC with his girlfriend. But sometimes the high road is hard to find. (99.9% sure I just quoted a song lyric. Doesn't make it any less true.)
Immediately after the incident, I reverted right back to the ol' looney-bin Doorman, ranting and raving and carrying on about how degrading the incident was... to my black co-worker.
He listened to my dissertation on how he judged me before knowing me, about how I'm college educated and from a good family, from a good neighborhood, and how it wasn't fair that I had to prove that I wasn't a degenerate or thief to some fucking kid. Then, after about ten minutes without saying a word, he took a small breath through his nose:
Black Co-worker - "Yeah... some white kid looked at you and assumed you were going to steal from him... can't imagine what that's like."
And then I shut the fuck up.